Despite the rise of vegan eating, Purezza opened late last year as the only pizza restaurant in the UK dedicated to dairy and meat alternatives. It’s hard to believe – has vegan pizza really taken this long to perfect? Context aside, the restaurant itself is a casual affair with simple décor, an order-at-the-bar system and a fridge in the corner, but we’re happy to forgo swanky interiors in favour of excellent food.
A disclaimer before we begin – nobody in our party was a vegan so we’re potentially quite a tough crowd for a restaurant like Purezza to crack. Non-vegan pizza is hard to improve upon so the bar was high. That said we’re in favour of healthy, meat free meals and we went in with our minds open and our stomachs rumbling.
The pizza menu is extensive with classic and ‘special’ options. You can go gluten free or opt for a cheesy stuffed crust affair (more on that later). It was tricky to know what we were ordering and help wasn’t that forthcoming. I suppose they don’t imagine anyone wanders into a vegan pizza restaurant by chance, but we had to ask about the cheeses (mainly soya based) and if the rumour about cauliflower bases was true (it’s not).
We had three special pizzas and one stuffed crust classic. First, the specials. The Giardino was a hummus base with olives, artichokes, sunflower seeds, cherry tomatoes and herbs. It was like a garlic bread covered in hummus and veg which, if you’re hummus fans like we are, is no bad thing. The Zucca was butternut squash based with spinach, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and caramelised onion. It was tasty, complex and not much like any pizza we’ve ever had. The final special was our wild card but also our eventual favourite. Ladies and gentleman: The Nacho. A guacamole base with peppers, sweetcorn, other vegetables and actual NACHOS all over the top. Plus some grated soya cheese. There was a bit of a kick from the guacamole and the crunchy nachos added a whole new texture. This shouldn’t work but it really does.
The stuffed crust Funghi was less exciting and the cheese in the crust overflowed onto the base and made for a stodgy, gloopy experience none of us really enjoyed too much.
We were too full for their already famous chocolate calzone so opted for a chocolate brownie with peanut and salted caramel ice cream to share. You’d never know this was vegan, it was rich, moist and the ice cream was eat-a-whole-bowl delicious.
Being omnivores, there’s no real reason for us to opt for vegan pizza so we were naturally sceptical. That said, based on ambition and flavour Purezza is a brilliant option for vegetarians/vegans and we love its fearlessness in tackling big flavours and quirky toppings. If you’re vegan or dairy intolerant we can imagine this would become a mecca, but if you’re not it’s difficult to see how you’d choose this over a naughty, dairy rich, gluten heavy pizza treat. At the end of the day we’ve had a plant based meal which was tasty and interesting to eat. No one yet is matching Purezza’s foresight to produce vegan pizza full stop, never mind at this level. We’d go back for lunch, or with a veggie/vegan chum but possibly not without.
12 St James’s Street, Brighton, BN2 1RE.
Words by Anna Hardman
Photos by Gili Dailes