Recommended by more than one Brighton-based food writer, Curry Leaf Cafe has been on my must-go-to list for a while.
It's the hottest new curry house around town and it's serving up flavour-full combinations of South Indian Street Food and Craft Beer.
I'd begun to see the Curry Leaf brand pop-up in various places. Curry Leaf meals can now be enjoyed at Temple Bar on Western Road and up at Brighton Station too.
Apart from that, I had yet to discover the food for myself. As I looked in the window the brightly coloured interior immediately reminded me of another popular restaurant in Brighton that I'd visited last year called Chilli Pickle.
This time I had gone out to eat with three friends, none of whom had been there either, although two of them had also heard about Curry Leaf and were keen to go.
The cafe is at a central location on Ship Street, near the sea end and not far from Hotel du Vin. On my way there I passed a couple heading in the opposite direction and they were talking about the Curry Leaf Cafe. My curiosity was building.
Inside my friends were already seated and we moved to the other end of the cafe so that we could have seats with backs. The mains looked expensive enough at an average of £14, so we decided to share a starter. It was a Monday night and we were there for an early evening meal.
I suggested we try the vegetable fritters. I was hoping they would taste as good as the pakora I had eaten the night I learnt to cook Indian snacks with Hari Ghotra. Luckily they really did. They tasted great and it set the meal off to a good start.
For drinks we ordered Tongerlo Belgian beer, a creamy blonde that's won lots of awards and with good reason, definitely one to order again. Their drinks menu is pretty comprehensive with 30 IPAs, ales, beers, ciders and porters to choose from. The other Blonde on the menu is a Welsh one called Fubar, also priced at £5. I think I need to check this one out too.
Next came our mains of chicken, vegetable and seabass curries. Each came on a plate with bowls of rice, raita, daal and chutney.
I thought the daal tasted superb and the naan was just the right amount. My rice was a little dry, but the curry itself was steaming hot and full of spicy flavour. I had opted for the vegetable curry and it had good big chunks of vegetables in it, enough to be properly satisfying. It was also good to know that Curry Leaf's philosophy is to opt for seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.
Everyone else seemed to agree that the quantities were spot on.
We were all full but couldn't leave without at least trying a little dessert. Our coconut and lime sorbet tasted creamier than any of us had expected, which was a pleasant surprise.
One of our party ordered a classic chai, new to some of us, this proved to be another stand-out. Both their loose-leaf tea and coffee is organic and comes from small farms in India, near to where the Curry Leaf's chef and co-owner Kanthi Thamma grew up.
At the end of the meal the most important question I had to ask everyone was what they had enjoyed the most. It turned out we were all in agreement, our stand-out dish were the vegetable pakoras.
If you've been to Curry Leaf I'd love to know what you think, let me know in the comments below.
Curry Leaf Cafe, 60 Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AE
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