Watch out Hove, the perfect pizza dough has landed.
If you’ve read our Random Bites review of Purezza, the plant-based pizza place with branches in Brighton and Camden, you’ll know we’re big fans of their food, style and ethos.
But neither location is convenient for us so we were very pleased to discover they’ve opened a new branch in Hove.
I was all, ‘How, what ‘n’ where?’
Pork Belly was ‘Ooooh, pizza!’
Any new venture is pretty demanding at the best of times, but pizza in a pandemic? Well that adds a whole layer of complexity.
Founder Tim Barclay says, ‘A heck of a lot of planning and forecasting goes into opening a restaurant, but 2020 has come along and basically made a mockery of it all. We’ve had to rethink a lot of things – seating numbers, revenue, supply etc. and try to estimate how things might be affected in the short, medium and long term.’
‘Overall, we’ve been lucky though – we pivoted quickly as a brand and upped our delivery game, and have had the pleasure of delivering literally thousands of pizzas to NHS staff and key workers during lockdown. Our team will continue to work with whatever gets thrown our way and ensure Purezza is doing the best that it can at all times.’
So back to that dough. Pizza is what they do, and they do it very well. Their bases are either wholegrain sourdough, hemp or a gluten-free version they call Freedom, so there are plenty of options. And the fact that the toppings are all vegan is almost beside the point. What they really are is flavourful, exciting and unusual.
The Hove branch offers exactly the same menu as the others, and its decor is similar – shades of leafy green, rustic tables and a relaxed feel. It’s larger than the Brighton branch, spread across two floors and is also perfectly placed for grabbing a takeaway and heading down to Hove Lawns and the beach.
We went along to the ‘soft launch’ – a sort of dry run for the staff before they opened up to all. The pandemic’s caused a few issues with suppliers and that led to the first big disappointment of the night – no fermented cheese platter! This is my favourite thing about Purezza, a range of cashew nut cheeses, flavoured with subtly different seasonings and textures. It’s meant for two but in the past I have been known to consume almost the whole lot myself, skip the pizza and head straight to dessert.
The situation is temporary – they hope to be up and fermenting again within a few weeks – but we went for the garlic bread instead; soft dough loaded with fresh garlic and rosemary.
Pork Belly stayed with the carbs for his main course, choosing ‘The One That’s Telling Porkies’ – BBQ flavoured mock-pork pieces, melted non-dairy cheddar, wild forest mushrooms and semi-dried tomatoes. If you’re a meat lover you’d be hard pressed to tell it’s plant-based. A satisfyingly large pizza that packs plenty of flavour.
I’m trying to keep low carb so went ‘off-piste’ for my main to sample their Pure Bowl. A platter of rocket, tiny peppers, tomatoes, steamed artichokes, olives and lentils with pesto. It’s usually served with spiralised courgette but that’s one vegetable I can’t eat, which probably didn’t do the dish any favours. It was on the bland side, the lentils were soft but with no real taste and there was just a little too much plain rocket. I won’t be having that one again. Sorry guys.
The upside? I had room for dessert! My usual choice would be the Cashew Dream, a vegan take on tiramisu which is pure heaven-on-a-spoon (despite the date base which makes Pork Belly wrinkle his nose). But this was a new restaurant, a new opportunity so instead I plumped for cheesecake with mango coulis while Pork Belly indulged in the gluten-free Salted Caramel Brownie with a scoop of vanilla (vegan) ice-cream. Both got full marks. The brownie was just as sticky and gooey as a good brownie should be and the cheesecake was light, citrusy and sweet enough without being cloying.
We both love the coffee they serve at Purezza which is something of a miracle since Pork Belly goes for very strong and I prefer smooth, subtle and fruity. We even argue about it when we’re brewing at home, so to find one when we’re out that suits us both is a rarity.
Now eating, by invitation, at a specific event is one thing, dropping in casually is quite another. So we headed back for lunch a few days later just to check our first impressions.
Pork Belly couldn’t resist the garlic bread again then chose something new – the pizza with Nduja – a sort of sausage he’d never tried before. The Purezza version is tomato based with fiery chilli peppers, 100% vegan of course, but full of flavour and seasoned with fresh garlic and basil leaves.
I was hoping to sample their gluten-free lasagne, but they had completely sold out. Trying to keep low-carb in a pizza place is never going to be easy but a hemp base is a good alternative – high carb yes but much higher in fibre. It was a wise decision – a light and fluffy base that didn’t rest too heavily on my stomach. I went for the truffle version, with wood-smoked tofu and wild forest mushrooms. Fresh and earthy.
We didn’t intend to have a dessert this time but Pork Belly just couldn’t resist a double scoop of ice-cream.
So good luck Purezza, Hove in these odd, restricting and unsettling times. We’ll be back for more.
And we can’t wait for you to get that cheese platter back in production again!
You can find Purezza, Hove at:
86-87 Western Rd, Hove BN3 1JB
Bank Holiday times may differ.
Note: All Purezza branches are cash-free
Now the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ offer has ended, Purezza have found another way to reward their customers. Sign up to get 15% off at any of their branches – Camden, Brighton, Hove and soon to be Bristol – for the rest of 2020.
Grab a code here then use that code on every visit to get the saving.
Purezza are passing on the VAT savings that the government has given the hospitality industry. Some items on the menu won’t be eligible (e.g. alcoholic drinks), and the deal can’t be used in conjunction with other offers.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Purezza for their pre-launch event and paying customers on our second trip. All views are our own, of course.