We said meh. M-E-H, meh.

After spending an entire weekend with other vegan bloggers at the Vida Vegan Con event in Portland, I am buzzing with possibility and new enthusiasm. There were so many interesting and compassionate people sharing news, views and practical advice. I personally got so much from the weekend and hopefully made a few new friends.

One of the themes of discussion I heard throughout the conference was bloggers not wanting to write negative or disparaging comments or reviews about vegan establishments. As much as I understand this approach in the writing of other people, it doesn’t float for me. Yes, I write this blog as a means to help people find veganism and also as a tool to entertain and show off my ready-wit, but I’m not going to say something is amazing when it isn’t in my opinion. I want to give my opinion and I want people to disagree if they feel compelled. It’s called open dialogue.

This is building to something. I’m just preparing you all for a rather negative review of a 100% vegan restaurant. Of course speak up in the comments if you have an opinion on the eatery. Don’t let my fat, gay mouth have the final word.

Brighton is a fun place to hang out. The ghost train on the end of the pier is a personal favourite. The town has vegan/vegan-friendly dining and shopping options and it is also one of the queerest places in the UK. But what many people don’t realise is Brighton is really called Brighton and Hove. It is a town of two cities, a product of amalgamation.

Down in the Hove end of Brighton and Hove is a 100% completely vegan restaurant perched beside the recreational Hove Lagoon. VBites is a grand idea put together by Heather Mills (yes, that person but I’m not going there) that just doesn’t do it for me. Ready for a vegan whining session?

The restaurant seemed a little bit disorganised on entry and the staff where a touch on the stand-offish side of friendly. My FGV alarm bells went off when I asked for a chocolate milkshake (as advertised) and was a handed a Provamel chocolate soy milk in a mini carton. Now, I’m not hating on Provamel as I adore their chocolate milk, but I think we can all agree it does not constitute a vegan milkshake.

Next up, I had a few food issues. I appreciate and applaud the no frying policy at VBites but I don’t enjoy eating soggy and just-above-warm fries or nuggets. Both of these items were close to damp and I did not enjoy them. It is such a shame as I adore all of the Redwood vegan meats (also owned by Mills) used on the menu but they simply are not presented in an appetising manner. My burger followed the tradition and simply wasn’t hot enough. If they aren’t going to fry, they need to work out a way to make stuff hotter and crispier.

Limp and a touch on the cool side

Nuggets are best crunchy, right?

Vegan burger at VBites

Now before you all start doing the ‘haters gonna hate‘ walk, let me say it wasn’t all grim. I did like some of the food I consumed at VBites.

Delicious vegan thin crust

The pizza was particularly tasty and the Redwood slices are showcased in no better way than on a slice of piping hot crust. I’m not saying it is the best pizza in the world (hello Cruzer y Sizzle Pie), but I would go back again for it. It was tasty and maybe the only hot thing I ate on my trip. So, props for the pizza, VBites. It’s not all about hating.

Another nice surprise was the soft serve on offer. This pea protein creation was tasty if a little on the watery side. Once I got my head around the idea of soft serve not being creamy and thick, I really started to enjoy it. Mine came topped in two syrups and I got a decent amount of enjoyment out of it.

Vegan soft serve

All flavoured up

The restaurant also houses a full bar. Considering it is located in the middle of an outdoor recreation area containing cable water skiing and a playground, I found this a little odd. Hove Lagoon isn’t the first place I think of when I’m considering a night out on the drink, but please advise if you have experience of the cocktail selection on a Friday night.

Drink up

I think the concept is a mighty fine one but the luke warm food and service, plus the unusual location, get in the way of VBites being the stunning success it deserves to be.

Haters, grab your walking shoes.

VBites at Hove Lagoon

VBites, Hove Lagoon, Kingsway, BN3 4LX

Phone: 01273 933757

Posted in I'll pay you to cook for me, Provincial towns you jog round, Vegan Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
16 comments on “We said meh. M-E-H, meh.
  1. Alejandra says:

    Although I haven’t eaten there, we stopped there 2 weeks ago as we were cycling in the area and decided to take a break and enjoy the sunshine. I must admit that I am not a big fan of “junk food”, so I’m probably not their target audience anyway, but we bought a hazelnut milk latte which was, quite frankly, disgusting.
    When my husband placed the order, there was absolutely no one there. He paid and waited for ages to get the latte until one of the staff asked him what he was waiting for and then explained that he had to collect his latte at the other end of the bar.
    So on top of being quite disgusting, the latte was half warm.
    I’m definitely not going to go there and waste my money on their food. It’s a shame because the cafe is very nicely decorated, the garden with the wooden table is a good place to relax, I could see families with kids hanging out there on summer afternoon. But no.

    • Josh says:

      Yeah – that comment above reminded me that when I ordered a tea I had to go through to the other room to collect it?!? It all seems a bit strange and disorganised. It has great potential though.

