Restaurant review: Brighton’s favourite Indian
Any Brighton resident worth their salt has been to The Chilli Pickle; one of our premier Indian restaurants. It’s surrounded rather arbitrarily by the Jubilee Library, a leisure centre and Pizza Express (for now). So, with that notion in mind I found myself there for the very first-time last Wednesday for a ‘working lunch’ with a very willing plus one. It was the usual glut of Bombay mix, Poppodoms and pickles. But so much more than that…
Having only previously seen the venue from the outside (on the way to do 100 lengths in the nearby pool) we were intrigued to find out if the interior décor matched the flamboyance of the multi-coloured sacred cow that keeps watch at the front door. We were not disappointed; the chirpy, attentive manageress showed us to our table – we sat adjacent to the front windows to allow for people watching – and luminescent pinks, yellows and turquoises were everywhere. Think Holi or Diwali festival but all year round.
We had stoically planned to keep lunch tee-total – the office would call us back that afternoon – but part of the fun was the cocktails, and we were told that the new seasonal menu had just launched, so we couldn’t refuse. Anything with bourbon usually gets my vote so the brilliantly named Punjabi Cowboy with maple syrup, lime and orgeat was the perfect tonic. I didn’t expect my friend Jack Daniels to make such a show-stopping appearance but coupled with the nutty-cream finish it was just right for an autumn day. The Negroni my partner elected for was a more conservative choice; all in all, the drinks were worth the visit alone if you’re thinking of making a brief stop-off here to start an evening out. Even the punchy ginger mocktail I slurped to finish was top-notch – if you’re attempting Stoptober.
Because the two of us are disciples of the well-trodden path of pickles, chutneys and onions to start we stayed with the familiar to begin with and had the lot. Of course, there was a twist on the norm: two types of snappy Poppodoms (4 of each!), a tangy pineapple dip and a gloopy chilli jam. Our meals came and went but we carried on picking at these for the duration.
The starter, which we miraculously managed to agree on and divide up, was Tarka Tiger Prawn Puri. The tender shrimps were cooked to perfection – garnished with chilli, cumin and garlic – but they were upstaged and left blushed-pink by the soggy flat bread that partnered them. The menu as a whole wants to transport us to an Asian setting and the doughy indulgence of oil made me think of a night market more than anything else we sampled.
For the mains we asked for a balance of meat and vegetarian dishes – there’s something for everyone here – so out came Potato Paratha with Paneer Green Pea Curry (V) and Seabass Korri Gassi. The Paneer, which I hogged, was Indian cheese cubes in a pool of delicious curry with bread (again!) on the side as a scoop. The cooling labneh yogurt was a welcome foil for the chilli heat. The second main was a tin tray which held the following: fish curry with a sauce of coconut and tomatoes, rice, chapatti, dal, rasam, riatta pickle, chutney and two sweet nibbles to finish. It just about worked as a jumble of tastes and textures and as a stand-alone would leave two people feeling full. (The Korri was £15 or £16 to supplement with more snacks).
The Chilli Pickle is an elevation, in every sense, on the much-loved curry house experience of two courses of spice-blitz and a gallon of Cobra. Understandably, it’s a tad more expensive but located in the heart of the city it’s worth indulging in as often as possible. Alternatively, if you work close by a thrifty lunch is achievable and would provide a timely change from a meal deal (the huge restaurant floor was nicely busy with office-workers).
Our working lunch lasted just under two hours and we managed to stick to a single cocktail each – the tangy spice of the food was the pervading memory and left us as heady as the alcohol did. So much so that we bounced out of the door and rode the sacred cow for a dip in the Ganges lazy river at Prince Regent.
The Chilli Pickle Brighton, 17 Jubilee Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1GE, 01273 900383.