Monday, June 22, 2009

20. Thai: The Swan Pub, Falmer

The Swan Pub
Middle Street
(near Brighton)
East Sussex
01273 681842

On the eve of Mid-Summer’s Day, Badgerman, King Blim, Mrs F., Cherry-eye Bob and I ventured to the Swan Pub in the north side of the A27-bisected village of Falmer in search of Thai food. Mrs F. and Cherry-eye Bob visit Thailand for at least two months a year and came with us in search of holiday memories. We navigated the many doors through the Saloon and Snug bars to the main pub and settled ourselves for and evening of food and chat.

The modestly presented menu listed a huge array of dishes: 10+ starters and 18 types of mains that came in six different meat or veg ways. Starters ranged from £1.90 for vegetable tempura to £3.80 for mussels and there are two mixed starter platters for two people priced £6.00 and £6.80. Being the social lot that we are, we chose to share a Mixed Seafood Starter (pictured left) Sesame Prawn Toast, Vegetable Tempura (pictured right) and Vegetable Spring Rolls. All came in good time. The Seafood Platter was yummy with filo wrapped prawns, mussels in tempura, spicy squid, fish fritters, sesame prawn toasts and flavoursome seafood crackers. All was well cooked and the tastes and textures complimented each other; I especially liked the spicy squid.

With the success of the starters on our palettes, we eagerly awaited the arrival of our main courses. Soon they arrived. Mrs F. really enjoyed her Vegetable Massaman Curry- coconut creamed curry with potatoes, carrots, onions and roasted peanuts priced at £4.20 (pictured left). She thought that is was very authentic (we later discovered that the Chefs are two Thai ladies) and it had her longing to be back in Thailand. King Blim and Cherry-eye Bob had the Chicken Red Curry with its coconut milk, sweet basil, palm sugar and piquant spices (£4.70). King Blim thought it was just a bit two spicy and Cherry-eye Bob would have preferred more spice; they will know to order it to their tastes, as mentioned on the menu, next time we visit. They did, however, very much agree that the Red Curry was very tasty and well prepared with good quality ingredients, as were all our dishes. Craving noodles, Badgerman ordered the Chicken Pad Ke Mao noodles and thoroughly enjoyed them. I would gladly return to have the Prawn Chuchi again (pictured right). It was creamy and spicy with loads of succulent, large prawns. All our dishes, with the exception of Badgerman’s noodles, were served with a mound of excellently cooked, fragrant rice. As delicious as our food was, I though that the presentation could be improved by replacing the bits of iceberg lettuce garnish with slices of cucumber or something similar.

The Swan serves good pub food every day, but serves Thai food on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There is plenty of parking and Falmer Station is a short walk away.

Our bill, excluding tip but with a round of drinks, came to £12 a head- excellent value! I love Thai food and kick myself when I think of the thousands of times I have passed below on the A27 but have taken so long to venture into the Swan.

Ambience: 2
Food presentation: 2
Food quality: 3.5
Service: 2
Value for money: 4

Monday, June 15, 2009

19. Fusion: Chaula's Fusion

Chaula’s Fusion
Station Street,
East Sussex

01273 483462

Badgerman and I though that we should turn our Sussex Ethnic Eats attentions closer to home and walked to Chaula’s Fusion on Station Street in Lewes, just up the road from the mainline rail station. It had only been open five weeks but on the shoulders of Chalua Patel’s reputation for fantastic, well cooked, good value food the café is already popular. We have known Chaula for many years as she is one of our neighbours and with her husband owns our excellent, local shop from which we used to get her fabulous home cooked take away Gujerati food. She opened her restaurant Chaula’s that serves her wonderful brand of Indian food a year or so ago. It’s next to the Waitrose store in Lewes (you’ll find it on the S.E.E. map), we often go there and will review it in the near future.

Eagerly we mounted the two steps to the quite small restaurant with seating for 12 and perused the menu boards. It took me a few moments to see how the fare was different from ordinary café food but I soon got the hang of it and spotted the hand-made Gujerati starter specialities- 30p. each, in the front counter and items such as Sag Aloo Pie- £1.45 amongst the more traditional egg and cress sandwiches (£1.80 for a sandwich and £2.00 for a baguette) and slices of pizza for £1.25. Being open-minded, and knowing what good food we have had at Chaula’s other restaurant, we asked the very friendly serving lady for a selection of starters and slices of chicken tikka pizza.

