Regional cuisine at one of Brighton's oldest Indian restaurants
The award-winning Indian Summer celebrates its 15th year in business this month. Merely staying open for that length of time in Brighton’s restaurant scene is impressive, but Indian Summer has done it with style.
Opened in 2001 by two chefs – Minesh Agnihotri and Byron Swales, Indian Summer serves authentic Indian cuisine in fine dining style. The menu takes inspiration from all of India’s distinct regions, giving diners a rare opportunity to experience dishes from all over the country.
The aim from the start has been to give diners an authentic experience of eating the kind of food Indian families eat at home and Indian Summer has won many awards as a result, including the Asian Curry Award for ‘Best Indian restaurant on the South Coast’ 2015 and ‘Best Places to Eat and Drink’ in the Brighton and Hove Business Awards 2016, as well as being included in the Harden’s Good Food Guide and AA restaurant guide since 2012.
Indian Summer invited me down for dinner one evening and I gladly obliged as I’d never visited, despite it being recommended to me several times.
We arrived just after 8pm on a Thursday evening and were glad to see that it was full of happy diners. The space is inviting, dimly-lit and much more cavernous than it looks from the street.
It feels more elegant and high-end than other Indian restaurants I’ve visited in Brighton and I couldn’t wait to look over the menu, which is presented as a small, leather-bound book, interspersed with biographies of the owners, chefs and other members of staff, which is a lovely personal touch.
In the evening, everything is priced as a set menu with two courses priced at £26.95 and three courses coming in at £31.95. I quite like this approach as it means you don’t have to weigh up your options too much and you can just choose what you like without price coming into the equation.
There are plenty of options on the menu to suit all palates with starters including Masala Dosa – golden rice & lentil pancake filled with savoury vegetables and served with sambhar & coconut chutney and Tandoori Salmon – fillet of salmon with lime and ginger, served with quinoa carrot salad & smoked cumin and orange raita.
We settled on the Paneer Tikka – cubes of Paneer, in a spicy north Indian cashew nut marinade, served with laccha onion & coriander chutney and Sesame Scallops – Scallops in a delicate marinade of sesame & fennel seeds, served with a creamy tomato pepper sauce.
After we ordered, we were brought over a tiny but flavour-packed vegetable soup as an Amouse Bouche / pre-starter to back up the fine dining feel of the place. We were also given a lovely lime & ginger sorbet between courses as a palate cleanser.
The scallops were beautifully presented, well cooked, and the subtle spicing and rich sauce all worked together nicely. The blocks of paneer had a lovely char on the outside and had taken on a good amount of flavour from the tandoor, which worked well with the slices of red onion and coriander chutney but I think the presentation could have done with a bit more care, as the slithers of red onion looked like they had been dropped, randomly, from a height.
Antonia was keen to try the Malvani Mutton, which comes from the Konkan region of Marahastra & Goa and is cooked with black & green cardamom, coriander, cumin & black pepper but also liked the sound of the Hyderabadi Murgh – tender chicken in a marinade of yoghurt, nutmeg and cinnamon and a sauce with red chilli, roasted coconut, mint leaves and cashew nuts. She asked our server which one she would recommend and was pointed towards the Indian Summer Thali as it contains both dishes as well as aloo subzi, dal, papad, pickle, roti and basmati rice.
I was torn between the Goan Prawn Masaledar – king prawns in a cumin, cashew, black pepper & coconut sauce, tempered with cider vinegar & curry leaves and served with coconut rice, orange raita & quinoa carrot mixed leaf salad and the Tandoori Platter – lamb chop, tangdi murgh, lamb seekh, hariyali murgh, served with mint raita, mango chutney, cabbage, baby spinach & red onion coriander salad.
The platter was always going to come out on top of that battle and although the lamb chop was pretty fatty, the tangdi murgh had a lovely depth of flavour from the marinade cooking in the tandoor as did the green, hariyali murgh.
Both dishes were good, but not amazing and not as enjoyable as the thalis or tandoori platter I’ve had at The Chilli Pickle in the past… Chilli Pickle thalis contain a couple more sides / snacks and their tandoori platter comes with a naan, rather than just a small salad.
Dessert menus at Indian restaurants generally consist of ice cream or kulfi (which I love) or maybe some gulab jamun (which I also love). At Indian Summer, it’s all about the Mango Brulee, which was beautifully presented and tasted awesome – a lovely twist on a classic.
We had a nice evening at Indian Summer and there’s plenty to like about this place. I was a bit disappointed with some of the food but I think that has a lot to do with the price tag. If I’m going to pay over £30 for three courses, I don’t want them to miss a beat but sadly, some dishes fell short for me.
Lunchtime is more reasonably priced with dosas from £6.95, thalis from £9.95 and two courses for 2 courses from a cut-down menu for £15.95. Also, throughout November, as part of their 15th anniversary celebrations, you can enjoy 2 courses for just £15 every Monday evening – now that’s a good deal. More info here.