The Chilli Pickle, Jubilee Square, Brighton
Following our highly amusing debacle at The Rickshaw in Ship Street a fortnight ago (Catastrophe at The Rickshaw), which saw the first ever Bjournal restaurant review awarding a 0 Star swiftly followed by a 1 Star rating, the editor mercifully decided to dispatch the reviewing team to a more reliable establishment, Chilli Pickle, a long surving and multiple award winning eatery in Jubilee Square in the North Laines – even if some of the awards such as ‘Hottest Curry 2008’ and ‘Finalist: Best Ethnic Chef’ have the merest hint of the dodgy High Street Indian about them. After a few cocktails at The Yellow Book (a Steampunk-themed bar in which we were adorned by bar staff with complimentary top hats for the men and tricornes for the ladies) we headed with some anticipation to Chilli Pickle for an admittedly late sitting.
Second thoughts inspired by the more dubious of the various awards were banished the moment we walked through the door. Chilli Pickle is a quality joint and was packed despite the lateness of the hour. This is testimony to the quality of the food and service. A packed restaurant is absolutely a good sign. However it has also led to them being cruelly robbed of one of Bjournal’s soon-to-be highly prized Stars. With so many apparently happy punters wedged into a relatively small area, Chilli Pickle can be much too raucous, and might not be the go-to choice for a romantic evening on Fridays or at the weekend. However it is much quieter during the week for tete-a-tetes with one’s other half, additional paramour, or any other occasion in which hearing your partner is desirable rather than to be endured.
Via sign language, lip reading and a little frantic semaphore we managed to coordinate orders. Scarred by our experiences at The Rickshaw, we were somewhat surprised to be served promptly and without any obvious difficulty. In fact the service was admirable all night. Bringing the right stuff to the table to the right time doesn’t sound so difficult but having observed a masterclass in how to fail at this apparently fundamental task we now appreciate it a deal more. Chilli Pickle‘s staff, as well as being efficient, were courteous, flexible, knew the menu (another previous failing) and proved highly tolerant when we took advantage of the departure of all of other guests at the end of the evening to commence a very lengthy conversation, without once being interrupted, frowned at or moved on. Good manners are a rare blessing, particularly in the busy and highly competitive restaurant trade in Brighton.
As well as good service, the restaurant offers a range of fine cocktails. While my companion had moved on to red wines after imbibing a number of purported Pan Galatic Gargle Blasters at The Yellow Book, I tried a Cinnmon Swirl, a blend of renaissance-era liquor, cinnamon, African sugar cane, Angostura bitters, cranberry and orange. Was it good? Well I had another.
In terms of food, we commenced with the traditional poppadoms. There are a couple of minor quibbles, in that Chilli Pickle supplies normal poppadoms, but intersperses these with unannounced rolled-over curried specimens, which look great but are strongly flavoured and not too all tastes. There was also a distressing dearth of lime pickle.
We moved hungrily on to main the portions. My companion, a glutton for punishment, ordered a Tandooori Chicken Platter despite her previous disappointment with a similarly titled dish. On this occasion her persistance was rewarded by a fine piece of chicken with a selection of appropriate sauces, a spicy sausage of some description and rice as a substitute for a naan bread (which arrived as requested and was very palatable). My own lamb shank was cooked perfectly, again had an array of suitable sauces and was served on what is described as a mint butter naan. Both dishes were excellent and of admirable quality. However I did regret not also ordering some rice as the portions did not feel exceptionally large after our lengthy wait for the late sitting.
Finding things to complain about is an essential task of the reviewer, but tricky with an operation as slick as Chilli Pickle. However I manfully contrived to become lost en route to the bathroom, the combination of mirrored walls and obscure signage conspiring against the inebriated mind, in a manner which has no doubt led to a lot of confusion over the years but is likely to be a minor consideration in general terms.
As the restaurant was largely empty by this pont we skipped dessert and went straight to my companion’s eternal habit of ordering Irish coffee – a demand so far met with incomprehension from Bodmin to Berwick (although they can be ordered without difficulty in the local Harverster forchristsakes). Not so at Chilli Pickle. They scuttled off to fulfil her heart’s desire with alacrity. Alas. One should always be careful what you wish for though. The longest quests can produce the most exhilarating highs but also the most devastating disappointments.
It turns out she doesn’t actually like Irish Coffee.
We had Poppadoms & Chutney, a Tandoori Chicken Platter, a Rogan Lamb Shank Raan, Cinnamon Swirl cocktails, red wine and Irish Coffees. The whole bill came to just over £72.00