Undercurrent: What was behind the decision to open your third restaurant back here in Brighton and Hove, actually, having ventured into London previously?
Tim Barclay: Brighton has always felt like home to Purezza. We love this city. We started here. Many of the core team live here too. And so many of our biggest fans are here. We’ve had plans to expand Purezza across the UK for a while, but growing our presence in Brighton has been on the cards long before that. One of the biggest problems we have in Brighton is that we’re often too busy, with wait times up to three hours on some evenings. We’re incredibly fortunate that that’s our challenge, but it is a challenge nonetheless. Opening Purezza Hove gives a brand new space for our most loyal fans to experience and enjoy as we eye up national expansion, and it’s a little way of saying thank you to the people who’ve helped us get to where we are.
Why do you feel the Purezza ethos has resonated so strongly here?
Brighton has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the impact of food on the world around us. The city has a history of vegetarian restaurants, sustainable ventures, and now leads the way with the vegan movement. People have always cared more deeply about social and environmental issues, and it’s one of the reasons we fell in love with Brighton in the first place. This is also indicated by Brighton’s political leanings – as a city, we take great pride in having the first and only Green MP.
In many ways, our food isn’t innovative; we wanted to stick as closely as possible to our Neapolitan heritage. What we do differently is making the food out of plants alone, including our Mozzarella. It’s this blend of Naples’ finest traditions with plant-based ingredients that lays the foundations for Purezza, and it’s why the greatest compliment to us is positive feedback from a bonafide pizza-loving Neapolitan.
In your time here how have you seen the Brighton and Hove food/restaurant scene develop? Is it becoming a bit of a real food destination?
Brighton has continued to lead the pack when it comes to plant-based options, particularly those that are unique or unusual. Today, you could take a trip to the city and stuff yourself with amazing food from ethical vegan restaurants all day long, but have barely scratched the surface of what Brighton can offer. There are amazing vegan kebabs from our friends at What The Pitta!, and gorgeous fresh sushi rolls at Happy Maki, massive Sunday Roasts at Green Kitchen, and even vegan whippy ice creams at V360. What we love most of all is that the general interest in plant-based food has led to many of the city’s non-vegan restaurants producing full vegan menus or integrating a great array of plant-based dishes onto their current menus.
Since opening the original site, Purezza has become an integral part of the Brighton vegan food scene, from an operator standpoint, how have you found the local vegan community? Does it stand out from other cities/regions?
Brighton’s vegan community is as vast as it is vibrant. There’s a huge number of vegans out there from all walks of life. The stereotype of the typical vegan just doesn’t exist in Brighton. We get to see an amazing cross section of the vegan community in the restaurant. We’ve met several vegan doctors, vegan bodybuilders, vegan musicians (shoutout to Brighton metalcore legends, Architects), vegan entrepreneurs and more. The community is incredibly welcoming, friendly, and non-judgemental, which is so vital for growing the movement, and we believe this open-armed attitude is cyclical – by providing a welcoming space to non-vegans, people are inclined to shift towards a plant-based diet, thus increasing the overall size of the vegan community.
You have recently been feeding NHS staff both here and in London, how critical is giving back to your local community to the business?
A restaurant is nothing without its local community. It’s where both its employees will be living and the majority of its customers are from. We started Purezza with the global vision of changing the restaurant industry forever – of making it kinder, more compassionate, and more sustainable. But a global vision doesn’t preclude us from doing right by our hometowns. We managed to give away over £200,000 worth of food to NHS staff, as well as local charities, homeless shelters, schools and other key workers. We honestly feel incredibly honoured and fortunate to have been in a position to make a difference in our own little way by boosting people’s morale during such a difficult time.
Finally, what’s next for Purezza, Keeping the plant-based takeover going strong?
We are currently waiting to best understand what the restaurant industry will look like for the rest of 2020, and how best we can adapt to ensure the safety of customers and employees. We’ll be opening our Hove branch in August 2020. We’ve also been working hard to get our plant-based Mozzarella ready for production, and Brighton will, of course, be the first place that you can get hold of it.