Tuesday, August 11, 2009

25. Malaysia/Indonesia: Bali Brasserie, Brighton

Bali Brasserie
Kingsway Court
First Avenue
Hove, East Sussex

Tel: 01273 323 810
Fax:01273 324 572


Badgerman and I didn’t feel like cooking one day so decided to consult the Sussex Ethnic Eats map for a new place to visit and fell upon the Bali Brasserie. He remembered visiting when he worked for Amex in the early 90s, so off we went. We parked on the street, no problem on an August Tuesday evening and found the Bali Brasserie, well marked, on the ground floor of the Kingsway Court block of flats, just up from the seafront. You can enter the building from either First or Second Avenue and after a very short walk find what is a huge restaurant secreted away. Entering the doors you immediately forget you are in sunny Sussex and are transported via the configuration and décor into an exotic, tropical bar/restaurant.

We were greeted immediately and seated quickly and hospitably in the restaurant area that seats around 8o. Eighty more can be seated for functions in the whole restaurant and bar area. We ordered our drinks: a Tiger Beer for Badgerman and a ‘virgin’ Pina Colada (pictured right) for me, the driver. Perusing the vast menu with a la Carte choices of beef, chicken, king prawn and fish dishes for £6.75 - £7.75, vegetarian dishes priced £2.90 for Indonesian Salad- a mixture of vegetables and fruit in a light dressing to Sayar Gulac, aubergines, potatoes, courgettes in a spiced coconut sauce priced £4.75 etc..., we chose the famous Rijsttafel, the Rice Table. You could have just the Rijstaffel for £14.95 with no starters or dessert but we chose the full works: Rijstatafel, starter and dessert for £16.95.

Our Krupuk with Sup Unitok Hari Jni, giant Javaneese prawn crackers served with soup of the day (pictured left) quickly arrived. The huge crackers were more dense than found typically in a Chinese restaurant and were very tasty and crispy and complimented the very fresh, flavoursome vegetable soup. I really liked the light but piquant soup; it was spicy but not too heavy and set your taste buds up for what was to come. A spicy sauce/paste was brought to our table with the soup for us to make any dish just that bit hotter if desired. The beautifully presented Satay Ayam with Gado Gado (pictured below) tasted as good as it looked. The chicken was very moist and perfectly cooked; the satay sauce flavour was all through not just on top of the meat and was just yummy. The sweet soy sauce added another dimension to the strong and separate flavours of the chicken satay and the mildly spiced, crunchy vegetables. We both thought this was a great dish and enjoyed every mouthful. The soup and starter were served in sensible, modest portions so as not to overwhelm. Our waiter, the owner's son, who had made sure we did not have any food allergies, directed us to the buffet after he had ascertained it was all in order and that two hot plates were waiting for us.

We found a great choice awaiting. My plate, below, is arranged as follows: 12 o’clock: noodles, 1 o’clock: Daging Tiram, beef in oyster sauce, 3 o’clock: Udang Pedas, king prawns in a spicy tomato and soy sauce, 5 o’clock: Sayar Champur, stir fried vegetables, 8 o’clock: Kachang Kuda, chickpeas in a delicate curry sauce, 9 o’clock : Indonesian Salad, Ayam Kari, chicken curry and the caramelised, chilli potato crisps are in the centre. There was also fluffy boiled rice available. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single mouthful! All the dishes are freshly created with very good ingredients and it shows. I loved the beef; it was tender, springy, cut onto sensible sized pieces and the savoury sauce was excellent. Badgerman really enjoyed the chicken curry. The prawns were cooked just right- not hard and the sauce was a little spicier that other dishes. I like chickpeas and often avoid them in restaurants, as they are canned and bland, but not so here; they were prepared freshly from dried and tasted bright and nutty. These, the noodles and the fresh Indonesian Salad gave good variation to the Rijsttafel selection and ensured the pallet was not dulled. We were encouraged to revisit the buffet but were filling up and wanted to save a little room for dessert.

From the four desserts, including the daily special, on offer, Badgerman chose the mango and passion fruit sorbet and I, trying to keep the carbs down, asked for the lychees, both are pictured right. My serving of lychees was just right and left me with a full tummy but a light, sweet taste in my mouth. I think it’s a mark of a very good kitchen if the simplest of dishes are prepared well and Badgerman’s sorbet was truly excellent: sharp, sweet, creamy and with a strong fruit flavour. I was envious.