Our starter bowls arrived very quickly and we eagerly tucked in. At nine o’clock as pictured above, was a little, perfectly cooked veggie Samosa; the crispy outer yielded to a delicious, mellowly-spiced spinach, potato and pea inner. The Petis, at 12 o’clock, one of Badgerman’s favourites, is a tasty pea and mashed potato, yummy bite. We had never had a Kachori, one o’clock, but were surprised by the depth of the taste in the spicy lentil filling. The spring roll and mango chutney at three and six o’clock respectively rounded off the plate nicely. It’s fair to say we enjoyed each of the starters but I would like to see the dish served with a larger amount of salad or even appear on the menu as a salad plate.

Our attentive waitress brought our pizza (pictured right) quickly and I hesitatingly tucked in. I had imagined somehow that it would have Italian herbs and chicken tikka and this misunderstanding had kept me away from ‘fusion’ food but our ‘pizza’ had, of course, been flavoured with Indian spices and was an absolute treat! I can honestly say that I enjoyed every bite and think it is worth a trip just to have a slice of the Chaula’s veggie of meat pizza of the day. The thin crust was beautifully cooked and was piled with roasted peppers, tomato sauce, red onions, peppers, cheese and a generous amount of chicken tikka pieces. I would, however, say that I would still liked to have had more salad.

Bagderman had a beer and I had water and we finished, me with a pungent and refreshing Chai tea and pistachio, kulfi ice-cream and Badgerman with a good cappachino.

I got talking to our waitress who had been deftly handling the take-away trade as well as us eat ins. She explained that as well as the long list of salad and baguette fillings, there were weekly special and customers could have lasagne, pasta and noodle dishes to take away for £1.75 - £2.50 or if they wished could eat these in the restaurant, served with a side salad and garlic bread for £3.99 - £ 4.90. There was a lovely, tempting selection of sweetmeats such as Gulab Jamun for £1.75, Kaju rolls for £1.49 and assorted Nut Halwa for £1.29 ready for taking away or eating in. As wells as Chaula’s famous frozen dishes- no home freezer is complete without them, there is an interesting array of reasonably priced herbs and spices and ice creams and lollies too.

I think this will become quite a popular place and I wish them all the best- they certainly are trying hard to succeed.

Our bill, including drinks but excluding tip was £16.66.

Ambience: 3
Food presentation: 2
Food quality: 3
Service: 4
Value for money: 4

Sunday, June 14, 2009

18. China: The China Brasserie

The China Brasserie‎
7 Sussex Rd,
Haywards Heath,
West Sussex,
RH16 4DZ‎

01444 441466‎

Out looking for 60 wine glasses for work, the Vicar and I happened upon the China Brasserie in Haywards Heath. We were enticed in by the two courses Lunch Special for £7.95. Leaving the uninspiring utilitarian shopping row behind we entered a very pleasantly, very smartly orientally decored room. We were very cordially met and seated.

The Lunch Special consists of 12 starter and 24 mains choices, served with your choice of noodles, plain or egg fried rice. There wasn’t much seafood (my favourite food in any restaurant) on the Lunch Special menu, but the variety on offer is very good and would keep omnivores and vegetarians quite happy. We chose to start with the vegetarian Spring Rolls and Mandarin Ribs, pictured left and right respestively. The spring rolls were wonderfully crisp, fresh and filled with a great variety of veggies; they were some of the best I have ever tasted. We gleefully tucked into the ribs, greatful for the finger bowl of lemon water. They were well cooked and were so good that I’ll return just for them!

Our Kung Po Chilli Chicken with noodles and Stir Fried Beef with Black Bean Sauce and egg fried rice, (pictured left and right) were yummy, fresh and cooked just right. I particularly liked the beef as it was very tender, lightly cooked and came with plenty of vegetables. The hot and sweet flavour of the chicken was the Vicar’s favourite.

Often set menu special portions can be a little mean but the Vicar and I, no strangers to food, were pleasantly full and very happy with the whole experience- one we’ll repeat soon. A perusal of the regular menu showed lots of choice and reasonable prices: soups around £3.00, meat dishes for £5.50ish, seafood dishes between £7.00 and £8.00 and veggies around £4.50.

With Chinese tea, sparkling water and coffees the bill was £19.70 plus tip- especially good value for me as it was the Vicar’s turn to pay!

Ambiance: 3
Food Presentation: 3
Food Quality: 4
Service: 4
Value for money: 3