I worry that I’m becoming notorious for not having been to all the really cool places that come highly recommended by Brighton’s biggest food enthusiasts. I’ve been insanely late to the party with pretty much all notable restaurants in this city, and I still haven’t made it to most of them. This was, believe it or not, my first ever visit to The Chilli Pickle. I am, however, beginning to develop a taste for eating out like never before – which perhaps has something to do with how much I enjoy the company of my partner in crime – so reviews are set to become a bigger part of Cate in the Kitchen than they have been previously.
Anyway, enough about my inadequacies, you’re here to learn more about The Chilli Pickle. After smaller beginnings in Meeting House Lane, they’ve been at their larger Jubilee Square venue for three years now and done very well there indeed. They’re multi award winning, and literally just last night won the Indian episode of Best British Takeaways. In short: they’re a big f**king deal.
Last Friday night, I finally set foot across that threshold. After a brief look, I quickly decided that I wanted to order from the set menu – the most affordable way, it seemed, to sample as much food as possible. I love a set menu. At £24.95 for two courses (and nibbles) it’s not the cheapest in town, but it’s reasonable considering their food hero status and quality of food and service. You get all the right bangs for your bucks.
First up, nibbles. Poppadoms with gorgeous dippy bits and ‘Chilli Pickle Mix’. As our waitress brought them to the table, she kindly pointed out which jam and/or chutney was which and, by some miracle, I can still remember. On the far right is a bitter lemon situation that didn’t sit well with either of us, it was on the making-a-really-stupid-face-involuntarily end of the bitterness scale and we just couldn’t hack it. That chilli jam in the middle though was lush, and the pineapple chutney was completely new to me and such a treat. The Chilli Pickle Mix was lovely – think the satisfying crunch of the corner shop stuff but with far more flavour and a little added sweetness from dried fruits.
After all that sweetness, I was 100% ready for the savoury hit of our starter (we got the same thing, sorry, promise I’ll stop letting that happen soon) of chicken momos. These are Nepalese dumplings served with a “punchy Momo chutney”. The dumplings were lovely, the dough wasn’t sticky (a problem I often encounter) and the filling well seasoned. I was surprised at the consistency of the chutney though, I usually associate the word with a preserve made up of vinegar, vegetables and sugar, but what arrived was of a far more buttery, saucy and spicy nature – delicious, all the same.
Tom ordered the Tandoori Chicken Tikka Makhani – the restaurant’s take on butter chicken. That naan. THAT NAAN. The bread tasted every bit as good as it looks, I still think about it sometimes when my mind wanders and I’m peckish. The chicken dish itself was great, the perfect choice if you’re keen to hit up TCP but want to play it a little safe with flavours you already know you like. If you’re into standard Indian takeaway, this is gonna float your boat.
I decided to switch up from my usual taste (because I just couldn’t bring myself to order the same main as Tom when we’d already twinned on a starter) and go for a plant based option. Even though I know that vegetarian and vegan food can be every bit as delicious as dishes appealing to carnivores, I still felt hesitant about my decision and worried that I’d made a bad choice. Oh, how wrong I was. Yes, Tom’s naan gave me major food envy, but my punjabi aubergine curry blew me away. Outrageously tender chunks of aubergine swimming in thick, velvety smooth peanutty sauce. Honestly, I was super not jealous of Tom’s chicken as soon as I’d taken my first bite. And it was vegan! Tell all your rabbit food friends!
All in all? Banging value for money, attentive but not overbearing service, gorgeous food and spice levels that are totally bearable for a couple of English kids who don’t go far past a tikka masala very often. Hit this place up, ASAP.
17 Jubilee St, Brighton, BN1 1GE