For those readers of SBT who haven’t taken a drive into Brighton on a Saturday lunchtime of late, please be warned.
Ordinarily, I choose to take the train for lunch appointments. For those of you who know me, I am not adverse to taking wine with my meal and the law frowns upon such things in this day and age, so in the car I jump for a mid morning jaunt along the coast on a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon to sample the fare at Indian Summer.
I’ve been meaning to get along to Indian Summer for some time now and upon taking the booking, was very pleased to have the date in my diary. More of this in a moment.
So everything was going just fine, the A27 was clear and all seemed well, right through to the gyratory at the foot of Bear Road.
Having lived in Brighton in the past, I like to think of myself as ‘quite familiar’ with the transport system in the city centre. Untouched and effective for decades, it always seemed to me to run well and with two lanes running in and out, allowed for plenty of flow either way.
I’ve heard many horror stories about the changes of the road system in Brighton of late (my wife works with Brighton University) but until the day in question, hadn’t had the pleasure of experiencing it first hand. Simply put, it took us over an hour to filter into the city, via the single lane left available by the Green Party, causing us to arrive over half an hour late for our lunch booking.
I’m not sure what the intention has been; I’ve heard that the ‘Greens’ have reduced the lanes in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions from domestic vehicles and to encourage visitors to use public transport. Now I’m not sure what’s worse here [and perhaps an entirely separate feature – Ed] but two lanes of traffic reduced to one, creates more than 50% of a bottleneck. Cars standing still, definitely produce more pollution than the moving variety. My experience has led me to feel ‘forced’ rather than ‘encouraged’ to use public transport and has definitely turned me off rushing back, in the car at least. Perhaps in that sense, they’ve succeeded?
So… eventually, we arrive at Indian Summer and are greeted by David and Egle who aren’t surprised that we’re late, since we were driving. Fortunately, the restaurant stays open all day on a Saturday and they are able to find us a table.
We sit and are immediately presented with a bottle of chilled (and very welcome) table water and taken through the lunch menu by David; a passionate and attentive chap, who is quick to explain that all of the food is prepared fresh on the premises each day and is representative of owner Minesh’s mother’s recipes.
Scanning through the options, I’m pleased to see before me an enticing, interesting and very reasonably priced selection. A two course, set menu comprising of a starter and a main is priced at just £14.95 per head. Starters/snacks are priced from £2.50 and there’s an excellent lunchtime street food menu with prices starting at just £4.95. At the rear of the menu, there’s a full page of ‘Thalis’, which are an array of dishes, served in a mezze style to give a broad range of tastes and flavours from Gujurat in Western India. These are priced from just £9.95.
Unfortunately (for me) there’s an impressive wine & spirits menu too; a wealth of sumptuous liquor that I will not be sampling due to the nature of my transport. Another reason to leave the car at home.
So my dining partner and I opt for the lunch menu at £14.95 each and are swift recipients of two tantalising starters, followed by an unexpected and delicious palate cleanser, which took the form of a mango & lime sorbet and then two exceptional main courses.
To call Indian Summer a regular ‘curry house’ would be nothing less than an insult. Great care is taken to ensure the atmosphere follows suit with the quality of the food. Minesh explains: “We’re very careful to limit numbers for group bookings. We’re keen to maintain a balanced environment for our diners and as such, only accept groups of up to ten at weekends and up to twenty on weekdays and only with pre-booking”.
The restaurant is bustling by the time we take our leave. Full, relaxed and in a much better mood than that in which we arrived. Brighton is blessed with a huge choice of restaurants. Our advice, head to Indian Summer. Just don’t take the car.
Words: Simon Skinner