REVIEW: Azaro, Hove

by - July 06, 2016

I have a lot of time for people who are passionate about sharing their food culture. I also love unexpected accents. Owner Az, clearly of Indian decent, enthusiastically explained everything in a joyful Yorkshire accent. Coming from the curry capital of the UK, Az and his partner Kirti, settled on Hove to fulfil a life long dream of setting up a restaurant that offered proper Indian food and culture with a contemporary, Dhaba style twist.

Indian regional food is as complicated as Italian so I don't claim to have too much of an education here. Azaro's style, Desi Dhaba food, is the Indian equivalent to a trattoria I suppose (Dhaba is a traditional road side restaurant which focusses on home-style cooking). So don't come here expecting curry house classics.

We started with crisp papdums and Indian snacks, which come with a range of homemade chutneys. I love this. The heat, the interest, the spices are all showcased in these little pots of chutneys.

The Punjabi Samosa Chaat was a pretty dish and something new to me. The samosa was layered with so many different textures and flavours; chickpeas, masala, aromatic, sweet and fresh chutneys, finally topped with crunchy vermicelli and pomegranate seed jewels. This one was very popular with the Brighton Food Festival crowd and will be on the menu very soon. 

Our Hyderabadi dhum biryani was absolute stand out. I've had the dish before, sometimes bland, sometimes dry... this was neither. Cooked in the traditional clay pot and covered in a pastry lid which had been rubbed with mustard oil, locking in all the flavour and creating a steam environment for the layers of rice and the sweetest, most tender lamb. You are given a bona fide biryani spoon (and instructions!) to break the crust and mix in your masala gravy and raita. I dined with my gorgeous friend and we were told that doggy bags were available and not to worry about leftovers. There were no leftovers (soz husbands).

They seem keen on using good suppliers, mostly local and decent meat and fish. This you can tell. The silky chicken chettinad from the thali tray was full of flavour and the texture of poultry will always give away its quality. Thali trays are a dish for greedy eyes; the chutneys, the breads, the little mango lassi, the surprise sweet dish...I'll never get over the fun of eating one. Everything on the tray is made in-house too so you really do get to experience the skill of the kitchen.

I do love a tandoori platter and saw they have this as well as the proper clay oven. There were also some Keralan inspired fish dishes, another of my favourites, so I think a return visit or two is needed to dive deeper into the menu, there's certainly plenty on it I would happily order.

Also an asset of Azaro is the female ratio of the kitchen staff. With Az out the front, his lovely wife Kirti is heading up the kitchen along with a high proportion of ladies. I have a lot of respect for a place that champions a female workforce and they clearly know what they are doing here. I'll never know why there isn't a stronger female representation in restaurant kitchens, then again the percentage of women graphic designers in senior roles is pretty slim too! Where do we all go eh?!

The one thing I wasn't keen on was the interior. The fluro orange PU covered booths, blue lighting, gloss white stools and pastel stripe wallpaper are probably more suited to a hybrid gelateria nightclub rather than authentic Indian restaurant. There's a real mash of styles here and whilst I don't think Indian restaurants need to be plastered with images of elephant Gods and the like, it may not help in communicating what they are about to passing custom. Which is a shame. But sat right at the front, it was lovely to see their vast range of customers leaving so happily, pats on the back, smiles and waves. Some are clearly very well looked after regulars that all neighbourhood restaurants should try and cultivate.

Although we are reasonably spoilt with some great Indian food in Brighton, with a lot of love for the Chilli Pickle and Curry Leaf Cafe, Azaro is definitely worth a look too and particularly handy for those Hove way.
115 Church Road
Hove BN3 2AF

I was invited to review Azaro. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

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