Thai classics, fusion dishes and the tastiest sausage you'll ever eat
Cafe Chilli, Hove Review
Family run Thai restaurant, Cafe Chilli opened recently after a makeover and rebrand from its previous incarnation as The Green Mango. Owner, Seb invited us down to see what’s changed.
The Green Mango had a solid reputation and the story can be traced back to the town of Khaowong in north-east Thailand, where Brightonian, Seb was teaching English when he fell for local Suchani. A couple of years later, they were married and with Seb’s background in hospitality and Suchani’s business experience they set about planning the opening of their first restaurant.
After nearly five years, Seb & Suchani felt it was time to revamp the menu and decor, which led to the recent name change to Cafe Chilli, which also involved a two week makeover including some nice wooden screens to break the space up and a new, innovative menu which combines traditional, authentic Thai dishes with some interesting fusion ideas like Chilli Pesto Spaghetti (£11.95) and Thai-style Falafel (£10.95).
The new menu still has all the Thai curries you’d expect but the main courses have been designed as meals rather than standalone dishes, which I think is a really strong concept. For example, the North-East Feast (£14.95) is made up of half a grilled chicken marinated in coconut milk and Thai herbs, spicy papaya salad and sticky rice. Served with a tamarind dipping sauce and a special chilli dip.
It’s not a million miles away from the tapas sets idea from Giggling Squid but I do think Cafe Chilli’s meal concept has more thought, detail and authenticity to it but while we’re talking about Giggling Squid, Cafe Chilli do offer similar lunch time ‘platters‘ ranging from £6.95 to £11.95 depending on how hungry you are.
Antonia and I were booked in for dinner and were warmly welcomed by Seb, who came across as an incredibly genuine guy. He runs the front of house but don’t worry, the rest of the staff are Thai – including chef, Lek who has over 20 years experience.
We ordered a couple of tasty, Thai inspired cocktails – a Kiwi & Mint Tom Collins and a Chilli Mojito (both £6.95) and a couple of starters;
The Mixed Grilled Skewers (£5.95) – chicken breast marinated in satay seasoning with a peanut satay sauce and pork in a delicious marinate with a spicy dip, served with a cucumber and peanut ajaa and the Thai Sausage (£5.95) – pork sausage packed with Thai herbs, served with peanuts, fresh chilli, coriander and garlic.
Both starters were excellent for different reasons – the skewers had taken on plenty of flavour from their marinades and the dips were perfectly balanced and as authentic as any I’ve had in the UK. The sausage was on a level above this and was quite possibly the tastiest sausage I’ve ever had (stop it… you filthy lot). Superb texture and flavour, with plenty of meat and a rich blend of herbs.
The small dish of peanuts, whole bird’s eye chillies and raw garlic cloves was a little leftfield but Seb assured us that the Thais nibble on all of these as part of the dish – we obliged and as long as you don’t munch a whole chilli, it totally works.
For our main meals Antonia chose the Stuffed Salmon (£14.95) filled with crab meat and Thai herbs, topped with a Thai teriyaki sauce. Served with garlic fried rice and pickled ginger. This was the only below par dish for us as the salmon itself was very strong and quite dry with not much of the crab / herb mix coming through. I was expecting more of a glaze on the fish too rather than a runny sauce.
My Pad Grapow (£10.95) chicken stir-fried with Thai basil, garlic and chilli. Served with steamed jasmine rice, fried egg and Thai soup was much better and the simple, savoury soup on the side complimented the dish well, kind of like having a miso soup with your meal in Japan.
One dish we always look for and order at Thai restaurants is Som Tam (£6.95) spicy papaya salad with lime, fish sauce, chilli and peanuts. Partly because it’s frickin’ delicious and partly to use a benchmark against other restaurants. I’m happy to report that Cafe Chilli’s Som Tam is a class act with plenty of papaya and a nice level of chilli heat.
Brighton & Hove has great strength in depth when it comes to Thai food (in fact, Unithai is just next door) so Cafe Chilli’s decision to diversify the menu from the norm and add some unique dishes to the menu makes a lot of sense.
If you want a Pad Thai or a Green Curry, you can get that and I’m sure it will be very good but a visit to Cafe Chilli provides a great excuse to try something new and from what we experienced, it will probably be delicious.
I dined as a guest of Cafe Chilli but as always, the words and thoughts are my own.
|Mixed Grilled Skewers||£5.95|
|Coconut Ice Cream||£5.50|