Curry Leaf Café Brighton Review

Award winning South-Indian street food, expertly spiced curries, tandoor-grilled specialities and incredible authentic spiced desserts, with a terrific range of craft beer.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last five years, you will surely have at least heard of Curry Leaf Café. Having launched their flagship street food diner on Brighton’s ship Street in 2014, just a stone’s throw away from the beach, they quickly became one of Brighton’s most loved Indian restaurants. They have since won awards for their incredible authentic South Indian street food, opened another restaurant in Kemptown and a purpose built kiosk at Brighton Station. Curry Leaf Café’s reputation has even spread as far as Bicester, where they have opened a kiosk in the famous Bicester Village designer shopping mall, after being approached last year by the management.

If ever there was a candidate for the launch issue of Aspire Magazine, Curry Leaf Café surely ticks all the boxes, so I gave them a call and booked ourselves in for dinner and a chat with Operations Manager Stewart Cummings.

The first thing I notice when I arrive at their Ship Street Location is they appear to have undergone a bit of a facelift. The greens, oranges and yellows that anyone who has visited Curry Leaf Café will be familiar with, now seem even more vibrant, yet still seem to help create the laid back dining experience frequent visitors will know and love.  You cannot help but notice a brand new and very beautiful mural on one of the back walls, which Stewart informs me depicts Annapurna, the Hindi goddess of food. We arrive early on a midweek evening so the café is relatively empty, but before long it soon fills up and is absolutely buzzing. Stewart is too, as he tells us all about food, drinks, and all the changes that have happened over the last few years. His passion for all things Curry Leaf is infectious and we are genuinely excited to hear about it all.

Let’s start with the drinks menu, which Stewart tells me they have been somewhat refining of late. Craft beer has always been a passion of Stewart’s and they now have twenty two to choose from including a range of alcohol free beer, and are more than happy to recommend something to go with your choice of food. They stock a lovely diverse yet uncomplicated range of wines, including a stunning Sauvignon Blanc from South India. If spirits are your thing then Curry Leaf Café have them all, along with quality Dutch-Guns mixers to compliment your choice. Soft drinks have not been ignored, with some lovely South Indian drinks to choose from as well juices and sodas. We try Kombutcha, a tea based Indian soft-drink which is not only incredibly refreshing, but I get hints of rhubarb, lime, white peach and citrusy notes all in one drink. We soon knock that back and I order a pint of Arise session strength IPA, a favourite of mine which they happen to have on tap, and my companion challenges Stewart to find her a beer for someone who does not like beer. Challenge accepted and passed with flying colours. He comes out with Mongozo, a refreshing coconut flavoured wheat-based Belgium beer, which is not only delicious, but also a great pairing with many of the flavours you will find in South Indian Cuisine.

This brings me neatly on to what Curry Leaf Café have become famous for. Head Chef Gouranga Bera has been with the team since it was opened by co-founders Euan Sey and Kanthi Kiran Thama, and although the menu has its popular staples, it is always evolving with Gouranga constantly trying out new dishes, especially after he has been home to India and come back with new ideas and recipes.

After we have nibbled on some highly addictive Szechuan nuts and a selection of mini poppadum’s with some tasty dips and chutneys as an appetiser, Stewart brings us out a selection of starters and more dips, which all look and smell incredible. As soon as we started to tuck in, we knew we were in for a truly memorable food experience. Out of the six we tried, the Goan Pork Ribs were my personal favourite. So tender, I could lick the meat off the bone. They were sticky, messy, fun to eat and the flavour of the fiery sweet and sour marinade blew me away. The Amritsari Paneer Tikka came a close second; subtly spiced thick slices of some of the creamiest, melt in your mouth Paneer I have ever experienced. Sublime! The Samba Vadas, crisp deep fried lentil savoury doughnuts spiced with chilli, ginger, black pepper, cumin seeds and curry leaves were a delight. They are tasty on their own with the brittle shell revealing a doughy aromatic centre and even more so when dipped in coconut chutney. The light as a feather Dahi Puri were charmingly moreish, subtle and incredibly well balanced fresh and fragrant spices encased in a light crisp shell with sweet coconut yoghurt drizzled over the top and served with a tamarind chutney, all working in harmony producing flavours which danced around the tongue. Aubergine Bhajis produced some interesting textures and were not over spiced so the flavour of the aubergine still shone through. I only got to try a forkful of the stunning Fish Manchurian as this was my companions obvious favourite. The Indo-Chinese punchy sticky sweet and sour sauce which topped the crispy deep fried white fish surprised and excited and I kicked myself for not getting in there quicker.

The main event was another selection, but this time of three curries; Lucknow Lamb, Goan Green Chicken and Vegetable Jaipuri in Thali-form served with rice, a light and pillowy garlic and spring onion naan, plus the chef’s famous dosa bread. All three were absurdly good! The chicken melted in my mouth and the not overly spicy but an intensely fragrant and colourful sauce really hit all the right notes.  We mopped it all up with the dosa and naan. The Vegetable Jaipur was lovely.  The aroma of the fragrant onion and tomato sauce was particularly pleasant and it tasted divine to boot. It was the lamb that stole the show howevert.  This was the hottest and richest of the three dishes and slow cooking was certainly evident as the lamb melted away releasing the meats full flavour, which went perfectly with the terrific sauce it was cooked in.

Although both bursting at the seams, we could not resist finishing off the night by sharing a dessert of Gulab Jamoons and ice cream. I am so glad we somehow found room! As I write this, I can still taste the syrup laced with cardamom and Indian spices that the gorgeous soft sweet dumplings were drenched in, and the sublime creamy black coconut vanilla ice-cream which accompanied. I want to go back right now for more.

Literally everything we tried left us wishing we had bottomless bellies. The team behind Curry Leaf are really pulling out all the stops to ensure they are always evolving to be on top of their game. Serving incredible food and drinks at very reasonable prices, whichever of their location you dine in, you can be sure of one of the most colourful and vibrant spots in the city with a unique buzzing atmosphere.

Tony Shattell

Curry Leaf Café

60 Ship Street, Brighton, BN1 1AE 01273 207070