Despite this sudden increase in popularity not a lot has changed when it comes to the Thai food experience. This is something that Seb Trower, owner of Café Chilli, is looking to change.
After running the Green Mango for the last five years Seb decided it was time to relaunch his restaurant. At Café Chilli the aim is to bring traditional Thai food to the UK and move away from tired standard menu options. This means authentic complete dishes to choose from rather than picking a standard curry and then some rice.
The Café Chilli menu also includes specific vegetarian options rather than adapted versions of the meat dishes.
This is led by their Café Chilli curry – a variation on a traditional red curry. They also offer fusion options – inspired by Seb’s recent visits to Bangkok – such as the chilli pesto spaghetti and msiso glazed aubergines that may appeal to some diners.
On our visit we started with the Thai sausage – a dish from the North of Thailand – and the Kai Hawng. The sausage was a delightful combination of coarse pork meat with all the spices you would associate with Thai cuisine.
Kai Hawng literally translates as “swan egg” and is a dish comprising of vegetable parcels in golden breadcrumbs with fried tofu. The parcels were crisp and light with a lovely crunch of fresh veg. I wasn’t such a fan of the tofu which has fallen into the classic trap of lacking any real defining flavour. The accompanying peanut and sweet chilli dips did resolve this to some extent.
For my main I had the North-East Feast which is one of the new authentic Thai dishes. This consisted of marinated chicken, a spicy papaya salad and sticky rice with dipping sauces.
It was nice to be served a complete meal rather than having a random collection of dishes. The chicken was a little dry for me but other than that the dish worked. The spicy papaya salad did not disappoint and the sticky rice was…sticky. Utilising the dipping sauces I could mix up the flavours and the whole meal was presented in attractive serving dishes and containers.
My friend went for the Pad Grapow – an apparent favourite in its homeland. Again this was a full meal of stir-fried chicken, steamed rice with a fried egg and a Thai soup. As with my main the presentation was pleasing and all of the elements were nicely balanced and gave a variety of flavours and textures.
To finish the meal I could not resist the sizzling Thai pancake with Boho Gelato coffee ice-cream. I have a bit of a pancake obsession and this was a whole new pancake experience. Deep fried and served on a hot plate the sizzle comes from a sauce that is poured on top at the table. The contrasting hot and cold with the flakey pancake and sickly-sweet sauce was superb.
My friend had coconut ice-cream with a selection of fruits and peanuts. As before the ice-cream came from Boho Gelato and was up to their usual standard with the fruits and nuts adding a further dimension.
I enjoyed my meal at Café Chilli. Something that made it particularly special was watching how much Seb cared about his food and customers.
He was moving from table to table speaking to the diners and personally seeing to their needs and discussing the menu. It is nice to see someone willing to try something new and bring the cuisine they love to the masses.
Next time you fancy a Thai meal and feel like having something a little different give Café Chilli a try; and don’t worry there are still a few classics on the menu to keep the less adventurous patron happy.
8 Church Road Hove BN3 2FL
This review first appeared in the November 6th edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent and can be viewed here
The restaurant was aware that I was reviewing and food was complimentary, this in no way influenced my review.