Anybody who knows me knows that I LOVE a good curry. My recent trip to Sri Lanka involved eating curry morning, noon and night for fifteen days and I never tired of it. In fact it was a harsh culture shock returning to England where you can’t legitimately eat a curry for breakfast (and FYI it turns out your work colleagues won’t thank you if you try). In Brighton for me Indian takeaway is synonymous with Bhindis and for a sit down meal the firm favourites are Planet India and Eastern eye on London Road.
But for those in search of a more up-market Indian dining experience the buzz in Brighton town firmly remains around The Chili Pickle and Curry Leaf Cafe, both of which I have mixed feelings about. In both cases I thought the food was fair, but didn’t justify the hype surrounding it or the price charged. So, when I was invited to come and try Azaro Dhaba in Hove, which is an alternative restaurant aiming to recreate the flavours of Indian street food in a sophisticated setting, I was interested to try.
Azaro pride themselves on serving up traditional Desi Dhaba Punjabi cuisine (Dhaba meaning roadside restaurant in India or Pakstan), and the menu is varied offering familiar favourites like currys, dhals and talis in addition to mixed platters and their signature Hyderabadi dhum biryanis. These are baked in the oven in a clay pot, covered with a flour dough and are essentially much like a naan-topped biriyani pie (interesting!). While it is clear that this menu is not geared in any particular way towards vegetarian diners, there are enough veggie options that you don’t feel restricted or as though you’re missing out.
The starter of baked popadoms with a selection of dips and chutneys was presented beautifully and was really tasty, but could probably have done with a couple more popadoms – as there was only one each! It seemed a crying shame to let all those lovely flavours go to waste due to lack of a dipping implement once the one popadom ration had been exhausted.
For the main I opted for the grand vegetarian tali which was generously portioned and well executed. Each of the different currys tasted great – I really enjoyed this course. It had a good balance of spice and flavour, a nice selection of textures and as there were so many mini-dishes included, to the last bite it never got boring. They also run an offer which means from Thursday to Sunday you can get a tali dish for £9.95 which also means it’s pretty good value for money.
My dining companion was persuaded into choosing the Hyderabadi dhum biryani (he had originally opted for a chicken tali but was convinced to sample Azaro’s signature dish instead) and was sadly less impressed. It looked intriguing but he found it to be a little dry and felt there was too much rice to chicken/ veg ratio. I didn’t try it though as it wasn’t vegetarian so can’t comment.
As we were invited by the owners to sample the menu we were lucky enough not to be paying for the food, but the prices for some items on the menu – £8.65 for the Dhal of the Day and £6.95 for a basket of bread for instance- did strike me as a little steep.
I feel awful mentioning it, as the owners and waiting staff are genuinely up-beat, smiley and seem passionate about what they are doing -which is great – but for me I felt the service was over-attentive to the point of being a little intrusive. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I was there to do a review, and they wanted to explain the premise behind the menu and their cooking methods, but at one point we had the owner, the head chef and the waiter all around our table at the same time enthusiastically extolling the virtues of the food which felt quite pressurised. Personally I am happy to be told about what I’m eating once, and asked once during the course of a meal if everything is OK but after that that I like to be left to enjoy my food in peace.
So, all up I was impressed with the food I had personally and the owners of the restaurant are unquestionably passionate about what they are doing which is great. I probably would return if I were to order the tali using the offer, but I wouldn’t say I am a full convert to Indian cuisine as a fine dining experience. I think I still prefer a more traditional curry house, the more casual the better, but I that’s just a personal preference. If you are wanting to try something a little bit different, enjoy Indian food in a more grown-up environment and don’t mind paying a little extra for good presentation and a more refined finish then it’s definitely worth a try.