Terre à Terre is plain inside, with wood floors, tables, and chairs and red walls. Even the menu carries on the theme. It sits on the ground floor of one of Brighton’s ubiquitous row houses and heads east from East Street, which runs north-south but refers to the eastern edge of the original Brighton, on the southeast coast of England. In essence, it’s a shotgun restaurant with housing on top in a warren of narrow twisty streets called The Lanes.
The all-vegetarian menu might be described as “good plain fare” at first glance: my meal included Welsh Rarebit and English muffins, but even the dessert listed six distinct elements. The Full Set menu was the easiest choice, though it was quite a lot for one person.
I began with Brûlée Vous, which mixed Grana Padano into a bay cream under a gingerbread crumb topping that was difficult to cut in the tallish container. It had a delicate, silky texture and taste. The baby English muffins were a nice touch, though the berry muffins were a bit too sweet.
The main course, Run, Rarebit, Run, was robust and sharp, with local Sussex cheddar and Sheep’s Nose cider over cornbread laced with mustard grains. I loved the carrot three ways (raw, roasted, and salt-baked) and the humorous use of carrot tops in the cornbread and yogurt. Add mounds of pickled caraway purée and tamari pumpkin seeds and you can see why I was tired by the end of this meal. It was a study in orange, a joyous riot of flavor and texture.
I was encouraged to choose Churrosimo for dessert, but I had watched the people next door wade through it and knew it would be too much. I chose Miss Marble, whose trio of ices was a good way to settle my stomach, which has never liked cheese as much as my mouth does. The pistachio wafers and the clementine spice ice were dull, but the lemon and coconut ices were good, and the fizzy “sparkles” (Pop Rocks?) were a fun way to end the meal.
I had chosen a seat at the back of the restaurant, near the patio that wasn’t in much use on this breezy spring day. When I arrived the place was about half-empty, but then it filled up and I began to wish I had sat at the bar. Two couples came and went at the next table, but it wasn’t the sort of place where you chat with your neighbors. My servers were as attentive as time allowed, but nothing could have matched the service I received at Warung Tujuh, an Indonesian restaurant down the same road that was quiet the day I arrived and staffed by a dreamily handsome waiter.
If you go to Terre à Terre, I suggest ordering à la carte and bringing a friend to share the desserts.