Last week, we were invited to dinner at the Curry Leaf Cafe in The Lanes, Brighton, which was a new one for us, surprisingly, considering they have been in the city since 2014 – serving authentic Indian street food. During the day, the cafes offer a wide range of ‘nibbles’ and light bites; such as naan wraps, Thali platters and salads, and at night the cafes turn into buzzing restaurants serving a variety of curries.
Curry Leaf Cafe actually have two cafes in Brighton, as well as two take-away kiosks located at Brighton Station and, more recently, Churchill Square! Their original, and first, cafe is located in the heart of Brighton Lanes and a few yards up from the seafront in Ship Street. Their other cafe is located in Kemp Town.
We were lucky enough to be invited for dinner at their cafe in Ship Street, which couldn’t have come at a better time as we had just arrived home from our holiday the day before.
Colourful and Unique
Over the past few years we’ve eaten at a number of Indian Restaurants, and whilst we’ve enjoyed most of them, they’re all often very much the same. This is not the case with Curry Leaf. From the very moment you walk in you feel like you’ve been transported to an exotic street cafe in India. The decor is brightly coloured and the smells are so inviting.
We were seated in a lovely rounded corner table, which gave us optimum viewing points and T the opportunity to keep himself occupied. Staff were welcoming and friendly, and offered T some colouring in with his menu. Although there’s lots of seating in the cafe, it didn’t feel like you were in each others way. Our particular table gave us ample room to spread out and, later, try each other’s food.
After ordering drinks and some popadoms to start, we had a look through the menu and decided what to eat. When our popadoms arrived, even they had something that bit different to them thanks to being flavoured with cracked black peppercorn, cinnamon & plain/original. Served with homemade chutneys & dips!
It’s not often that we get to take T to an Indian Restaurant. Our local one, whilst I don’t think it’s anti-children, is not very welcoming, so having a menu with a thoughtful children’s menu is a welcome sight.
Children eat for £5, which includes a main meal and dessert. Within the menu, they’re offered three options; A vegan option, a meat option, and a fish option. All three options Curry Leaf Cafe in The Lanes, Brighton are also free from Gluten ingredients. With each main meal, it then comes with a sauce and rice OR bread & raita. For a carbaholic like T who would likely eat the bread and rice before the curry, this is ideal.
After reading out the menu, T went with the Chicken Tikka Makhani, which is Marinated chicken pieces grilled in the tandoor oven and served with a rich, creamy tomato, butter and cashew nut sauce.
As soon as it arrived I was incredibly impressed with the portioning. It wasn’t too big, but too small, and it didn’t feel like a meal that had been dumbed down to suit a child. After Sharon tasted the chicken she said that there was a variety of flavour that would have been stiff competition alongside the grown-up, main menu.
T took a while to each this as he likes to graze the different elements, plus, with the colourful walls and artwork surrounding him he spent a lot of time distracted by this, but he still enjoyed it and eventually finished the majority of his meal.
Main Menu (aka The Grown-Ups!)
Prior to T getting his main, but after the popadom introduction, Sharon and I ordered some starters (which we inevitably shared with T). This is the course I love the most as it’s often when I’m most hungry, and the starter menu was really exciting.
For me, I ordered Sambar Vadas, which are Savoury lentil doughnuts spiced with ginger, chilli, black pepper, cumin seeds & curry leaves then deep-fried until crisp on the outside and pillowy soft in the centre. This was served with a vegetable Sambar and Coconut Chutney to dip.
Although polite in size, these really hit the spot and was something I’d never tasted before in my life. They were light and soft, but didn’t fill me up or bloat me (which I assume was down to the use of gluten-free ingredients). I’d be quite happy if Brighton Pier served these instead of their sugary classics.
For Sharon’s starter, they ordered British pork ribs, which had been marinated for 24hrs then oven-baked in a spicy sauce flavoured with tomato, onion, chilli, cinnamon, garlic, garam masala, maple syrup and palm vinegar to give a balance of sweetness, sourness and spiciness. This was then served with a Kachumber Salad
Both starters had immense flavour, but left us wanting more. They were colourful and perfectly cooked, and a joy to eat.
Arriving at the same time as T’s curry were our main meals. To say I was excited was an understatement.
All three curries came on a gorgeous silver platter, with each element served in its own little metal bowl. This gave the meal a real traditional feel to it and gave us the opportunity to see the difference between your usual Indian restaurants and those that offer traditional street food. It was delightful.
Sharon had ordered the Lucknow Lamb Curry, which is a rich, spicy curry with British lamb that’s slow-cooked in an onion & tomato-based sauce spiced with garlic, garam masala, coriander leaves & red chilli. This was served with a Garlic & Coriander Naan + Vegetable Thoran (NGI if naan is swapped for rice).
Sharon really liked this curry, even though it was spicier than she had thought. There was a bounty of flavour and plenty of meat, as well as lots of sauce to go with the bread – which was as big as Sharon’s head!
For me, I ordered a Malabar Vegetable Curry which had potato, okra, spinach & cauliflower simmered in an onion & tomato sauce spiced with chilli, ginger, garlic, garam masala and roast cumin powder. It also came with an Onion Uttapam, Poha Upma (flattened rice) and Mung Bean Daal, with a Mixed Veg Pickle.
As a newbie to the vegetarian world, I’m still exploring my options and trying new things – and this was definitely something new! The different bowls offered something new each time, depending on what components you ate together. It was such a colourful curry that it was a shame to eat it.
I really enjoyed the main curry, but the bread was my favourite bit – especially when dipped into the different sauces.
Although our mains had got us feeling pretty full, I had seen a few desserts come by whilst we were eating, with one that really intrigued me!
With T’s menu he had the choice of Ice Cream or Sorbet, to which he went with Sorbet, and for me (as Sharon was definitely full) I went with Gulab Jamoons & Ice Cream, which are soft, sweet Indian dumplings made from reduced milk and cardamom-flavoured sugar syrup infused with South Indian spices. It came with a scoop of Ice Cream so I went with Black Coconut Ice Cream, which came out looking wild and exotic!
The dumplings were hot and sweet, and the Ice Cream was sheer perfection – I honestly could have eaten it three times over. It was delicious. I honestly didn’t know what I was thinking when I ordered doughy balls after a curry, but I suddenly found room!
Perfect family Dining
Apart from when T got himself distracted, we had a really a wonderful time at the Curry Leaf Cafe and will certainly be returning again soon.
Knowing what I know about the food, the Curry Leaf Cafe definitely offers value for money. As mentioned, children eat for £5, and most curries on the main menu range between £14-£16 pound – which is superb looking at what they come with and the quality. Starters are £5-£7 and desserts are around £5. I’d be happy to pay this on a night out with Sharon – we certainly went away feeling full and satisfied,
If it wasn’t the atmosphere of the restaurant, it was the staff who made our experience really enjoyable. It had a gorgeous mix of settings that would make it perfect for a romantic date or a quick bite before heading into town for the evening. Equally, as a family, we felt very welcome and T walked away with one very full belly!
We were invited to a complimentary meal in exchange for an honest review, however all thoughts, opinions, and imagery are our own.