Rootcandi, the fine dining sister of the critically acclaimed Iydea, opened it’s doors in August this year. Describing itself as the first restaurant in the UK to serve plant based tapas, the concept was born out of owner- Steve Billam’s dissatisfaction with the quality of plant based, vegan options that were available. With a desire to create something new and exciting, Steve teamed up with classically trained, award winning chef Reuben Waller - who has spent many years working in Michelin starred restaurants.
Rootcandi is located upstairs at Iydea on Western Road. Open from 6pm, the dining room has a cosy bistro feel with an intimate atmosphere and muted lighting. When you go for dinner at a restaurant specialising in ‘plant based tapas’ you know you are going to be presented with something quite different. The way the menu is structured certainly whets the appetite. The main event is the ‘3 Tapas Set’ options for 2 people, which are ‘carefully crafted for complimentary tastes and textures’ or you can pick and choose dishes to build your own favourite meal.
There are some really interesting flavour combinations in the ‘Starters & Nibbles’ section. We selected fresh mint, broad bean and cashew pate on toasted sourdough and pickled red onion and curried aubergine caviar. Both lovely and appearing to be a meal in themselves with well thought out flavour combinations and textures. The broad bean and cashew pate on sensational gluten-free bread sang with fresh green flavours and the curried (and very spicy) aubergine caviar tasted much like a superior version of coronation chicken. The bread served at Rootcandi is all gluten free and supplied by The Sussex Bread Company who have built a reputation creating gluten-free bread that tastes better than the traditional alternative.
The 'Tapas Sets' are each inspired by a type of cuisine and are aptly named after parks in Brighton; Preston is South American inspired, Stanmer, Modern European and Queens, Pan Asian. The stunning presentation is second to none - displayed on a tiered cake stand, showcasing the beautiful colours and elegance of the food. We opted for the 'Pan Asian' which consisted of marinated tofu, baby pak choi, steamed carrot dumplings, spring rolls, sushi and hot noodle salad. What is interesting for a carnivore is that the absence of meat doesn't occur to you when you experience well executed plant-based food. The marinated tofu was prepared in such a way, that it’s umami, meaty texture satisfies the part of your palate which may be searching for the real thing. This dish was a highlight for me. Marinated in ginger, garlic, lemongrass and lime, pan fried with a maple syrup glaze and served on a bed of mooli, beetroot and wasabi cream - it was a real stretch to share this with my dining companion.
Sushi ' three ways' consisted of quinoa, avocado, bamboo shoots and courgette; sticky rice, avocado, carrot and butternut squash and pearl barley, peppers, fennel and cucumber. All served with a tamarind and wasabi dipping sauce. Lovely light, delicate flavours that actually got a bit lost after consuming the robust tofu dish - perhaps there should be instructions provided around the order in which the dishes should be eaten.
A shared dessert of a chocolate and beetroot pot with fennel biscotti and vanilla ice cream rounded the meal off very well. Rich dark chocolate fondant with an underlying earthy taste of beetroot - the fennel in biscotti complimenting the other elements and adding an additional dimension to the overall dish.
The thought and creativity that has gone into each dish at Rootcandi is very apparent. There is no mistaking the passion and enthusiasm of the staff and the concept they are championing. Dining at Rootcandi is a delicious, unique experience whether you are vegan, veggie or carnivore. I overheard the couple at the next table describing Rootcandi as their new favourite restaurant and I doubt they will be the only ones.
Upstairs at Iydea
105 Western Road