“The melty cheese was satisfying in different ways. It was gooey, sticky and produced an incredible flavour and aroma which we could not get enough of.” Purezza is the winner of the 2018 Pizza of the Year Award and the UK’s first completely vegan pizzeria, with the simple yet passionate aim to create a cruelty free plant-based menu superior to traditional alternatives.
If someone had asked me a few years ago if I could ever give up meat and meat products altogether and become completely vegan I would have scoffed at them. I have always admired vegans, and am well aware of some of the cruel practices that go on in factory farming, and the effect mass meat consumption is having on the planet, but like many others have chosen to bury my head in the sand. That was until fairly recently, where due to a combination of insistent nagging by my good friend and long-time vegan Gemma about the health benefits of giving up meat products, and the ever increasing plant-based alternatives becoming available, I have started to significantly reduce the amount meat and dairy I am consuming.
The one thing that I absolutely love and have not yet been able to find a suitable alternative for, however, is cheese. So far, every vegan cheese I have tried has been, in a word… foul, and could in no way replace Mozzarella on my favourite guilty pleasure… Pizza. Or so I thought until Gemma recommended I visit Purezza, a personal favourite of hers which she visits whenever she in Brighton. This is a place, I was informed, where not only the cheese is tastier than mozzarella, but the completely plant-based pizzas are superior to traditional alternatives. A bold statement indeed and one that I absolutely had to check out.
I decided to take a particularly carnivorous and vegan sceptic friend of mine Russ along for lunch on the Tuesday after Pride. Both of us were still feeling the effects of an over-indulgent weekend of hedonism and debauchery and both in desperate need of the kind of satisfying nutrition only a fully loaded dirty pizza can provide. I neglected to mention the vegan element of Purezza and Russ was dubious to say the least when we took our seats in the window booth. Thankfully, I managed to convince him to give it a chance, as after an incredible fulfilling gluttonous meal, we both agreed Purezza is definitely our new ‘go to’ Pizzeria!
Before we even get to the food, the laid back vibe in the modern well-lit and beautifully decorated space Purezza have created in the venue really makes it a great place to while away a couple of hours over a relaxed lunch. The décor is rustic and cosy, with pizza paddles and cutters painted on the walls and wooden beams (still draped in rainbow ribbons from Pride) crossing the ceiling. The menu is simple to navigate with a diverse range of pizzas, sides, pasta dishes and salads that cater for all dietary requirements.
The pizzas come with three choices of base; their classic family recipe wholegrain sourdough, a healthier locally sourced hemp flour dough, or a ‘freedom’ gluten-free base. In order to get to taste all three, we choose hemp and freedom base for our pizzas and classic for our cheesy garlic bread side. In order to fully test Gemma’s claim about Purezza’s vegan cheese we also select a mac ‘n’ cheese side as a starter. Russel chooses “Karma” cola with all natural ingredients to wash it all down, whereas I need something a little stronger to get over the post-pride blues and plump for their current craft beer offering – a zesty little IPA from local brewers Gun Brewery.
Our starters arrive and I was pleasantly surprised by the mac ‘n’ cheese as it produced the same mixture of gratification, guilt and cheese-sweats as the regular stuff. The melty cheese did not have the same chewy stringiness that mozzarella has, but was satisfying in different ways. It was gooey, sticky and produced an incredible flavour and aroma which we could not get enough of. The garlic bread was topped with the same cheese and gave us our first taste of Purezza’s signature base. It hit all the right notes; it was fluffy, bubbly, chewy and light, and most importantly very tasty indeed!
Soon after we had demolished the mac ‘n’ cheese and garlic bread, our pizzas arrive. Russel’s carnivorous nature had taken over and he had ordered the “meatiest” pizza on the menu ‘Telling Porkies’ with white base, melted cheddar, mixed wild forest mushrooms, marinated pulled BBQ pieces and sundried tomatoes. Whereas I had plumped for Purezza’s national best pizza award winning “Parmigiana Party” red tomato base with smoked mozzarella, aubergine, parmigiana, crumbled sausages and topped with a dusting of nutritional yeast.
By far the most inviting and appetising looking pizzas I have ever seen. The natural ingredients and glistening gooey cheese made for some vibrant colours and textures and the result was a plant-based masterpiece which tasted incredible. Each mouthful of this delicious pizza was an adventure, with flavours and textures exploding in my mouth. It has to be tasted to be believed and I am not surprised it won the national best pizza award, beating a whole host of non-vegan competition. Of course we shared the two pizzas between us and I was almost as impressed with Telling Porkies. The white base allowed the other ingredients to shine so you could really get the full earthy taste of the mushrooms.
The BBQ pieces actually taste better than barbecue pork, and a generous amount of Purezza’s excellent plant-based cheese really topped it all off. I honestly could not tell the difference between the gluten free dough that we had with the Parmigiana party to the original recipe dough that we had with the garlic bread, and the flavourful hemp flour dough added an extra dimension to Telling Porkies which somehow made it seem even more wholesome.
We managed to scoff the lot. An extra unexpected bonus of plant-based pizza is that it does not make you feel as bloated as regular pizza! So we were able to force down a couple of cheesecakes for dessert. They really hit the spot, with a lovely crumbly biscuit base, luxuriously smooth light creamy topping and finished off with a drizzle of tangy strawberry sauce. Heavenly!
I would thoroughly recommend Purezza to anyone whether you are vegan, like me and toying with the idea of adopting a more ethical plant-based diet, or unashamedly carnivorous. The food is incredible, with a tremendous amount of creativity and passion having gone into the creating such a diverse and fun menu. You could easily forget you are eating plant-based alternatives. For me, their pizza beats anywhere else in Brighton hands down! As well as this, the staff are lovely and the atmosphere is buzzing – so get yourself down there ASAP. Tony Shattell
Purezza. 12 St James Street, Brighton BN2 1RE www.purezza.co.uk