Rootcandi Brighton Review
Upstairs at Iydea
105 Western Road
Visited August 2015
Rootcandi is the new sister restaurant of Brighton’s beloved veggie café Iydea. But, unlike its bustling canteen-style counterpart, Rootcandi provides a more refined dining experience, employing the original concept of plant-based tapas.
The restaurant is upstairs at the Western Road branch of Iydea and retains the easygoing and friendly atmosphere of the café below. The menu is entirely meat and dairy free, with dishes ordered tapas style and shared between the table. We start with curried aubergine caviar, which arrives as a thick dip of roasted aubergine and yoghurt, served with crisp, oil-drizzled toast. The texture bears little resemblance to caviar, but the dip is rich and pleasantly reminiscent of Coronation chicken.
Tapas can be ordered individually but have also been organised into three sets inspired by global flavours. Each set feeds two people and the dishes included are intended to complement each other with a range of different tastes and textures.
We opt for the pan-Asian ‘Queens’ set. The presentation is striking, as the tapas arrive on a specially designed rotating tower, with all the wow-factor of afternoon tea cake stands. Care has also been taken to ensure that each individual dish looks similarly appetising and the plant-based nature of the food means that the tower arrives stacked with a wonderful array of colours.
The fun of the tapas concept is in trying the dishes and sharing opinions with fellow diners, each plate offering the chance to sample something new. And there is a lot of exciting stuff happening on these little plates. The steamed carrot dumplings are a favourite. Similar in texture to Chinese pork buns, these are stuffed with cubes of spiced carrot that retain just enough bite to provide a textural contrast to the fluffy, doughy bun, and are served with a sweet and sticky carrot hoisin. A dish of griddled pak choi, which sounds as though it will be relegated to the role of side dish, takes unexpected centre-stage thanks to a zingy dressing of Chinese mustard and pink pickled ginger. Classic tempura is given a twist using sweet root veg, contrasting beautifully with the tamari and wasabi dipping sauce; and marinated tofu takes on rich flavours of soy, maple and lime, with fresh beetroot providing a cleansing contrast.
The plates are universally light and fresh, and the set could benefit from one or two more substantial dishes, but they all work beautifully together and other sets seem to promise a few denser options.
The tapas concept is a great way to sample some really interesting food, particularly for those who are new to plant-based eating. I wonder whether the Rootcandi team may have made a conscious decision to avoid the word ‘vegan’, which could risk putting off more narrow-minded diners, but the restaurant’s ethos clearly makes it one of the most exciting dining options for vegetarians and vegans in Brighton. General Manager Reeshi explains that the aim is to further increase the (already plentiful) gluten-free options on the menu in future too. So those with allergies or intolerances can dine without hassle.
Proving just what’s possible with a plateful of plants, Rootcandi takes the best aspects of tapas-style dining and applies it to an entirely unexpected type of cuisine.