Many people that know me also know that the thought of a ‘Vegan Beth’ is just not possible. I’m one of those people that needs some form of meat in every meal otherwise it’s just not classified as a real meal. However, thanks to Love Pop Ups London I went along to a vegan pizzeria called Purezza last week to try out their completely vegan menu. If I’m completely honest, I was sure it wasn’t going to be one of the best meals of my life…any restaurant would surely need meat to be a contender for that. But, my opinion of veganism completely changed within the 2 hours I spent here. I’m still in shock from how good it turned out to be.
Purezza is the UK’s first vegan pizzeria, serving plant-based versions of classic Italian dishes, they have restaurants in both Brighton and Camden (this is the one I visited). Since it was founded in 2015 they have continued to revolutionise Italian cuisine using cruelty free ingredients with just one aim in mind, to make their plant based menu superior to the traditional alternatives.
We arrived on a Monday evening after a long day at work and I don’t think we were quite ready to have our world turned as upside down as it was. We struggled to get our head around how everything on their extensive menu could possibly be vegan, I’m still not quite sure I understand it now.
Not wanting to waste any time (we were very hungry) we delved straight into the cocktail menu. I’d never really thought of a cocktail being non-vegan but this made me think more about the ingredients that may be used in your standard cocktail, such as egg whites for a sour taste and milky/creamy ingredients for heavier cocktails. After much deliberation we both went for the Lemon Cheesecake cocktail. Mainly down to the name, but also because all of the staff we spoke to whilst deciding said that this was their favourit. We got sucked in and i’m not even mad about it. I’ve got a super sweet tooth and this fulfilled all of my hopes and dreams, frothy and fruity whilst still having a kick. It was made up of Limoncello, Almond Baileys, Oat Milk and Aquafaba and was finished with coconut sugar, so many exciting sounding ingredients!
Next, it was time to decide what we were going to be eating. This was one of the hardest decisions of our lives. Luckily, we had the most amazing waiter called Marco, who was more than happy to answer all of our questions regarding the menu. He was also able to offer us a little bit of background of the restaurant and the ingredients that they use (who knew you could make cheese out of cashew nuts?! Not me). So we went for the cheese board as a starter to find out what this would taste like.
He also informed us that Purezza had recently won a very exciting award… Their Parmigiana Party pizza had won the National Pizza of The Year 2018 at the National Pizza Awards. Not just the best vegan pizza, THE BEST PIZZA OVERALL?! after finding this out we HAD to try it. Along with this pizza we decided to go for their October special called ‘The Fall’, along with a side of mac n cheese because we were living our best lives.
It didn’t take long for our Raw Cheese Platter to reach our table. It looked like cheese. It smelt like cheese. But it wasn’t actually cheese. It was Cashew. Confusing? Yes.
There were 4 different types of cheese on the cheeseboard. Each a different flavour (i’m really sorry, don’t hate me but I got so caught up in the moment that I’ve completely forgotten which flavours these cheeses were. I can, however, tell you that they were all very tasty.) They had varying textures. Some were a lot smoother than others whilst some still felt very nutty. The menu says that these Artisan cashew based cheeses had been fermented and matured for over 10 days. A lot of preparation goes into making cheese without using dairy! But you could taste the hard work. It was served with 2 dips (one of which was agave, it tasted a bit like maple syrup…I’m not sure if it was meant to but it was glorious.) and some gluten free cracker breads and made for the perfect starter. I would definitely recommend.
Throughout the meal my friend, Jodie, kept turning to me and saying, “This is vegan?” which just proves how well they’ve developed these ideas into food that is known as completely unvegan.
Next up were our pizzas. The moment I’d been looking forward to but also been apprehensive about. What if I don’t like the best pizza in the uk? what if my palette is not defined enough to enjoy the tastes of high-quality vegan food? In the end it turned out I had absolutely nothing to worry about. The pizza was phenomenal, there was no denying. Weirdly it tasted…MEATY? The Parmigiana Party pizza consisted of a red tomato base with smoked mozzarella, aubergine parmigiana, crumbled sausages, topped with a dusting of nutritional yeast. All of these ingredients worked so well together and the sausages gave the meaty flavour. The mozzarella seemed no different to normal mozarella (other than that it was smoked) which is always something I would worry about. Mozarella is one of my favourites and so the fact that they have managed to reproduce this perfectly using purely plant based ingredients must be magic. Also. It’s half the calories of normal mozarella… Not so naughty after all.
‘The fall’ was also something quite spectacular. This was my friend’s favourite. I’m not a huge fan of chestnuts and think that I may have been all cashewed up from the starter cheeses but nonetheless i still very much enjoyed this pizza. It was a truffle cream based pizza topped with signature mozzarella, smoked tofu, cashew cream, rosemary chestnuts and yellow cherry tomatoes. It’s the perfect Autumn pizza, which is probably why it’s this month’s special. If this takes your fancy then I suggest you get your bum down to Purezza right now. We paired it with their Mac’n’ cheese which as well as being vegan was also gluten free, perfect for me – I much prefer gluten free pasta to normal pasta. The melty creamy cheese was made using a variety of different oils to create the same gooey texture of a normal mac’n’cheese. This made me feel all warm (and VERY full) inside.
We were very full by now. But we’d spotted the Oreo Pizza on the menu and we felt that we would regret it if we didn’t give it a go. And with that we ordered one and patiently waited for our dream dessert to be delivered. Whilst we waited we sipped on some more cocktails. My friend, Jodie, went for the Purezza Spritz, a twist on the classic Aperol Spritz – although using pear cider, gin and organic prosecco with a splash of plum juice. This was fantastic (yes, I stole a gulp). I think I may have to start making this at home as opposed to the usual as I sometimes find that a little too bitter, whereas this was far more refreshing and exciting. I went for the Elderflower Basil G&T. This was equally as refreshing but I did find myself wishing I’d picked the spritz.
The Oreo Pizza made its way to the table and it was like a work of art. So much chocolate goodness on a sourdough base. I didn’t know this was possible. The chocolate was rich and warm and the Oreos had managed to retain their crunch. Absolutely perfect. Although, we were too far gone past full and this sent us well into a food coma. I think I actually rolled home.
Purezza has completely opened my eyes to the idea of vegan food and has proved that it doesn’t all have to be lettuce leaves and cardboard. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it made me want to attempt veganism because I love meat far too much, but it’s great to know that if I were to make these changes, I wouldn’t be missing out on cheese and pizza. This restaurant is definitely a must, vegan or not, you’ll be impressed (and very full).