Review by Sophie King, Sussex Local Magazine
Cactus Kitchen Gals is a new eatery situated in Warwick Street in Worthing. You can find the cafe on the side of Worthing’s creative hub, Colonnade House, and near to Steyne Gardens. It is Worthing’s very first all vegan eatery.
The sign at the front says ‘Good bad vegan food’ – their purpose is to create quality vegan ‘junk food’ essentially. Owner and chef Sophie Cohen says, ‘A lot of people look at the food I make and assume it isn’t vegan because it looks like ‘normal’ food. But that’s all I want, for veganism to be easy for people and for more people to realise how good plants can taste’.
Veganism is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice. Since 2016 there has been a large spike in the number of Brits choosing a vegan diet and today there are 3.5 million vegans in the UK!
Being vegan myself, I was very happy to find out about Cactus Kitchen Gals. Whenever an existing restaurant/cafe has announced vegan options I always hope that the food will be of good quality – not only for my benefit but so if non-vegans try it, they actually like it! So I was very hopeful Cactus Kitchen Gals would represent veganism well.
When I arrived (along with my non-vegan partner), we found the cafe to be cosy but well laid out. Despite the compact size of the venue, we didn’t feel as though we were squashed up against other customers’ tables.
The wooden floorboards and green and white chairs give the cafe a relaxed, modern yet casual look and complement the cactus colour scheme of the eatery. The atmosphere is “beachy” but not in a scruffy way – of course everything is currently new.
We were warmly greeted by Rachel who bought us some drinks. I opted for an Oreo milkshake made with soya milk, served with whipped cream and an environmentally-friendly paper straw. The whipped cream on top was also made from soya and was much lighter then it’s dairy equivalent.
There was a list of other interesting looking milkshakes on offer, including apple pie and lotus biscuit flavours. They also have a large variety of hot drinks available, made with soya or oat milk.
The menu is a bit on the small size at the moment, presumably to test the waters in their new location, but a visit to their Facebook page shows they have numerous other dishes up their sleeve… Everything on the menu looked very enticing, and my partner and I decided to order a selection of items and share them together.
The main offerings are burgers, some American-style sides, such as onion rings, ‘cheez’ fries, deep fried pickles and seitan strips (tasty, wheat-based meat substitute), plus a variety of sauces.
For the main course we opted for a Classic Burger, which is a simple soya burger with ‘cheez’, lettuce, tomato, gherkins, onions, ketchup and mustard. The burger was perfectly seasoned and had the taste of a real flame-grilled burger! You could tell it wasn’t meat as the texture is not as tough and chewy as meat – a big plus for me, my non-vegan partner enjoyed it too. I am pleased to say it was the tastiest vegan burger I have ever tried anywhere! The burger was delicious and the melted vegan cheese complemented it perfectly.
I had to order a side of ‘Notzarella’ sticks to see if they could live up to real mozzarella. The ‘cheez’ was wonderfully gooey and stringy (in a good way) and tasted great! The crispy batter covering the cheez reminded me of chip-shop batter, which was a great combination – I would definitely have these again.
I also wanted to try Cactus Kitchen Gals’ version of Mac & Cheez as I was curious to see if it could really be as rich and cheesy using just plant-based dairy. I found it a very pleasant and more sophisticated version of the dish, with a lovely savoury taste and macaroni pasta that was soft but not over-cooked.
I liked the presentation of the food, with simple shiny trays and pots, it felt very retro and simplistic – veganism is all about the simplicity! Everything we ordered was also gluten free, as are most of the other items on the menu.
For dessert we opted for the brownie with vanilla ice cream – we had to get one each. This was a great choice, the brownie was served hot and was extremely moist and chocolatey, and the vanilla ice cream was very tangy and sweet. As you can see the portions are very generous, which was fine with us because they are so moorish!
Rachel also gave us some wonderful truffles which she makes herself, with flavours such as lemon, lime, coconut, white chocolate, cranberry and dark chocolate. These were truly scrumptious and I would never have even known they were vegan. Rachel told us that these were the more healthy treats on offer in the eatery and that they will also be for sale as ‘take away’ items. Well worth popping in for.
Overall I would say Cactus Kitchen Gals is a very welcome addition to the town, and worth a visit whether you are vegan, vegetarian or a meat-eater. I was very happy with the friendly atmosphere, tasty food and the prices are very reasonable too. I will definitely be going back for more brownies!