If you ask any Manchester based food blogger for the best Indian restaurant on the famous Curry Mile and they’ll most likely reply, “Mughli”. This wasn’t always the case.
In recent years, Mughli has been handed down from father to sons and with their modern ‘British Indian’ approach, “foodie” focus and canny business brains, the Arshad lads have left the local competition in their wake.
Brighton’s Chilli Pickle reminded me of Mughli.
Owned by English couple, Dawn and Alun Sperring (a chef who spent many years working overseas), the vibe is a world away from the hackneyed Indian restaurants, with their identikit stuck in the 70’s menus, which remain all too common.
It’s great to see that (albeit very slowly) more and more Indian restaurant owners are starting to realise that times and attitudes have changed since the 70’s. Thanks to ‘gap years’ and alike, many customers are now well travelled. Many will have grown up with Asian friends and may have sampled their home cooking. As a result, I believe expectations in terms of quality and willingness to try something a little different from the ‘norm’ are higher.
The team of specialist chefs that Alun has working alongside him reflect their regional backgrounds and specialities. The menu is refreshingly short and simple - there are a few familiar sounding dishes such as ‘Moti Mohal Butter Chicken’ but how many Indian restaurants that you know serve ‘Oxtail Madras’ ‘Chennai Skate Wings’ of the great sounding veggie dish ‘Tamil Kidney Bean & Veg Kuzhumbu’?
What Michelin say: The holder of a Michelin Bib Gourmand, ‘Simple restaurant with a relaxed, buzzy vibe and friendly, welcoming service. The passionate chef uses good quality ingredients to create oft-changing menus of thoughtfully prepared, authentic Indian dishes with delicate spicing. Beside the terrace they also have a cart selling street food style snacks.’
Lazily, I’m not going to write at length about each dish. All dishes were presented beautifully with quality ingredients used throughout. As a general note I’d say the spice levels were fairly low, even on the ‘3 chilli’ rated Oxtail Madras.
The fact that the Oxtail Madras didn't deliver the expected kick really didn't matter, it was still a fabulous dish with layers of flavour and stunning slow cooked meat. The ‘Vegetable & Banana Avial’ and ‘Gobi Manchurian’ were our other favourites. Our only quibbles were with the pappy texture of the dosa and the dry paratha.
Gol Gappa – fill your own crispy puri shells with chickpea salad, tamarind pepper water, red pepper & herb apple chutneys.
Chennai Skate Fry – local skate coated in ginger, chilli & rice flour fried & served with orange & grapefruit cachumber and coconut mango chutney.
Pork & Jimbu Momos – steamed Nepalese dumplings with minced pork, jimbu mountain herb, ginger, green chilli served with red chilli sambhal & sweet apple pickle.
Gobi Manchurian – fried cauliflower florets in a ginger, chilli and rice flour batter with sweet & sour sauce & served with plum & ginger chutney.
Moti Mohal Butter Chicken – tomato, butter dried fenugreek, red chilli with riatta & garlic butter naan.
Seabass & King Prawn Macher Johl – Bengali fish curry with fresh seabass fillet, king prawns, mustard oil, panch phoran spice, potato, aubergine & fresh tomatoes with steamed rice.
Oxtail Madras – Sussex oxtail pieces slowly simmered in a medium spiced gravy with roasted garam masala, coconut & date molasses. Served with cumin pilau rice & riatta.
Mysore Masala Dosa – crisp south Indian rice pancake filled with spiced potato, curry leaf & ginger served with sambar & kuzhumbu curries & red coconut sambhal.
A few of the sides: Kasuni Mustard / Tawa Paratha / Kenya Mix / Vegetable & Banana Avial – a fan of fruity dishes, my wife had the Vegetable & Banana Avial as her main; I had a taste and loved it too.
With my stepdaughters having moved to Brighton, we are sure to visit Chilli Pickle again. Especially as it is connected to MyHotel where we stayed and will most likely stay again. Hopefully, like Mughli and Chilli Pickle more and more Indian restaurants will start to realise that times and attitudes have changed and their menus will reflect this.