An indulgent dinner at one of Brighton's most authentic Thai restaurants
Conceived back in 2002, in the basement of a tiny fisherman’s cottage, which later became their Brighton restaurant, Giggling Squid has gone from strength to strength and now has 17 locations with more set to open soon.
If there’s one thing Brighton isn’t short if, it’s Thai restaurants, but many aren’t authentic enough to invoke memories of sitting on sun-drenched beaches with a Chang in one hand, and a Pad Thai in the other.
Meals in Thailand and across South East Asia are based on sharing lots of dishes that everyone can tuck into and Giggling Squid’s menu has always reflected this tradition, hence their well known Thai tapas sets.
Today sees the launch of their special Christmas menu, which is available until 26th December and I was invited down last week to preview it before you lot get a chance!
The lunch menu is £18.95 and includes tapas sets such as ‘The Festive Squid’ with a mix of Tom Kha Chicken Soup, Duck Spring Rolls, Pork Belly Thai Style and Jasmine Rice. In the evening, two menus are available at £24.95 and £29.95 and include classic Thai curries as well as new dishes, like Chu Chi Sea Bass.
We were booked into the lovely Hove branch on Church Road, which is much larger than the original Brighton one. The decor is warm and inviting, and many of the design features you’ll see at other locations appeared here first, including the driftwood panels on the walls.
We arrived just after 8pm to a busy, buzzing restaurant and followed our server, Kevin around some tight corners, up the stairs into the large first-floor dining room, and to the only free table I could see – they’re certainly not struggling for business.
The evening Christmas menus are both three courses, with the £29.95 option including a glass of Giggling Christmas Spritz as well as having some more luxurious sounding dishes on it.
Kevin brought over a massive tub of Giggling Squid’s awesome prawn crackers – the largest he’d managed all service he proudly informed us, and we had a look at our options.
Inevitably, we ordered from the pricier menu and started with one of the new dishes, the Tom Zap Beef Shin – slow cooked beef shin in a warming, fragrant, lemongrass broth. Our other starter was one of my favourite dishes in the world, Salt and Pepper Squid.
The squid was pretty much perfect in every way – crispy batter, tender squid, warming chilli dip and slices of fresh chilli and spring onion to top it all off. It’s a classic and Giggling Squid’s execution is as good as anywhere.
We love Thai soups, and the Tom Zap Beef Shin’s broth had all the fragrant, warming deliciousness we were craving. So good that it didn’t really need the generous amount of tender meat at the bottom of the bowl.
Antonia went for the Chu Chi Sea Bass – crispy sea bass with thick red curry and shredded lime leaves. If you like red curries but want something with less sauce then this is the dish for you. The fish was well cooked and the skin stayed crisp, but I’d advise you to share this one as the sauce is sooooo rich.
I chose the Grilled Sirloin Steak, which is immersed in a garlic, chilli, and basil sauce. After nudging the veggies to one side, I revealed the thin slices of tender, medium-rare meat and tucked in. Thai basil is a magical ingredient in my eyes and it worked superbly with the garlic and chilli. It also provided a nice contrast to Antonia’s much richer Chu Chi dish.
We were stuffed after our main courses – must have been all those prawn crackers… but soldiered on and ordered a dessert to share. My favourite Thai dessert is sticky rice and mango, and the nearest thing to this was the Caramelised Mango Cake, served with vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit.
The cake was served warm and the sweet ice cream balanced out any acidity from the mango. The fruit was refreshing and although it wasn’t the most memorable of desserts, there wasn’t much to complain about either.
Giggling Squid’s Chrismas menu isn’t actually Christmassy at all, but that doesn’t make the dishes on it any less delicious.
The great food is matched by the atmosphere and service is always friendly and attentive. I’ve visited both the Brighton and Hove branches many times over the years, and the food has consistently impressed me. As well as top notch execution of Thai classics, Giggling Squid serves up exciting dishes you won’t find at other Thai restaurants locally, like Ginger Soy Scallops, DIY Bundles and Lamb Shank Massaman.
Giggling Squid is a must for anyone missing the ‘Land of Smiles’.