Monday, July 26, 2004

Restaurant Review: Corianders, Hove

It was Andrew's birthday on Friday, so we went and had a celebratory dinner in Hove's Corianders, which, despite sounding like an Indian takeaway, is in fact a flashish and hard-to-find restaurant serving Mediteranean and North African cuisine. Unfortunately situated beyond the main run of shops on Church Road (and, we marvelled, how nice it is down there and so many nice looking places to eat; we increasingly refuse to budge out of Kemptown), it took a bit of perseverance to get to, and when we eventually found it in a run down parade of shops down to the sea, it didn't look too promising.

But inside, the decor was appealing; slightly dishevelled, far from ornate, but containing several attractive artifacts and - oddly - a very western, very average line of paintings on the wall, as well as two lovely round tables, tiled with mosaics. We sat elsewhere, however, by the door, and ordered wine and an excellent starter to share; a salad comprising of avocado, tomato and smoked haloumi (a minty, white cheese from Cyprus, it says here) in a 'corn tortilla bowl', which was excellent.

Priced a little high (most main courses between 13 and 18 pounds and, shamefully, rather more expensively than the online menu suggests) the restaurant obviously prides itself on its character. A little testily, the nevertheless personable waitor explained that we could not order our starter and main course seperately, it must be done together, and besides, "you'll have a long wait between courses anyway", he told us proudly. He was right, and the wait was a touch excessive, but when the main course arrived it looked impressive. Gossiping that the advantage of eating outside the normal, town-centre haunts (pizza express, thai, blind lemon alley) was the varied menus, we boasted that eating in Corianders meant you got food you wouldn't ordinarily eat.

That said, Andrew aside, we went for the more predictable meals; roast chicken with a side serving clump of corn stuff (my technical term) and black-bean stew for Vic and Pete, and a lamb, saffron and date tagine for myself, coming with cous-cous and a cucumber and mint yoghurt sauce. Only Andrew was more daring, going for Ostrich steak (I forget what it came with, roast potatoes I think) and giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up. He was right, I nicked a bit and it was good, kind of like chicken breast in texture and roast beef in taste. It looked super, too; we were all surprised, ignorant as we are, to see that it was a red meat.

Polishing off the last scraps and the dregs of the wine, we decided on our desserts - Vic and Andrew sharing a rich chocolate truffle cake and Pete plumping for a creme brulee; a creme brulee which, unfortunately, was neither burnt enough on top for my taste (I nicked a bit) nor, more damningly, very nice - it was excessively sweet, lacking that bitter aftertaste which good brulee's have. Never mind. My dessert, meanwhile, was magnificent - seduced by the promise of a chilli flavour I had gone for a selection of ice creams and sorbets; something mild and fruity, a capuccino ice cream which I liked (and I hate coffee) and the piece de resistance, the chilli ice cream itself. Now, surprisingly, this worked absolutely perfectly; nothing shocking or gimmicky, just a lovely, cool ice cream with a tingling, memorable aftertaste. Really wonderful. Kind of thing I could eat all day.

Oddly, despite the slightly over-priced menu (my lamb, while very pleasant, was nothing remarkable and pricy at £17.00 while Vic's chicken, despite looking magnificent, was not that full flavoured below skin level), the overall meal didn't come in that pricy; just over a hundred pounds for four of us (one starter, four main courses, two bottles of wine and three desserts - with lots of nice bread and olives thrown in for free); just over 25 pounds a head, which was better than I expected.

Unfortunately, I get the feeling that the location of this restaurant is probably its biggest drawback. Despite an adventurous menu and attractive decor, the place was never busy on a clear, bright summer's Friday night. Placed half a mile East, or situated on Church Road it would doubtless do a roaring trade. As it was, it was a really nice place to spend an evening. And as we left a group of diners, situated on one of those lovely tiled tables, were delivered their main course; and I saw I should have had the lobster.... it looked great.

All in all a good meal in nice surroundings. Recommended.

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