Our bill with a beer and a cocktail, excluding tip, was £39.65.

On Monday to Saturday the Bali Brasserie offers a three-course lunch for £8.50 and a Sunday Lunch Special, three course Mayasian/Indonesian Buffet for 10.95. These menus look interesting and, if the food we had is any indication, will be well worth the money and trip.The Bali Brasserie has been open for 22 years and tries very hard to please its customers old and new. I ran into a work colleague, who is a regular, and she said she has always had good experiences at the BB. Have a look at the web site for information on menus, parties, weddings, functions etc… and for particularly interesting Christmas menus too!

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

Friday, August 7, 2009

24. India: Nizam, Haywards Heath

139 South Road,
Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH16 4LY

01444 457577

Easing into my long summer holiday, I met up with the Vicar for an ‘ethnic eat’ in Haywards Heath. The Indian Restaurant we had planned to visit was closed so we toured the town again and found the Nizam.

It is deceptively large inside and can seat 70 but still feels cosy and welcoming. The décor is smart, modern with an Asian twist. We were seated near the window on very comfy chairs and were given our menus. At first glance it looked like the usual fare at acceptable prices- 15 starters priced from £3.25-£5.50 and mains from £6.95 for Vegetable Balti to £13.95 for King Prawn Balti, but on closer perusal I was very pleased to finds some dishes I had not seen before such as Tunafish Burra the Bagoon Paneer, aubergine and cheese, (£4.95) I chose for my starter and some very interesting sounding specials.

We began with popadums of course, and they were very crispy and came with a good set of dips and pickles, pictured above left. Notable was the hot pickle component. It was very spicy but also exceptionally tasty with many different types of hot peppers. The Vicar started with the Salmon in Spice with a caper sauce (pictured right, £5.50) and was very pleased with it. The seared salmon was perfectly cooked and full of flavour and complimented well by the creamy, subtly tangy sauce and had him cleaning his plate all up. I am a big fan of aubergines and often try then when out. Sometimes they are marvellous; sometimes they are rubbish. The Bagoon Paneer, (pictured left, £4.95) were just marvellous: perfectly cooked to be soft but still intact, not bitter and really enlivened up be the cheese and peppers- I definitely recommend them.

Our mains arrived in good time and looked scrummy. The Vicar’s Lamb Biryani (pictured right) was accompanied by a good vegetable curry. The Balti was very well done. The lamb was very moist and tender and the fine rice was subtly seasoned. He really enjoyed it and was very impressed with the layers of taste. My Chichen Tikka (pictured left) came with a salad and was just delicious. The meat was well marinated and seasoned, tender, moist and the portion size was good. The Bindi Bhaji, (below, £4.50) we added was much better that the usual tomato-based dish; it, like all the Nisan’s food was artfully flavoured.

Service was at all times courteous and attentive. I can imagine that the Nisan gets quite busy on the weekends so would suggest you book. Take away is also available.

A sumptuous dinner for two with 1 ½ pints of lager, a big bottle of still water, peppermint tea and coffee, excluding tip, was £52.00. The Nisam’s quality if food definitely earns it a place in my top picks.


Ambience: 3.5
Food presentation: 2.5
Food quality: 4*
Service: 3
Value for money: 2

Thursday, August 6, 2009

23. Spain, Tapas: the Swan Inn, Lewes

The Swan Inn
30a Southover High Street,
East Sussex

01273 480211

We were very pleased to see that the nearby Swan Inn was doing Tapas on a Thursday evening. Buoyed up by their motto: “ We don’t do fast food, just good food.” and the many great pub meals we have had there, we booked a table for two.

With 12-ish selections and special, the tapas menu is not huge but there is plenty to tempt most appetites- vegetarian and omnivore alike. Our dishes arrived reasonably quickly, especially as it was quite busy. The Greek Salad, Garlic Prawns and Calimari, each at £4.75 (pictured above right) were good choices. I often have their Greek Salad from the usual menu and it is always super: fresh, crunchy, well balanced with plenty of feta and olives and the home-made dressing is served on the side so no danger of it drowning the lettuce. The prawns were just excellent! Badgerman, predictably commented that it was worth “shelling out for them”. They were succulent, garlicky and easy to shell- though we really needed a finger bowl. The garlic mushrooms (pictured above left, £4.50) were delicious and, frankly, I don’t know how they could have been improved. We enjoyed every single one. The sun-dried tomato bread (right, £3.00) was really good and complimented the olives well. Badgerman certainly enjoyed the feta, tomato and olive filo parcels (below, £4.50) and keeps on mentioning them as a highlight.

