As we approach our 15th birthday, I have finally managed to put finger on keyboard and write this, my first blog entry.
In May, our move next door to larger premises and the introduction of alfresco seating, means that we no longer have to turn away so many disappointed customers at busy times – and we now have space to accommodate larger private parties.
When Byron Swales, my co chef and business partner and I decided to open Indian Summer in Brighton, we were hailed as the town’s (city status would come later) first Indian restaurant. Yes, there were plenty of ’curry houses’ around – but none serving the authentic, regional dishes you would find in homes, on the streets or in the restaurants and cafes of India.
Having been at the heart of the local dining – and widely regarded as part of the vanguard leading a new wave of establishments bringing real ethnic food to Brighton’s discerning clientele for a decade and a half, there are still those who argue that we are still the only Indian restaurant in Brighton.
Based on family recipes handed down through the generations, the cooking is kept fresh through constant innovation, creating new exciting dishes, on our mission to educate the curry-loving public to the delights of real Indian food. We don’t like the term curry as a single word to describe the rich, complex and diverse food from the sub continent.
Of course, we weren’t the first Indians on the scene. The credit for that goes to Bengali entrepreneur Sake Dean Mohammed, who opened the original Indian restaurant, the Hindoostanee Coffee House, in London in 1809. Mohammed later moved to Brighton and became the official ‘shampooing surgeon’ by Royal Appointment to Kings George IV and William IV. Brighton’s association between royalty and Indians didn’t end there. During the First World War, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion was used as a hospital, with 772 beds, for wounded Indian soldiers.
Moving on to modern times, we have included many, gluten and sugar free, vegetarian and vegan options since long before they become a “thing”. Expect some exciting additions throughout in 2016.
Our ambition to have Brighton named Curry Capital of Britain during National Curry Week met with widespread scepticism in the city. Undeterred, we felt the quality of authentic and innovative modern Indian cooking could give Brighton the edge over cities with “golden miles” such as Bradford, Leicester, London, Glasgow and Birmingham et al. What Brighton lacked in sheer numbers, we felt we could make up for quality.
We achieved a credible runner’s up spot in 2014, jumping thirteen places in the league rankings and I’m convinced Brighton would have won in 2015 had more local restaurants backed the bid and the council employed their considerable resources to supporting the cause. The local authority’s official submission of a single A4 sheet of paper, a key part of the bid, was disappointing to say the least.
The accolades for our use well-sourced, seasonal ingredients have been numerous: a place in Cobra Good Curry Guide ‘Top 100’ restaurants in the UK, BIBA, Brighton & Hove Food Award, AA Rosettes and recommendations in Harden’s Food Guide and an Open Table Best Restaurant award and TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence. Being named as ‘Best Indian Restaurant on the South Coast’ at last years glittering Asian Curry Awards at the London Hilton was a particular highlight. As was BiBA’s Best Traditional Signature Dish recognition for the Mamaji’s Chicken recipe that my mum used to cook when i was a child – even though she’s a strict vegetarian.
Our loyalty and generous customers have been most supportive of our numerous charity events over the years. Last year we supported The Curry Tree Foundation nationally and locally, Rockinghorse Children’s Charity the official fundraising arm of ‘The Alex’ the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital. During National Eating Out Week, our customers’ backing for Find Your Feet’s ‘Curry for Change’ campaign helped raise a whopping £63,118 – enough to help change the lives of 5,259 people who suffer from hunger, including families in Udalbani village in Jharkhand - one of the poorest states in India.
The best has yet to come.
See you soon,