  2. Kitty says:

    Sorry you had such a disappointing experience.
    I’ve been several times now but a while ago BEFORE it was closed during the last winter season.
    I’ve had both good and like you say ‘standoffish’ ‘your’e a nuisance for being here’ kind of service.
    I have experienced having fantastic food though everytime I’ve been and have taken two meat eating friends there and they raved about it but it was a while ago now. We had fantastic Thai Curry, tasty Indian curry dish, burgers, the most wonderful Red Velvet Chocolate Cake and Carrot Cake. I heard that Heather doesn’t own/run it now that she handed it over to her sister but not sure of the validity of that and that it’s been downscaled. It’s a shame because we really rated it but always thought it would have been better placed nearer the town.

    • Kitty says:

      I’ve just looked at the most recent Veggie Places review at VBites and it was a similar experience to yours

      ‘Date of visit: July 2011
      Oh dear. On Saturday mid-morning there was just one other couple and ourselves. We didnt want to eat, but noted that the “menu” was sub-burgerking. Just pizzas and burgers. No cakes or nibbles available. The other couple could not believe how horrible their “frankfurter in a bap” was, nor the greasy soggy chips. There was no “healthy” food at all (eg how difficult is humus and pitta, salads..?). It’s quite run down outside (scruffy grass area), although the lounge area inside is very smart (but I gather seldom used as it closes around 7pm). The families at the adjoinging play area need a good old fashioned cafe. This is not it. All in all a very sad place and experience. The very basic “meat replacement” concept just doesn’t work. It’s a 40 minute walk from central Brighton , where there are dozens of tiny cafes offering infinitely superior imaginative vegetarian fare with tiny resources.

      Reviewer Alan F (London)’

  3. I agree on two points – 1- being honest and offering that it is your personal opinion, and 2 – that vbites could do with some feedback as I don’t think it is reaching its potential at the moment. IMHO being NICE does not always equate to being kind. If a vegan establishment is not giving their best then I believe it is GOOD to make that information available to them. The UK has a very charming way of smiling at you and then talking about your failings behind your back. Wouldn’t it be better to smile and use the critique sandwich – say something positive, offer feedback on negative aspect, say something positive (as displayed here wonderfully by FGV). FGV I think you are good to write your review and hope that Vbites takes a look and cares about it’s customer experience. If they KNOW what is being said and the impression their business is stamping on people, they then have the opportunity to change it. If they still don’t change it, well then that is a recipe for disaster. I saw Ms Mill’s sister at a food event in Brighton and she was nice and her food samples (sushi) were tasty so they obviously do care.

    We are all in this gorgeous mess of a world together so best to offer help when we can. Disclaimer – I don’t always have the courage to practise what I preach but I really do try my best.

  4. I think it’s important to be honest regarding your reviews. These restaurants will never know that they need to step up their preparation or service or recipes if everyone tells them they’re wonderful. Good job. Just wish I could visit some the places you feature!

  5. hi FGV!
    It was so great to meet you! I totally agree with you about saying it like it is in reviews. I guess it’s nice to give our fellow vegans & veg*ns a fair shake… maybe go the to the restaurant a few times, or try the product a few times… but I also agree that telling the truth helps raise the bar. We shouldn’t just be happy something is vegan, we should be happy when it’s vegan AND delicious!

  6. efcliziz says:

    I definitely think reviews ought to be honest but I firmly believe we need to let the staff know first and give them a chance to put it right – especially if you are reviewing based on one visit. I complained recently about a meal and got given a £50 voucher to go again. If it’s still bad then i’ll slate it, but they tried to do something about it. They can’t improve if they aren’t aware of the problems.

  7. jenthevegan says:

    I went to VBites last week (not done my blog post yet, will soon), and had a totally different experience to you! We found the staff to be friendly, and I went in there with fairly low expectations but was pleasantly suprised with tasty food. Me and my husband were both in agreement that it was worth the drive (from brighton).
    In terms of negative reviews – I personally think I probably will go a bit easy on vegan and vegetarian restaurants, because I LOVE having the choice of all of (or some of) the menu, and I think they are doing a brilliant thing which will make the world better. And we’re on the same team, aren’t we? Plus I don’t get to eat in specialist vegan or veggie places very often (not a lot here in Oxfordshire!), so that in itself is special. I will definitely say where I think places could improve or get better, but usually I am in such an amazing mood when i step in the door that I will enjoy it! Honesty is the best policy but veg places are always better than omni restaurants! :)

  8. quarrygirl says:

    keep the honest reviews coming, FGV. one of the reasons your blog is such a trusted source! xo

  9. Shaveta says:

    Hey FGV! Found out about your site through QuarryGirl, which is great since I’m moving to London in a few weeks. Since you’ve been to LA, what neighborhood of London would be most comparable to Echo Park/Los Feliz/Silver Lake area? I’m searching fro a place to stay, but having never been before am just completely lost. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

  10. jen says:

    I love you FGV. I find your approach refreshing. I feel the same way too, about many things vegan and not vegan. I also want to give companies and businesses feedback both good and bad to let them know how they can improve. You can still give a good review without giving a good review. Not to be confused with kid gloves, it is just a gentler approach. That’s me. I like you and the way that you do things, I don’t think you were a jerk about your review.

  11. Rachael says:

    I ate there and found the food crap and really disappointing, none of it was hot enough and they have no idea how to cook vegan cheese, the cheesly on the nacho burger was waaay undercooked. The cake for dessert was nice and so was the organic Samuel Smiths fruit beer. That was it.

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