You don't have to go to India for award-winning Indian street food, especially if you live in Brighton. Curry Leaf Café, with three locations across the city, represents some of the most innovative culinary talent coming out of the UK's Indian scene today. From tandoor-grilled meats to masala-battered fish, whether you're after a light lunch or an indulgent dinner, this is South Indian food at its finest.
Hyderabad to Brighton
Curry Leaf Café started out as a collaboration between the journalist Euan Sey and the Hyderabad-born chef Kanthi Kiran Thamma. Having met on Gumtree (seriously), they quickly started to plan their first restaurant venture, and in 2014 the first Curry Leaf Café opened for business. Having opened locations in Kemptown, Brighton Station and the Lanes, they've quickly become Brighton's go-to spot for a slap-up Indian feast of truly epic proportions.
South India on the south coast
Having started out on his own culinary journey in Goa, Chef Thamma brings his authentic touch to every dish on the menu. And boy, what a menu! All the meat is locally sourced from a little farm in Oxford; the meat is butchered in-house and delivered on a daily basis, making sure that everything at the Curry Leaf Café is as fresh as possible. What's more, the seafood comes directly from a wild catchery in Newhaven, making the Curry Leaf Café's dishes just as sustainable as they are delicious.
The meat dishes on offer come straight out of the South Indian backstreets. The Hyderabad lamb chops, a recipe from Hyderabad's Old City, are marinated for 24 hours in ginger, garlic, brown onion and garam masala before being grilled in the tandoor, while the Southern fried chicken comes crispy, golden and utterly delicious.
The king of the crop might be Kozhikode chicken biriyani. Originating in Kozhikode, Kerala, this boneless chicken thigh dish is slow-cooked with a variety of South Indian spices, juicy raisins, cashew nuts, blue poppy seeds, basmati rice and topped off with an egg. Fragrant, arrestingly spicy and intensely flavoured, it's South India on a plate. Oh, and you also get some poppadom strips as well as a mint and pomegranate raita on the side. You know, in case you hadn't already been spoiled enough.
Wedge of veg
Meat not your thing? In true Indian style, the Curry Leaf Café has a wide range of vegetarian dishes to choose from instead. The pea and sweetcorn vadas make for the perfect snack. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and shot through with a healthy dose of spice, they're a bowl of guilt-free goodness! The Kadai paneer is a true testament to its Punjabi origins: tandoor-grilled cheese, onions and peppers simmered in a fenugreek, tomato and coriander seed sauce. It's kind of amazing that it's so healthy, but that's the Curry Leaf Café for you – just kind of amazing.
Portugal via Kerala
We can't go without mentioning the fish moilee, a seafood dish that leaves us weak at the knees. The story goes that the sauce used in this dish was actually introduced to Kerala by some intrepid Portuguese travellers, where it received something of a makeover, South Indian style. Take white fish fillets, cook them in a rich coconut sauce spiced with garlic, ginger, green chilli and cardamom, and you've got one of the tastiest seafood dishes in the south coast on your hands!