Few words are as concerning to me when it comes to food as “Fusion” – in fact that is not limited to just food. Call me old fashioned but I like my food classic and flavour combinations tried and tested. Fusion is a term that conjures images of gimmicky Iceland ready meals, style over substance restaurants with no clear identity and spectacular failures on Masterchef. Worst of all it also makes me think of the equally as unpleasant term, “mash-up”.
One Brighton restaurant that appears to have successfully fused two, apparently, vastly different cuisines is Senor Buddha on London Road. Since opening around a year ago they have established themselves as one of the more unique restaurants in the city with their blend of Spanish Tapas and Thai foods. Having not tried for myself I was pleased to receive an invite to pop down to the London Road and face my fusion fears.
After a brief post work pint in the Hare and Hounds I made my way over to meet Senor Buddha’s owner Lee Shipley. I was surprised at the size of the restaurant when I arrived having pictured something much bigger in my mind. It is a tiny venue with enough seating for around 20 people, although Lee tells me they have crammed quite a few more in during special events. He based the restaurant on traditional Spanish Tapas bars which tend to be even smaller, but this space works for them.
The menu is on a chalk board on the wall and everything is cooked before your eyes in the open kitchen – nowhere to hide here. I am amazed at how reasonable the prices are, the most expensive dish is £7.50. Lee also talks me through the really interesting wines they have to offer as well. He clearly knows his stuff and wants to share his enjoyment of food with people.
I sit at the pass and the food starts appearing. I start with a classic tortilla with capers that is served with a saffron curry sauce. The traditional Spanish tortilla is well constructed and pleasantly salty. The fragrant saffron curry sauce is mildly sweet and not overly hot, it’s a good dish – a bit like a good quality chips and curry sauce.
Next up is a dish I probably wouldn’t order but am pleased is placed in front of me. It is a veggie dish of cauliflower “steak” and charred pineapple with a yellow curry sauce. I don’t particularly like pineapple, especially cooked, but this is fantastic. Well charred and with a healthy sprinkling of salt it is the star of the show. The flavours match well and I am starting to believe a little more in this fusion thing.
Next up one of their non fusion dishes that has its origins firmly within one of the culinary cultures. Volcano chicken is a dish of chicken thighs that are served in a flaming whisky sauce. This was not a winner for me, I find whisky far too strong a flavour to be used in cooking and there is a fair amount of booze in the sauce.
The next dish is, however, much more to my tastes and one of the best I try. The ginger crab crusted cod served with a lime curry sauce is another well balanced dish with a generous serving of fish that is moist and meaty. The citrusy curry sauce is again not overpowering and goes extremely well with the fish.
A plate of confit duck is good without completely wowing me, perhaps I’m not in the mood for meat on this visit. The scallops with morcilla de burgos and a cauliflower and coconut puree is more to my liking. Morcilla de burgos is a Spanish black pudding made with rice and the combination of this with the scallops is a classic that works every time. The puree is well made and I am glad that there is not too much coconut as I am not a fan.
I am feeling decidedly full at this point despite not finishing most of the dishes and Lee orders a serving of Calamari for us to share. I tentatively try a few and they are wonderfully light and meltingly soft with a deep squid ink sauce to balance out the sweetness. I also have a slither of their red wine braised octopus which is meltingly soft and extremely moreish.
I finish with a glass of sherry whilst chatting to Lee as he looks after the steady stream of customers coming into the tiny bar. We discuss their upcoming cocktail collaboration evening with Boho Gelato on the 14th August and their new all fish menu. Probably most exciting is the news that Senor Buddha will be moving to a new site in central Brighton in the future which is certainly something to look out for.
I leave feeling satisfied that fusion is safe in the hands of the team at Senor Buddha. These guys get what they are doing and understand how to merge the two different cuisines with respect to each. This is not garish style over substance nonsense, it is properly tasty food that doesn’t cost the Earth. The causal nature of the venue means that you can pop in for just a couple of plates and a glass of wine or spend an evening there. They also do two for one offers on a Tuesday and Wednesday that are well worth a look. A great addition to the Brighton food scene and one that deserves all the praise that has been coming its way.
9 Preston Rd
This review first appeared in the August 5th Edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent. The restaurant were aware I was there to review and the food was complementary.