Lewes Depot is, of course, a wonderful thing. It has descended and enhanced the town. On summer afternoons, the gallery doors are open and café customers spill onto the grass and sofas and tables outside. In winter, it’s a snug retreat from rain and wind. At times it feels the whole town is down there, but the space is generous enough it rarely feels claustrophobic. I spend many a coffee-time down there meeting interesting people for Viva; or Friday nights or Sunday afternoons at a movie. (Under 25s go for only £4 – what a bargain! And I love that row of seats with all the leg room – row D in Screen 1: the most comfortable cinema experience I think I’ve known – despite warm favourites from other eras of my life, notably the Phoenix in East Finchley and Duke of York’s of old, in London Road.)
But I haven’t often eaten here. So Lizzie and I decide to retreat from the office one lunchtime to try out the Depot’s ‘Brunch and Lunch Menu’, served daily, from 10am to 3pm. We were not disappointed.
Lizzie opted for the ‘Vegan brunch’ (£7.50), and I chose the ‘Vegetable club sandwich’ (£11.50) from the ‘Large’ plate menu. It was enormous! A classic ‘club’ – “A Tom and Jerry sandwich”, as Lizzie pronounced it – with three not two layers of wholemeal bread, and overflowing – positively bulging – with goat’s cheese and roasted peppers. Served with chips – excellent, large crispy ones, fluffy on the inside – and a salad with a very lemony dressing, I was defeated, I have to own, after one half of the sandwich. I’d defy anyone to get through the lot: a good plate to share? But it was delicious, the flavours of the whole platter big and bold, as were the colours.
Lizzie liked her vegan brunch too. “Hearty,” she said, “and, happily, not too virtuous”. It consisted of a generous plateful of two hash browns, grilled tomatoes, avocado, fried mushrooms, baked beans, wilted spinach all arranged around two slices of lightly grilled bread. Lizzie liked the “nutty, perfectly browned mushrooms” – half button mushrooms, so nice and chunky – and declared the wilted spinach “very nicely wilted. Just soft enough, and well seasoned.” And the hash browns? Just as hash browns should be: “golden on the outside, soft on the inside and ever so slightly greasy”.
She enjoyed, she said, “all the indulgence of a classic fry up without any of the animal products”; while I was equally happy with my super-sized almost-Scooby sandwich.
The Depot this early Thursday lunchtime mid-November was buzzing but the service was friendly and speedy. The place felt lively but not too busy, nice and warm and brightly lit, with mellow music playing, even as the rain slunk beyond the window. A fine retreat.
Depot, Pinwell Road, lewesdepot.org