Whilst dining out hasn't entirely been eradicated and is creeping back more and more, it does make you more selective, which is good, but it does mean you miss out on trips your old faithfuls not wanting to miss out the latest hot young thing on the restaurant scene with your precious night-off token. And one old faithful I dearly miss is my number one place to eat in Brighton, The Chilli Pickle.
So when I heard about their latest string to their bow, The Chilli Pickle Canteen take away, my heart raced and my stomach growled. Despite getting a tree load of takeaway menus though the door each week, I have never made use of them, it has never felt normal to me to get food delivered to my front door when my kitchen door is in view. But food I'm certain I can't cook at home, I love and I know has been cooked with passion and pride? Pass me the phone...
There is a good selection to choose from without being too over the top. The curries and accompaniments are similar if you order the Grand Thali or the Railway Tray, the latter being smaller with fewer accompaniments. There is also the Biryani set or the curries, sides and pickles all individullay priced. Meat eaters, vegetarians, pescatarians and vegans are all catered for.
We ordered the Tanjore Mutton Curry Grand Thali (£15.50) and the Old Delhi Chicken Railway Tray (£12.95) and they really did make a good impression when they arrived.
Think that's a little expensive for a take away? Well with the Railway Trays you get your curry, rice, dal, plum chutney, garlic pickle, yogurt and roast cumin dip, a sweet little carrot salad, chapati and roast pappad (poppadom) and with the Grand Thali and additional millet and green pea curry, onion and curry leaf fritter, a little baked pastry and a creamed rice pudding. And remember this isn't really a traditional take away as we know it, it's restaurant food served to your door. Yes exactly, bargain.
And it did taste as good as the food in the restaurant itself. The mutton was fall apart soft and sweet, the chicken aromatic and rich in its butter and cream sauce. As for all the accompaniments, it was like Christmas all over again! All the different tastes, textures; the heat and tang of the pickles (especially my favourite green coriander chilli pickle), the cool of the yogurt, the crunch of the salads, the chew of the bread... it's exciting stuff to eat. At no point do you get that monotonous sauce and rice feeling as with your bog standard UK curry house. This is solid, exciting regional Indian cooking.
The packaging is far more appealing that a stack of silver foil trays piled into a sweaty carrier bag, although I did think a tad excessive. Beauty and function is a tricky balance and it would be a shame to get rid of the originality of how the food is presented. Even all the little pots sitting snug in a smaller box with a lid rather than an additional slip case would still look good with the Chilli Pickle sticker. Don't know, tough call but if you ordered for 6, you would need a full recycling box for it all. It will be interesting what other people think. It is however, all recyclable and compostable and even the delivery cars are low-emission Smart cars. Brighton, innit.