Good news! Brighton is the happiest city in the UK, and the easiest place to get fighting fit for the new year.
Wriggle spoke to those-in-the-know to find out how to go vegan and do a good turn for Mother Earth while you’re at it.
How does our city stay so trim, considering our hard-partying reputation and crop of boozers? Veganism. The last few years have seen a massive movement against using animal products, with Brighton is the vanguard. The city boasts the highest number of Google searches for ‘veganism’ in the UK (according to PETA), plus some half dozen new vegan openings in the city during the past year.
‘It’s fair to say it’s exploding here,’ says Jasper Knight, general manager of vegan eatery V Bites. ‘Fifteen years ago eating out as a vegan was a nightmare. I’d have to order beans on toast – and even then most times I’d send it back because they spread butter on it.’
V Bites specialises in 100% vegan meat alternatives which ape classic carnivore dishes like hoisin duck. ‘They aren’t just pale imitations either,’ continues Jasper. ‘Our “chicken” is just as tasty as the real thing, plus lower in fat, and higher in protein than real chicken.’
‘What we do best is help vegans who sometimes struggle with cravings. One of our staff came in a bit hungover one day saying he really fancied a doner kebab. Now, I’d never eaten a kebab in my life, but I thought it sounded like a cool challenge. We made one up as a trial, to see if we could make it work. The staff loved it, and it’s gone from being a one-off special to a runaway bestseller.’
To encounter the vegan scene in Brighton, head to the Vegan Brighton Facebook group (with nigh-on 10,000 members). Sneering omnivores expecting a page of holier-than-thou musings on health will be surprised to find a lively, cheerful feed bursting with delicious inspiration, thoughtful pointers and genuinely hilarious memes. Most of the content looks at healthy eating, closely followed by articles on the wider environmental benefits of veganism and awesome facts- did you know that 800 million people could be fed using the grain currently fed to cows in the US alone? Mostly, the page is a straightforward love of animals – dogs and cats, obviously, but also birds. And ferrets. Yep.
Stores in Brighton such as Infinity Foods make it easy to do a fully-vegan grocery shop. It’s not just vegan food in this city. Almost every coffee shop in Brighton touts their vegan credentials loud and proud, and North Laine hosts the famous Vegetarian Shoe Shop (est. 1993).
For us, it’s all about eating out, and the growing buzz around the restaurant scene. ‘Even our local cinema serves vegan cakes!’ exclaims Kate Mason at Food for Friends, an upmarket all-vegan restaurant in The Lanes. ‘Vegan eating is huge at the moment, and almost every cafe has a vegan option.’
So where to head? Purezza is amazing and genuinely special, for a pizza party like no other. For a Sunday Roast (yeah!) try the The Prince George. For a fry-up there’s Wai Kika Moo Kau. For a dirt delicious cheap lunch there’s Foodilic, and vegan Asian it doesn’t get any better than Pompoko. Happy Maki are leading the plant based way with their delicious vegan sushi wraps and Beelzebab are there when we need a bit of dirty vegan food.
‘It’s growing so much, especially in Brighton, because people are much more educated now,’ concludes Jasper from V Bites. ‘There’s been a huge shift from what used to be the public health message that, say, milk is good for your bones. It was propaganda. People are waking up to it, even supermarkets sell vegan cheese now.’
Wai Kikka Moo Kau full vegan breakfast @ The Zombie Said
So to get fit, save the world and show our animal friends we care. Go vegan - there’s arguably nowhere better to do it than Brighton.