In my opinion there are few better places to go for a decent hangover brunch in Brighton than the hippy institution that is the Sanctuary café . It used to be a regular haunt of mine when I lived just around the corner on Bedford Place, and would oft stagger round on a Sunday morning (ok, probably more like early afternoon) for a rejuvenating, body and soul repairing feast. Merely contemplating the brimming counter of vibrantly eccentric salads and hearty cakes is enough to soothe even the most jaded of souls. And though I'm not a coffee drinker myself, I have it on good authority that their mochas are among the best in town. The staff always seem to be in a worse state than you are, which is a comfort, and there is invariably some gentle music playing at an acceptable level. Apart from the odd grizzly baby (why can't they be confined to the downstairs, dammit?), there is a pervading atmosphere of calm, making the venue most deserving of its name. Having moved to the other side of Brighton a couple of years ago, I don't get down to the Sanctuary so much these days, and when I do it tends to be for Saturday lunch, or like last night, the occasional weeknight supper.
Pictured here is actually one of my companions' dinners - warm salad with sweet potato, aubergine, mushroom, goats' cheese and asparagus. Blinded by my inner food monster, I stupidly demolished mine (the same dish) before remembering that I needed to photograph it. Luckily Harry had been more delicate with hers and so I was able to capture the beautifully presented concoction in all its glory. The brilliant combination of sticky sweet potato and smooth, tangy goats' cheese was nicely complemented by that subtly verdant flavour of braised asparagus, and a generous drizzle of lurid strawberry and balsamic dressing gave the whole thing a zingy, summery kick.
I had fully intended to follow this rather virtuous main with one of the many inviting desserts on offer (the cheesecake looked particularly appealing, though I think I would have had to fight Jo for the last remaining slice), but the main course was more filling than it sounds, especially when washed down with half a bottle of organic wine. So instead of pudding, we popped down the road to my old local, the Lion & Lobster, for a nostalgic nightcap (or two). While we were settling up at the Sanctuary, I was slightly perturbed to notice that the sweet selection included several jars of cookies imported from Australia, which rather contradicts their mission statement of "Healthy hearty food prepared with mainly organic, locally sourced ingredients" (quote taken from their website). Surely there must be perfectly adequate biscuit suppliers a little closer to home? And what kind of preservatives must be in those cookies that they can survive travelling across the planet? It's madness I tell you! But apart from this one slight gripe, the Sanctuary was just as lovely as always, and if anything I'd say the quality and presentation of the food has improved slightly. Now, if only they'd open a branch in Kemp Town.