Review – Iydea, Western Road
After what seems like possibly forever, the new Iydea is now ready to serve the public at their Western Road premises. Months of building work, construction work, paint jobs and general attention to detail have gone into transforming the former French restaurant site into the Iydea atmosphere we know and love.
The official launch is Tuesday 2nd July but a lucky few were invited to a preview this Saturday to see how the well loved vegetarian and vegan cafe has spread its wings and transformed into a larger establishment.
Carefully co-ordinating my lunch break with my fellow colleague and +1, Neil, we skipped along Western Road in the bright sunshine discussing our previous experiences of soft launches. I’d personally not experienced one and Neil only had without realising he was actually at one. A good start.
Reaching the new Western Road Iydea cafe, we had expected some kind of queue outside. This wasn’t the case and we headed inside and worked our way through a small, mingling crowd towards the counter at the back. The first thing that stuck me was how happy everyone looked, customers and staff alike. Lots of big smiles and a cheerful atmosphere. I genuinely think the opening must be a huge weight off a lot of peoples shoulders and also something that a lot of the city have been looking forward to!
Akin to the popular Kensington Gardens branch, the menu was laid out in large blackboards across the back of the main counter. Staying true to its roots, Iydea offers you an eat in or takeaway option of a range of homemade, high quality, vegetarian and vegan dishes, with the idea (or should that be Iydea… I’ll get me coat…) behind it being you choose a main, pick two sides and add a topping. Prices are dependant on whether you want to eat in or takeaway with the latter being the cheaper option and starting around the £4.30 mark, with the most expensive eat in option coming in at around £7.50.
Choosing from a menu as good as this was tricky but I went with my gut instinct and ordered the Chilli Bean Enchilada – mexican bean, rice and cheddar tortilla topped with spicy tomato sauce, melted cheese and jalapeños (£5 T/A £6.50 E/I) with sides of Pasta and Roasted Peppers – in a pesto and balsamic dressing and Sun Dried Tomato, Feta and Rocket – with red onion and basil, plus my topping option of Sour Cream and Chives. Phew! All to be washed down with a refreshing glass of homemade lemonade.
Neil and I were served our food, piled high on pristine white plates and after grabbing our cutlery, we made a beeline for the upstairs part of Iydea. The decor was a warm, light, orange/yellow with the recognisable, large wooden tables scattered around. It felt very homely in a way but also, fresh, clean and modern. This was helped by the sun streaming in through the windows and giving the cafe a summertime glow.
There’s something about no nonsense, healthy, fast, enjoyable food that really catches my eye and Iydea have that nailed down. I tried to choose items that I thought would complement each other and I did fairly well because every mouthful had me brimming with satisfaction!
The Chilli Bean Enchilada was filling, compact and tasty. Not overly showy, but substantial and had a very more-ish flavour. I didn’t at anytime think about where the meat content was and to be honest, I didn’t miss it one bit. Cutting through the thick enchilada and smothering mouthfuls in the creamy, cool and fresh sour cream and chive sauce was heavenly. The jalapeños also added a mild kick, which I enjoyed.
The pasta was cool, well cooked and a great little summer dish. Roasted peppers are one of my all time favourites and Iydea didn’t disappoint with their melt in the mouth, oily red treats. This, coupled with the refreshing and ample portion of sun-dried tomato, feta and rocket made for a wonderful summertime lunch.
My friend Neil categorises things into three realms: good, very good and dead good. An Iydea Kensington Gardens stalwart and vegan about town, his capacity to speak openly and honestly about anything was part of the reason why I took him to the Iydea soft launch. Coming from Neil, his exclamation that the new Iydea was ‘very good’ is hugely complimentary and very promising for the establishment.
I can see myself returning to Iydea many a time. Especially handy for grabbing a filling lunch if you’re on a work break or alternatively having a take away option and sitting on the beach (weather dependant!) Not limiting themselves to just being a convienent lunchtime establishment, Iydea also do an eclectic selection of breakfasts too and often serve their day menu well into the evening. Can’t be bothered to cook dinner? Forget your ready meal or pizza takeout, pop to Iydea instead!
Branching out and opening a second establishment on a larger site is a big risk, however, one I feel that was needed. Iydea feels refreshed, modernised, more organised and ready to take on the Hove side of town. Faultless food at a fantastic price. Good work Iydea, I’ll see you next time.
Words and photograph by Claire Beveridge