Restau­rant re­view

Hav­ing bloomed in Brighton’s restau­rant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its sec­ond site in Guild­ford this sum­mer

Surrey Life - - Inside -

The colour­ful Chilli Pickle

‘The samosa chat is alive with red onion, ginger, sweet­ened soya yo­ghurt, kalei­do­scope chut­neys and sev’

Hav­ing be­gun life as a small 50 cover restau­rant hid­den away among Brighton’s cob­bled lanes, the suc­cess of The Chilli Pickle has led to am­bi­tious plans to grow it across the south east of Eng­land.

The con­cept was launched by hus­band and wife team, Alun and Dawn Sper­ring, whose aim has al­ways been to recre­ate the flavours of In­dia, which have long been their ob­ses­sion and in­spi­ra­tion, with the in­gre­di­ents avail­able on their doorstep.

This pas­sion has led to the Brighton restau­rant hold­ing two AA rosettes since 2009 and a Miche­lin Bib Gour­mand since 2010 – and, while the south coast town’s restau­rant scene is buzzing th­ese days, they were there from the start.

So, why am I writ­ing about all of this in Sur­rey Life? Well, the first of their new restau­rants opened in Guild­ford this sum­mer. It’s a huge 150 or so cover venue spread over two din­ing room floors at the top of the High Street, near G Live.

Hav­ing read the back story, I’m a lit­tle sur­prised by the scale and am­bi­tion of this in­de­pen­dent’s new home when we ar­rive. They’re clearly not do­ing things by halves. The walls are a psy­che­delic kalei­do­scope of colour, the back­ground mu­sic flits be­tween The Bea­tles, Bob Dy­lan and more tra­di­tional tunes and it makes for a bright and breezy wel­come. It feels like you’ve walked into The Bea­tles’ Sgt. Pep­per’s Lonely Hearts Club Band al­bum.

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL FLAVOURS

Set­tled at our ta­ble, we quickly get down to the busi­ness of pour­ing over the food and drink op­tions. The im­pres­sive drinks list cel­e­brates their Sus­sex roots, with the likes of Trench­more Farm’s Silly Moo Cider and Gor­ing Brut from the Wis­ton Es­tate, but also fea­tures wellpicked in­ter­na­tional flavours, in­trigu­ing cock­tails and pair­ing rec­om­men­da­tions.

We’ll be stay­ing away from those cock­tails on this oc­ca­sion, as we’ve got our three-yearold daugh­ter in tow, who is as fas­ci­nated by the dec­o­ra­tions as she is the chil­dren’s draw­ing set on the ta­ble.

Pop­padoms ar­rive with a rain­bow ar­ray of chut­ney, pickle and onion salad on a sil­ver plat­ter. Both our starters are ex­cit­ing lit­tle in­tro­duc­tions to what the restau­rant is all about. The pana puri, an In­dian street snack con­sist­ing of crispy shells filled with po­tato and chick­pea salad along­side a tamarind wa­ter with chilli to driz­zle into it, are lovely lit­tle flavour ex­plo­sions. The samosa chat is alive with red onion, ginger, sweet­ened soya yo­ghurt, kalei­do­scope chut­neys and sev (crunchy noo­dles) – you dis­cover some­thing dif­fer­ent with ev­ery mouth­ful.

Right up un­til the mo­ment our or­der is taken, I’m sure I’m go­ing for the beef short rib madras but ‘mixed grill’ comes out of my mouth in­stead. Not some­thing I’d nor­mally go for, but I’m in­trigued by the com­bi­na­tions on of­fer… I’m not com­pletely won over by it, if I’m hon­est, al­though hats off to the pep­per chicken seekh and smoked aubergine ri­atta.

Oh well, it’s an ex­cuse to visit again and with Michael Brem­ner, owner of Brighton’s cur­rent top-rated restau­rant (ac­cord­ing to the 2018 Brighton Restau­rant Awards), 64 De­grees, re­cently

rec­om­mend­ing the madras dish, I feel rather bound to.

There is a mo­ment of con­fu­sion as the wrong main course is de­liv­ered to Syl­viane, but this is swiftly spot­ted and rec­ti­fied by the man­ager – and the dish, ul­ti­mately, is a hit with its whole sea bass swim­ming in waves of nu­anced flavour.

All the while, our three­year-old daugh­ter is ab­so­lutely de­mol­ish­ing her mild kids chicken thali with rice, ri­atta, chut­ney and baby naan and pop­padum. She loves the fun el­e­ment of be­ing able to dip, mix and en­joy each com­po­nent - while multi-task­ing and colour­ing in the menu with the pen­cils pro­vided. Mean­while, my dessert of coal roasted fresh pineap­ple with chilli and stem ginger glaze and co­conut sor­bet is an ab­so­lute win­ner. I could eat bowls full of that one, daily.

Over­all, I re­ally ad­mire The Chilli Pickle’s story and, while there’s prob­a­bly still a bit of time be­fore the Guild­ford restau­rant reaches the mag­i­cal lev­els of its Brighton coun­ter­part, there’s a pas­sion and am­bi­tion be­hind the place that seems to in­di­cate they’ll get there. It’s al­ready a colour­ful ad­ven­ture.

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