We also had meatballs; they were good but could have been improved by being a bit spicier and I would like to have seen some choritzo and maybe a piquant chicken dish on offer, but the kitchen was still gauging customers’ reactions and this did not take away from our enjoyment of the food. Also on offer were Potato Skins with Garlic Mayo- £4.50, Mussels- £5.00 and Garlic Bread- £2.00.

We just had enough room for dessert and shared an scrummy rhubarb crumble from the main menu (pictured right). It was just as it should be hot, melting the cream, tart, not too sweet, with the topping crunchy by yielding under the spoon.

If you don’t make Tapas at the Swan, do try their usual pub fare- it is delicious, always reliable and good value. Most dishes are served with loads of veg. and I recommend the sautéed potatoes. Before 8:30 children are welcome but only over-16s are allowed on the premises after 8:30. As service starts at 7:00, there is plenty of time for a family with young ‘uns to enjoy their meal. Reservations are a good idea.

Our bill, with a round of drinks and excluding tip, was £32.84.

Ambience: 2
Food presentation: 2.5
Food quality: 4
Service: 3
Value for money: 3

22. Thai: Pailin Thai

Pailin Thai
20 Station Street
East Sussex

01273 473906

In honour of Little Will’s visit home to his dear old Mum, and hearing good things about the Thai Pailin’s lunch menu, we ventured forth on a very hot August, only-mad-dogs-and-Englishmen, day. We were greeted with the customary, excellent Thai hospitality and quickly seated. There were a few customers happily tucking into their lunches; most were eating the one-plate lunch specials. Both having hollow legs, Little Will and King Blim were really excited about the look of the food.

We were offered the regular, ordinary Lunchtime ‘Noodle Bar’ and Chef’s Special menus- giving us a vast array of dishes from which to choose. The regular menu offers dozens of Thai curries and salads, fried, noodle and seafood dishes etc… from $4.50 to £8.25. There are 14 Lunchtime Menu specials with dishes such as Rice Noodles with Red Pork priced £5.90 and Mixed Seafood in Gravy and Noodles for £7.50. The Noodle Bar menu, served Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00 to 14:30, looked yummy. There are 12 choices of rice, egg and stir-fried noodles dishes priced, a credit crunching, £5:50 to £5:90. The Chef’s special menu looked very special with dishes such as Chu Chi Ging, king prawns cooked in coconut milk and curry paste for £8.50 and Tan Tok Nue beef cooked with shallots, spring onions and coriander- reported to be very ‘authentic Thai’ for £6.90.

Little Will and I chose our favourite Tam Yen Gui Soup (pictured above left) which was refreshing, sharp, full of chicken and mushrooms and never disappoints. The deep-fried prawn in batter with a sweet and sour sauce, (pictured above right, £6.70) kept King Blim entertained. He thought it was very good and he especially liked the sauce and how it blended with the crispy batter. I congratulated myself for choosing the Nue Yang, British sirloin beef with a green chilli sauce (pictured right, £6.90) for my main course. It was truly excellent: the beef was top rate: beautifully cooked, sliced to perfect thickness and was enlivened by the tangy, hot and slightly sour green chilli sauce- for me this dish alone was worth the walk to the Pailin Thai! Little Will, fresh from his post BA travel year, was looking forward to the Panang Curry (pictured left, £6.00) served with rice and was not disappointed. He pronounced it to be very authentic and beautifully balanced: spicy, sweet and very satisfying. Pig that he is, he managed to down a dish of Phad Thai noodles too. King Blim and I did, if truth be told, help out with these (a bit) and we really enjoyed them. They were not too soft, very peanutty, sweet, tart and full of flavour and were complimented by plenty of fresh bean sprouts. The Roast Duck and Rice (pictured right, £7.50) King Blim chose for his main course was really a meal in itself and was very tasty.

We declined dessert and coffees and with large bottles of still and sparkling water, and excluding tip, our bill was £46.10. With another vegetable dish this would nave been enough for dinner, and with just sticking to the Lunchtime and Noodle Bar menus, one could have a very satisfying and delicious lunch, with coffee and another drink for less than a tenner- good value for the quality or food, service and surroundings.

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