It’s been a cook’s dream, these last few months of Lockdown, a chance to rifle through new recipes, follow our favourite chefs on Instagram Live and finally nail that sour dough. It seems that time and incarceration has finally taught Britain how to cook. But two months of isolation with a 21-year-old vegetarian daughter and a pescatarian husband has left me salivating for a locally sourced, high welfare pork belly, lamb shank or butter-soft tenderloin. We (ok, I) have a rule in our house: one dish at any one mealtime. The days of cooking pasta for the kids, fish for husband and meat for me are way gone; eating these days is for grown-ups.
Except when we get a take-away.
Ah the joys of a banquet of bowls of steaming spices and mix and match flavours, a treat I’d thought was on hold in these days of empty restaurants and furloughed chefs. ‘Park by the Waggon and Horses and we’ll bring it up’ said Dawn from The Chilli Pickle, our favourite Indian with its dishes drawn from the Sperring’s annual family adventures across the sub-continent. I’ve listened to their stories of the long drives and extraordinary finds across India as they follow tips and hunches and head to hill stations and toddy shops, beach shacks and street markets to find the best food in off-road India and bring it back to Brighton; it’s why it’s always in the top 20 Brighton Best Restaurants.
It’s heart breaking to look at that list and wonder if the chefs and teams that work so hard to bring Brighton such extraordinary variety and quality will recover.
So what a glorious treat to find The Chilli Pickle open for take-away. And of course, it’s not just any old take-away; they’ve been delivering since before Deliveroo came to town, their dishes prettily divided into sweet little railway trays, inspired by those served on the long train journeys still so much a part of Indian life and which Alun and Dawn first discovered on their honeymoon. We peeled them open to find Jed’s Keralan fish curry and Loulou’s aubergine and peanut curry while my Old Delhi tandoori chicken breasts on the bone were too unwieldy for such pretty compartments, and oozed fenugreek butter into tin foil which I drizzled into my fluffy basmati.
Tonight, we’ll be back to beans, Mexican black, Italian cannellini, French flageolet or English carlin, always delicious with endless herbs, spices and sauces to make dinner time a treat. But a Thursday night Chilli Pickle while West Hill claps for the NHS? I think it could become a thing.
17 Jubilee Street BN1 1GE