From the humble origins of a 50-cover bistro on Meeting House Lane to a multiple award-winning restaurant which draws a loyal following from near and far, The Chill Pickle’s rise to the top is quite something. Alun and Dawn Sperring’s eatery has won national acclaim thanks to its delicious regional Indian cuisine and commitment to sustainable methods, and it was right about time for us to check out this North Laine favourite for ourselves.
With 2 AA rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand amongst a number of high profile awards on The Chilli Pickle mantlepiece, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting big things here. The restaurant can be found right in the heart of the city on Jubilee Street, within an easy stroll of the station, the seafront and the throng of creative boutiques of the nearby Lanes.
Inside, we found a fresh, open, colourful and inviting set-up where bespoke decorative pieces and a collection of homemade Kasundi Mustard and Sweet Lime Chutney jars line the shelves. The space comes divided into a larger dining area linked on to the theatrical open-plan kitchen, with extra room for smaller groups and further quirky ornamental features around the corner. Given that we were visiting at 8pm on a Friday it was hardly a surprise to find the venue was bustling, but the effective use of the space meant it never felt intrusive or overbearing, while the various authentic trinkets created a unique setting in which to drink and dine.
The Food & Drinks
While the menu might be more limited than what you are used to - there’s only a handful of starters, main courses and platters to choose between - that doesn’t mean you can’t expect a meal featuring a huge variety of both fiery and milder Indian flavours.
We started with the Prawn & Cockle Papri Chaat (£7.95) which sees baby prawns paired with fresh mango, chilli and lime on chickpea crackers in an innovative twist on the prawn cocktail and the Pani Puri (£6.75), where delicious crispy puri shells were filled with chickpea salads and dipped in an assortment of sauces and pea shoots.
From there, I was tempted by the extra-spicy Mutton Laal Maas (£15.95) but ended up playing it safer with the cooler Punjabi Adraki Chicken Curry (£14.95) while my plus-one settled on the South Indian Village Chicken Curry (£14.95). Our mains were a combination of succulent meats cooked in rich sauces, and while there was a real kick to each, this was far from a super-hot meal aimed at lovers of ultra spicy foods only. There’s also a selection of seabream, lamb and chicken platters (£16.50 - £18.50) if you’d like to sample a spread of Tandoori options.
The restaurant is as much about authentic Indian food as it is great-tasting cocktails (£7 each), and special mention must go to the Goan Punch (Drambuie, mango chutney, basil, fresh ginger juice, ground Cardamom) and the Dark & Stormy (Gosling’s Rum, Jamaican Ginger Beer & fresh lime) which provided a refreshing hit that balanced with the food perfectly. Be sure to check out the Bloody Mary (served with a secret green chilli sauce) and the Brazilian influence in the form of the Pomegranate Caiprinha, too.
The Chilli Pickle is right at home in this buzzing and energetic part of Brighton. We were seated away from the main dining space but felt no less part of the atmosphere, with an eclectic clientele featuring larger groups of lads enjoying a couple of pints with their dinner alongside couples tucking in to platters as part of their date night. Service was impeccable - our waitress was only too keen to recommend a few signature Chilli Pickle must-tries - and afterwards we took a stroll down towards Church Street where a live band were playing classic party tunes to a pretty merry crowd outside the Mash Tun. This place has all the makings of a great evening out.
Believe the hype. Winning coveted awards left, right and centre while also earning plaudits for their environmentally friendly approach (the venue was named as the 23rd most sustainable restaurant in the UK in 2012) as well as their Canteen delivery service, The Chilli Pickle is a true gem for lovers of Indian food in Brighton.