Thursday, June 07, 2007

Mascara, Brighton

On Tuesday night my friend Dan celebrated his 29th birthday, and to mark the occasion he decided on a meal out at one of Brighton’s several North African restaurants. Mascara, on Western Road, is at first glance a voguish, pricey-looking joint, but it’s extremely comfortable inside, run by friendly staff and set to a loop of gentle, evocative Arabic music. The menu, too, is surprisingly reasonable, offering an excellent two course menu for a ludicrous 12.00 and a three course for 15.

I started with king prawns, which were rich tasting, satisfyingly crunchy and immersed in a delicious tomato, garlic and parsley sauce. Most people opted for the pigeon pastilla, which I think no-one could quite visualise ‘til it arrived, and then were surprised to see the pigeon shredded and encased in a crisp pastry parcel. Reaching greedily over to Morgan’s plate, it wasn’t the strongest tasting bird, rather delicate and nutty, and edging slightly over to bland, but it was beautifully presented and a good size, with delicately conflicting sweet and sour flavours. To my right, Dan opted for a plate of spiced chorizo sausages which, for depth of flavour, won the day – dark and strong, and very nice indeed.

The list of mains was incredibly tempting, but I opted for oven-roasted sea bass with celeriac mash. All around me beautiful ceramic tagine dishes were descending in front of my friends, and I began to regret my decision. Yet the fish was very good indeed, subtle and light, with the mash full of flavour and an ideal counterpoint. But the highlight was certainly the tagines. Dan opted for a lamb stew which had been slow cooked for six hours and you could tell – it was inordinately succulent, collapsing off the bone with only the slightest instruction, and bathed in a sweet sauce comprising of prunes, pears and apricots. Over at the other side of the table, Dave and Sam opted for the one more expensive dish, a lamb shoulder for two with a less sweet percolation of flavours, heavy on cumin, cardamom and nutmeg. Again, the meat was tender to the point of evaporation, and the sauce delicious. Victoria opted for a chicken dish which was really good too.

Drinks wise, we just had a few bottles of French wine (this was an Algerian restaurant, after all) but I interrupted proceedings at one point to try some Casablanca, a fresh but not very singular lager brewed in Morocco – maybe slightly more fruity than a standard lager but nothing special. For afters I opted out, not having much of a sweet tooth, but judging from the cooing and sighing around me their dessert selection was good too. All the food finished, we finished with a round of mint tea and Sam ordered a couple of mixed fruit scented Shishas, gently enveloping the table in a fug of sweet smelling fog. When the smoking ban comes in, that sort of thing won’t be allowed, I guess – what a shame.

We poured ourselves back onto the balmy street, remembering it was a school night.


annsaphone said...

i was the only person not invited

jonathan said...

Let's kill Dan!!

annsaphone said...

nah, Dan is nice. There's someone else out there who's not nice tough - but I cant say her name, apparently she's getting scared of me eheh :)

Bloggers4Labour said...

Me too, AS! I spent the time carving a voodoo doll out of wax (I need to check with Dan to see if he really has experienced jabbing pains in the area of the body I targeted). I also shattered the glass of a framed photograph of the two of us :-)

Anonymous said...

Are you reading this Dan!? I HOPE YOU'RE FEELING GUILTY.

Ha ha, whee.