Saturday, May 30, 2009

17. Nepal: Gurkha Chef

Gurkha Chef
20 Grand Parade
St Leonard’s (Near Hastings)
East Sussex
TN37 6DN

01424 444440

Two days after Joanna Lumley achieved the rights for the famous and brave, Gurkha soldiers to settle in the UK, we found ourselves at the Gurkha Chef Grand Parade in St Leonard’s just down the sea front from Hastings. We were greeted very warmly with gentle politeness and quickly seated.

We started with popadums and were pleasantly surprised by the spiced yoghurt, onion salad, spicy-sweet delicious sauce (pictured left). These were far better that the usual mango chutney, raita, onions and coconut paste one usually finds in an Indian restaurant. This subtle difference in taste and use of spice, flavourings and range of ingredients we found throughout the meal.

We asked for help with our meal selection, as the menu was vast and full of tempting dishes. Our genial host took time to explain the excellent ‘eat as much as you like’ Sunday deal, suggested a few dishes and even gave us a complimentary starter!

King Blim was very pleased with his starter: Aloo Bora coriander and spring onion mixed with mashed potatoes served with a salsa garnish
and clear chilli dip, with a unique taste and texture (£2.50 and pictured right). Badgerman’s Bhareko Chyau, deep-fried mince-stuffed mushrooms (£2.50), were tasty and perfectly cooked. My Gurkha Vegetable Tempura (below left) was good and well presented, though it could have been drained just a little more. Our complimentary Chhoela (£3.00) a yummy offering of barbecued chicken prepared with traditional Nepalese herbs, (below right) was a firm favourite with us all.

We shared Khasi Kabab, marinated lamb with ginger, garlic coliander and onions, Bangur Ledo, pork with garlic, onions, tomatoes and spinach, Aishwarya Chicken, a breast of chicken stuffed with spinach, garlic and mixed vegetables grilled in a clay oven and
cooked in medium Nepaleese sauces (pictured left), Palungo Ktarkari, sautéed spinach with garlic, Pharsi Tarkri, butternut squash in Nepalese spices Nariwol Bhuja, sweet coconut rice (all pictured below). I also had a mixed salad. It was all just wonderful! Expertly cooked, well presented, very good ingredients and just yum, yum, yum!! It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a meal quite so much. We highly recommend the butternut squash and pork Bangur Ledo.

We were far too full to contemplate dessert, but had very tasty coffee, talked to our hosts who, despite being quite busy gave consistent, attentive service and we're only sorry we live a hour' drive away- though it’s only a short walk from the St Leonard’s Warrior Square train station.

Our bill excluding a couple of beers, coffee and Nepalese tea came to £34.75 for the three of us.

Ambience: 3.5
Presentation of food: 3
Quality of food: 4
Service: 4
Value for money: 4

Sunday, May 10, 2009

16. The Lebanon: Al Rouche

Al Rouche
44 Preston Street
East Sussex

01273 734810

After too long away from the ethnic eat scene, Badgerman and I searched out the Al Rouch Lebanese restaurant in Preston Street, one of Brighton’s famous ‘food alleys’. We were drawn to look for a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean restaurant as after a couple of months of overseas-visitor-induced excess, we craved fresh, unadulterated, satisfying food.

Al Rouche is a modest looking establishment that seats approximately 40. We were met with courteous friendliness and took our pick of seats, as we were the first of the Saturday lunchtime trade. We chose the £10.95 lunchtime set menu (minimum two people) that came with a delicious and quite adequate starter mezze plate pictured left. We happily tucked into the houmous, tabouleh, moutabal- grilled aubergine pate, stuffed vine leaves, sumbouska- a cheese, onion and mint pastry, fatayer- spinach samosas, araysess- pita bread stuffed with minced lamb and kalaje jibne- pita and holoumi cheese and kebbeh- a tabouleh and meat, rugby ball-shaped, fried dumpling. All tastes and textures in this well-prepared dish complimented each other, but we thought the aubergine moutabal and araysess were particularly appealing.

Licking our fingers and remnants off the starter plate we waited a few short minutes for the main courses. My Ablameh, minced lamb with aubergines, onions and tomatoes served with plain rice looked deceptively simple (pictured right) but it was a delicious mixture of layered tastes. It reminded me of the best home cooking- satisfying, nutritious and yummy. Badgerman was equally pleased with his Mixed Grill of lamb, chicken and minced meat skewers serves on turmeric rice (pictured left). Again they were well cooked and deliciously spiced.

The manger encouraged us to try a dessert but we might have well exploded, (“…just a petite wa-fer M’sieur…?”). We did, however, have the Arabic coffee: thick, dark and delicious and served in small, handleless cups which was excellent and had me, not a big coffee drinker reaching for a second cup.

The regular menu was full of wonderfully tempting dishes all reasonable priced. Judging by how quickly Al Rouch filled up on a sunny Saturday lunchtime it looks a quietly popular place. All customers were greeted warmly and made to feel valued and obviously enjoyed their food; everything that I saw come out of the kitchen looked good.

Our bill with drinks but excluding tip was £32.50.

Ambience: 3
Food presentation: 3
Food quality: 3.5
Service: 4
Value for money: 3