By Gary Rose
Brick Lane, Birmingham, Brighton: spot the odd B out. Yes, East Sussex isn’t known for its abundance of curry houses. In fact, I had the worst curry of my life in Brighton. Naming no names, of course… but it was Nooris on Ship Street. Tinned tomato soup with frozen mixed veg never struck me as authentically Indian.
However… if you’re talking “modern” Indian, now that’s a different story. Brighton has a few big-hitters within five minutes’ walk of each other. There’s The Chilli Pickle, The Curry Leaf Café and, the longest runner of all, Indian Summer.
It might be the original (hard to believe it’s been around for 15 years), but is it the best? I’m pleased to report that, despite its prime passing-trade location on East Street — adjacent to Terre à Terre and within wobbling distance of the pier — standards haven’t slipped.
The first thing I notice is that someone’s left their wallet on the table. I’m just about to call the waiter when I realise it’s a pocket-sized menu. Initial impression: do I have to read all this? There’s a lot to absorb here. The description of the Hyderabadi murgh alone takes up eight lines of text.
My Italian waiter Francesco asks if I’d like some poppadoms. Has anyone ever not ordered poppadoms in an Indian restaurant? A poppadom’s a poppadom, I guess, but what lifts these poppadoms above other poppadoms (I’ll stop now) is the gloopy, fragrant tamarind dip.
As an amuse bouche, I’m gifted an espresso cup of tomato, ginger and lime soup. It’s got a potent wintery nip that no cold virus would survive. The NHS should be prescribing this stuff instead of the flu jab.
After a glass of peachy Picpoul, I’m on to the Indian Summer thali; a mezze of mutton, chicken and aloo subzi, with dal, roti and rice. The three feature dishes provide a triple-tiered gamut of flavours, running through smokey umami to sour to full bodied and meaty. It looks delicate but it’s hearty enough.
It’s always a bonus when wine is considered integral to an Indian meal, and here the list is compartmentalised into “regular” wines and ones that complement spicy food. So light, fragrant, low alcohol whites and fruity, smooth, low-tannin reds.
My Chilean Pinot Noir is so dark and full bodied that I think they’ve given me a Merlot by mistake, and make poor Francesco take it back. More memorable is the amber-coloured noble Riesling that accompanies my dessert. Francesco’s a bit put out that I didn’t opt for the Italian, but I’m happy with the pungent petrol and rubber aromas slicing their way through my cashew nut tart with vanilla ice cream.
It’s monsoon season in India right now. And as I step back into East Street, it starts to chuck it down. How apt. Brightonian Summer indeed.
70 East St, Brighton BN1 1HQ indiansummerbrighton.co.uk
First published on www.foodepedia.co.uk