REVIEW: The Chilli Pickle, Brighton

by - March 27, 2018

Some restaurants are more than a place to fill your stomach. A special few just seem to run parallel through parts of your life and The Chilli Pickle is certainly one that's done that for me. First dates, fiftieth dates, graduations, birthday celebrations, engagement toasting, house exchanges, work Christmas dos, work leaving dos, the first scary restaurant visit with your first born, trying to instigate the birth of your overdue second born, girls' night's out, make ups and the dreaded divorces. Be it laughter or tears...there was never an occasion where a Chilli Pickle tandoori platter didn't hit the nail in marking the occasion or comforting sorrows. It has been one freaking hell of a decade.

Here's my first review in 2009 (EMBARRASSING!!), 201020142015 as well as Chilli Pickle Canteen reviews in 2013 and 2015 where their home delivery saved my life and sanity during the "Saving Private Ryan" esque early days of parenthood.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of The Chilli Pickle, quite an accolade for a restaurant in these times. They made us put down the Anglo-Indian food we'd been eating and introduced us to authentic, regional specialities. We fell in love with King Thali Monday's (just a £10!) and there was almost a borderline riot when they took the pork knuckle off the menu. They even made us get excited about getting an Indian take-away delivered to our homes for goodness sake! Never letting quality slip, they've owned and developed their brand sympathetically and stayed true to their vision, whilst collecting award after award. And owners Dawn and Alun Sperring, are still very much at the helm of the operation too, which I've always believed to be a key part of a restaurant's success.

To mark the occasion they have refreshed the interior of their Brighton site in Jubilee Square, yet thankfully, it still feels very much like the restaurant we all know and love. There also seems to be a bubble of expansion that's just about to happen and I have hope that they retain the essence of what makes this restaurant so good. I'm sure they will.

Most importantly, the food is as delightful as it always has been. You could pretty much throw a dart at the menu and have a great meal. They probably won't let you do that though, particularly on their freshly painted walls.

I was lucky to head down and try the equally refreshed menu. The starters are always too good to skip; the delicate little puri shells, crispy vehicles for fresh and delicate fillings of chickpea and potato are something I normally order. Also good was the vibrant tandoori salmon marinated in beetroot and spiced yogurt and the perfectly spicy momo chicken dumplings.

Any one of their tandoori grills are death row meal worthy, so carnivores need to tick that one off their list. The Sigri charcoal roasted lamb shank, Barbecued raan style is a show stopper and exactly the sort of thing I like to eat here. Great big hunks of meat with multi-layered spicing, served with a smoked aubergine crush and a butter naan to polish it all up with. It feels overwhelming in size, yet little ol' me manages to polish off the platter - it's just too good to give up on.

The tandoori sea bream is also worth the order and something I've had a number of times in various guises. This is still a hearty dish, the spicing very much present yet delicate and brilliant alternative to a meat dish with just as much flavour.

Funnily enough, this visit presented the first dish in a decade I wasn't so in love with. It was possibly due to being faced with so much food your palate becomes complacent. Idli are steamed rice and curry leaf dumplings, commonly served as breakfast in Southern India and you dip them into lentil sambar, chutney and pickles, so I understand they act as a bland vehicle to the flavours they are served with, but it's not a dish for me.

Regardless of what you order though, all of their dishes are an education in the vast array of chutneys, riatas, pickles that makes Indian food such a joy to eat. I could eat their lime pickle for decades to come.

I can't believe I've never dived into their cocktail menu here; the chilli and mango margarita had the perfect kick of heat to it and the rest of the menu offered a little Indian twist on well known classics. You'd normally go for one of the beers with the food, but I'm sold on this new curry and cocktail concept, albeit a slightly dangerous one.

And on the subject of cocktails, if like me you are typically not a fan of teeth chatteringly sweet Indian desserts, they also have after dinner drinks as an alternative. Saying that, it seems they have tailored the Indian sweet selection here to Western tastes and I enjoyed most of the selection this time. Guiab Jamen; milk solid dumplings soaked in syrup, I do like (even from my very first visit) along with the peanut jaggery toffee. Turkish Delight and white chocolate raspberry truffles are probably less authentic, but for me, a more welcome sweet note to end the meal than the traditional.

So yes, things have been tweaked but as before, you're hard pushed not to enjoy your meal here. If you like food and you live in or have visited Brighton, I'm sure you've already eaten here (if not you're either crazy or living under a rock). We've seen a lot of change in the local dining scene, with more choice than ever, but there's no denying that The Chilli Pickle remains one of our, and certainly my, best loved Brighton restaurants.

The Chilli Pickle
17 Jubilee Street

I dined as a guest of The Chilli Pickle. Words and thoughts, as ever, are my own. 

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