Si Signore, Brighton: Dinner

Another birthday celebration, another delightful dinner to look forward to. This time I drove down to Brighton to visit Si Signore in the North Laine, which I had never even seen before, much less visited.

Upon finding the place, in the centre of the street and surrounded by miniature Christmas trees and twinkling lights, we sat upstairs on a long table overlooking the North Laine in a charming, ramshackle building.

I ordered a mango juice, which was delicious, top quality juice and a Fiorentina pizza, which is my personal favourite and caught my eye the moment I opened the extensive menu.

You can see the evening menu here.

It was delicious, with the addition of green and black olives marinated in a chilli oil which elevated the usual spinach, nutmeg and egg topping. The egg had been thoroughly cooked, where usually I would expect it to still have a runny yolk. The pizza base was thin, but spongy and while I usually prefer a thin and crispy base, it was enough of a departure from the usual that it was enjoyable.

All very reasonably priced and I’m glad to have found a cute little spot for pizza in the future.

Bills, Tunbridge Wells: Lunch

I headed down to Bills with the full intention of finally trying the hot cinnamon doughnuts, but alas, my dining partner and I were so hungry we were ordering lunch before we knew quite what was happening.

I opted for my favourite green smoothie, which comes bright green in a frosted glass adorned with pineapple and melon. I figured that was healthy enough (I got a large), to justify a huge dish of Butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese.

Oh, is there anything better than mac ‘n’ cheese when the weather outside is frightful? I was all wrapped up warm in a huge print blanket cape and it seemed appropriate to continue the theme of self-indulgence with quantities of cheesy pasta, with spinach, butternut squash and pumpkin seeds for texture and taste.

 

You can check out the menu here.

Phew, it was a big dish though, well worth the £8.95 and kept me fuelled for the rest of the day.

We’ll be back, for doughnuts!

The Drapers Arms, Islington: Lunch

I hopped off the tube at Islington & Highbury, into the drizzle and made my way to a lovely pub, The Drapers Arms, about a fifteen minute walk. Open, airy and pleasant, the pub itself was a delight with high ceilings, diligent waitstaff and lots of natural light (even in November).

The birthday I was there to celebrate had a table in the corner, so I took my seat to await the other guests and sipped quantities of the iced water already on the table to bring my temperature down (unseasonably warm outside!)

With a long menu, initially it looked like there were many dishes to choose from, but if you have a restricted diet you may have a hard time of it. There was just the one vegetarian dish out of maybe ten main courses?

See the Menu here.

So, without further ado I ordered the Baked salsify with Tunworth, breadcrumbs and watercress. That is indeed the entire component of the dish – a large dish, one baked root with meltingly good cheese over the top, sides and possibly lining the dish too. Add breadcrumbs on top to give a golden colour and a handful of watercress leaves by the side, no more, no less. It could have done with less reliance on the rich flavour of the cheese, which becomes monotonous after a few bites, and more of the vegetable. It was almost as if, in order to charge £12.50 for the meal, the chef felt obliged to use at least six pounds worth of cheese. I would have preferred a hash of salsify, parsnip, sweet potato, butternut squash and onion, with a thin layer of golden, bubbly cheese and breadcrumbs on top and a more interesting salad with a sharp vinegary dressing.

For dessert, a Gingerbread pudding, whipped cream and oats intrigued me and was delicious. A very small portion, but just as a gingerbread pudding ought to be, with pouring cream rather than whipped and puffy, crisp oat clusters adding an alternate texture to the top.

The house rose was fine, dry and the cava was very much enjoyed by the party. Golden ale was on tap and the wait staff were happy to bring out water.

For what was on offer, the vegetarian food was priced to match the rather more adventurous carnivorous dishes.

Vegetarianism: A Statement

I am vegetarian. No, it’s not a disease. Yes, I chose this lifestyle.

Not a week goes by when someone I don’t know, or someone I’ve only just met, feels the need to address my dietary choices, usually in tones of disbelief. They castigate, they ridicule, they demand to know what on earth could possibly possess me to be so contrary as to refuse to eat meat. For some reason, they think it is socially acceptable to bludgeon me with mocking words or gory teasing to ‘try and get a rise out of the vegetarian.’

Lucky for me, I’m not squeamish. I’ve also come from an open-minded family, so I have zero problem with other people engaging with their meaty meals while I eat my vegetarian dish. Why is it that my tolerance of a carnivorous diet cannot be reflected back by others, as a tolerance of vegetarianism? For starters, it’s not like I’m actually hurting anyone by refusing to eat meat. In fact, if you look at the bare facts, I’m the only one at the table who hasn’t hurt something to get a meal.

Why can’t I demand to know why meat eaters eat meat? Picture this: every meal I share with a potential new client, or an acquaintance, or a new relation – should I put them on the spot, ask them to explain themselves to me? Of course not, it would be ridiculous. So why is it okay for others to do that to me?

I love dining out – the atmosphere of the restaurant, the freedom to try something new. Yet, despite the fact that over half the nations on Earth are vegetarian (through choice or necessity) and that as a result there are literally millions of tasty, interesting and varied vegetarian dishes to choose from I find myself faced with the same three options time and time again.

Why is it acceptable to call yourself a chef and yet only be capable of producing a goats cheese and sun dried tomato tart as the vegetarian option? Oh, my mistake. You’re capable of a mushroom risotto too. My, aren’t you clever.

Why is it socially acceptable to judge me on the fact that I want to take care of my body and the environment, at the same time? It is scientifically proven that modern man (and women) tend towards eating way more meat than is healthy for them to do so. The obsession with animal products making a meal has led to serious obesity issues throughout the first world. For health problems alone, I ask you to compare the average health and age of death in a meat-eating man and a vegetarian man.

Even regardless of personal health, has anyone noticed the weather acting up recently? Not all of it, but a tiny a portion is due to the massive demand for meat products. Animals require space that was previously taken by trees. No trees equals worse air quality. Animals, being organisms, have a tendency to create their own noxious gases, which further add to the problem.

Even if we ignore all the traditional reasons for vegetarianism – animal rights, poverty, religion – then there are so many overwhelming reasons to at least cut down on your meat consumption if you can’t give it up completely. (To which you should ask yourself, why are you so needy that without meat you don’t feel satisfied?) It’s a complicated social thing, banged into our minds after centuries of tradition and availability.

I’m not on a mission to convert you to vegetarianism. As I have said previously, I am open-minded enough to accept that people can choose their own paths through life. What I do ask, is for you to also accept some of that tolerance. Don’t interrogate your vegetarian friends or acquaintances. Don’t sigh at how difficult they are being at your dinner party simply because they won’t compromise their morals and eat a bit of meat gravy because you forgot to make onion gravy. If you don’t agree with their choice, fine. Do accept that it is their choice and they shouldn’t have to go on the defensive every time they venture into the world.