[P]REVIEW: Curry Leaf Cafe, Brighton

by - May 09, 2014

Every review of Curry Leaf Cafe will probably include the quirky "Gumtree story". So I'll keep mine really short but sets the scene for the origin of this restaurant nicely. Here goes; journalist Euan Sey puts a Gumtree ad out for a flatmate, in walks chef Kanthi Kiran Thamma. Journalist has always had a passion for Indian food from boyhood and a beautiful relationship is formed. Plenty of time is spent in their shared kitchen. They decide to open a restaurant, Curry Leaf Cafe.

Obviously there is loads more to it and warm, fuzzy stuff but hey, we're here to eat.

I think the combination of these two business minds is going to be paramount to the success of this place. Their mixed skill set, countless ideas as well as the clear passion is a real asset to the Brighton dining scene.

Although the interior is relaxed in style, the food is elegant in its own right. South Indian food is fresher, often lighter and is the sort of food I like to eat. Sauces are not blended so you detect all the ingredients and food is fragrant. Kanthi has a lightness of touch with the food, from the samples of the menu I tried, you can clearly tell this is the sort of food he has grown up with and loves, adding his own tweaks and twists to elevate it from home style cooking.

There is so much to like about the place. Although I would normally keep Indian food to evening dining, the casual nature of the restaurant, and presentation as a cafe, makes it more attractive to drop in for lunch. The fresher salads will be more up my street, but there are also thali, express curries or filled and rolled naan for those in a hurry. Cakes with Indian inspired spices can be washed down with a chai or tea from their decent list in the afternoon and of course there is a full dinner menu as well. Interestingly, a brunch menu is available which I love the sound of, possibly more so after a night on the tiles. For someone that doesn't do the traditional fry-up, this is a breakfast choice I would bother to roll out of bed for.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to be spoilt with cherry picked items from both the starters and mains as I sat down with Euan. Possibly my favourite element of Indian food are all the chutneys and the huge homemade selection here are stars in their own right. I tried the most vibrant beetroot chutney, smooth coconut chutney, and a peanut and tamarind dip to name a few.

From the starters the Murg Tikka Chettinad, succulent spiced chicken pieces, was something I would be ordering again. I tend to coat fish in lemon scented polenta at home so loved the texture of the semolina coated marinated prawns. The tiny fishcakes were fresh and fragrant too, perfect for dipping into the chutneys. And the fish, battered in chickpea flour was a nice little twist for a dish very much at home in Brighton.

Sea bream has to be one of my favourite fish so was delighted when Kanthi chose to serve me this in his spicy and sour fish stew. The tomato based sauce, unblended as mentioned before, contained rich tamarind and onions with curry leaves and mustard seeds. Despite the depth of flavour, the fish was still allowed to shine. 

Everything I tasted left me wanting more and I can't wait to return to make a proper dent in the menu. I left really excited by the food and the potential for this place. The buzz on the social media channels you are hearing about Curry Leaf Cafe is really worthy of the hype and I'm more than happy to jump on the bandwagon. It's a wonderful little place.

Despite only being open a few weeks, there are bags of ideas for the future that are as vibrant and exciting as the food on offer. For now they will be concentrating on creating the core foundation at the restaurant but I can't wait to see some of their other ideas realised.

60 Ship Street
Brighton BN1 1AE

I was invited to the Curry Leaf Cafe. All images apart from the fish curry taken with the Nokia  Lumia 1020. 

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