Chef Kanthi Thamma has been at the forefront of Brighton’s curry revolution in recent years. As head chef of Curry Leaf Café, he established a brand that has become of the best loved Brighton restaurants. Kanthi worked tirelessly to create the successful restaurant chain, winning many awards along the way, and giving back to the community of Brighton and beyond through his charitable work. After four years at Curry Leaf Café, Kanthi decided to leave the restaurant and start something new. The Spice Circuit is Kanthi’s new project. Not being one to slow down and rest on his laurels, Kanthi has plunged fully into his new project and his pop ups are very much popping up all over the place. One such event was an Indian fine dining evening at Etch. in Hove.
Taking Indian street food and presenting it in a fine dining environment takes a lot of skill and vision. Indian food is generally known for its comforting and hearty style, not something that lends itself to the high-end restaurant setting. Knowing Kanthi’s food well I was sure he would be able to deliver on flavour, but could he present dishes befitting of a restaurant such as Etch. especially when head chef and former Masterchef: The Professionals winner Steven Edwards was one of the guests.
As with most events we were greeted with a cocktail. This evening it was the “Seven Year Etch.” courtesy of Sarah from Blackdown Spirits. A mango driven take on the omnipresent porn star martini. Everyone loves this drink and this was a delightful and fitting introduction to the meal.
Kanthi had “Etched” his menu for the evening, merely listing two elements on offer per dish. One would be the lead spice and the other the key component. In keeping with Steven’s style, we kicked off with a small snack of tomato salsa on mini poppadum and some excellent Indian bread and mace butter. Featuring fresh flavours and vibrant spices, appetites had been firmly whet for what was to come.
First up would be Fennel and Mango presented in the format of a pakora. This was, however, no ordinary pakora. Wonderously crisp and not the least bit greasy, the balance of sweet mango and fragrant fennel meant this was the pakora to judge all future pakoras against. A classy start, the standard was set.
Coriander and scallop came next. Presented on a black plate with a shock of purple broccoli puree and battered cauliflower florets it was a visual treat. A sumptuous display of how spicing can be delicate and not overpower, each element on the plate had was able to shine in its own right. I really enjoyed this one.
Next up was cardamom with paneer cheese. Paneer is often a little bland, relying on the spices to make it sing. This dish did just that. The vibrant green cardamom sauce was as intensely flavoured as it was colourful. The silky paneer with fresh chillies adds an exact balance of spice and heat to complement the sauce perfectly.
The main event would see a rack of lamb paired with the king of all spices, black pepper. Perfectly tender and served with the nearest thing to a curry sauce on the night, the dish was a resounding success. If I could replace my usual Sunday roast with this each week I would have happily done so. Black pepper is something that we all have in our kitchens. This dish showed just how important this spice is and how it can take centre stage in a dish when used correctly.
The palate cleanser of star anise and ginger sorbet was beautifully made, although I thought the spices were a little too powerful to cleanse. This was followed by a rice pudding that paired clove with apple, very comfortable bed fellows. Rice pudding has never been my thing, I’m a sugar fiend, but saw through my failings to appreciate the balance of flavours and textures this dessert presented me with.
The meal was a superb journey through the medium of spicing. Kanthi showcased each spice perfectly, balancing them with precision and a skill that most people can only aspire to. This was one of my highlights of the year, with the sensational matched wines from the team at Etch. being the icing on the cake. The Spice Circuit has been unleashed and I look forward to seeing where it takes us.
If you are also interested in seeing where the Spice Circuit can take you please go and check out their website. The Spice Circuit is more than a pop up restaurant. They are currently in India with their first Spice Circuit tour guests. These tours are like no other. Guests are taken on a gastronomic tour of South India led by chef Kanthi. The tours take in the areas of the country that were heavily influenced by the European ships that arrived in search of spices. The tailored tours are like no other and a must for anyone looking for a food based tour of India.
I was invited to review the pop up and the food was complementary. This had no bearing on the outcome of this review which was an honest reflection of my experience on the night.