By Safiya Young

Much like the flower from which it takes its name, the Dandelion Deli in Kings Road, St Leonards emerged in spring and soon began to live up to its floral title, attracting a thriving trade with its freshly made cuisine. Each dish is prepared the day you eat it – including a variety of salads, cakes and daily specials – and every dietary need can be catered for. “As a gluten-free customer, you feel like your needs are met”, I was told by Laura Beerling of Hastings Opportunity Area, who visits on a weekly basis during her lunchbreak. 

Lasagna at Dandelion
PICTURE: Georgia Starkin

Each member of staff seemed friendly and happy to be working there, which complemented the overall welcoming vibe the deli gave. We had the choice of sitting upstairs with a view of King’s road and a food-filled counter – it was like St. Leonards had snatched a snippet of Brighton’s North Laine – or downstairs, where the walls bloomed with detailed artwork and the tables were topped with a pot plant. The garden was cosy and bright, a great place to try a healthy salad plate, with real plants climbing the walls to emphasize the beautifully illustrated versions inside. How lovely to sit among greens while eating them?

Salad at Dandelion
PICTURE: Georgia Starkin

We were greeted with smiles and coffee (of excellent quality) and had the pleasure of sampling the daily special, which in our case was lasagne. The layers of a lasagne are like the sections of a choir: when done well, they combine in perfect harmony, but if one part is out of tune, the whole thing becomes a sludgy mess. It is a precise and difficult skill, which Dandelion managed to execute with divine accuracy and for just £4.50 per portion. Since giving up dairy, lasagne has been a no-go area for me, so you can imagine my delight at seeing the prominent vegan option. The top layer was light and creamy, it was like eating the essence of a freshly-baked cloud, then a delicious sauce of tomato and courgette brought me back to planet earth with a smile on my face and only a smudge left on my plate. You will never be able to return to the bog-standard frozen equivalent after eating this.

One of the things that makes Dandelion stand out from an ordinary deli, apart from their trendy décor, is the ‘King’s records shop’, that inhabits a room downstairs. The records are free to play and economical to buy, some for as little as £5. So, if you like music and fancy a spoonful of home-made hummus, this is the ideal deli for you, it may even become your ’favourite place’, like it is for many of the customers in there. The only thing I found disappointing was that I had never been there before.

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