Tuck into a Thai feast this Christmas with Giggling Squid in Hove
Backpacking around Thailand and eating fragrant Thai green curry, fiery hot papaya & mango salad and nutty pad Thai noodles made me fall in love with Thai cuisine. And although there are ample Thai restaurants in Brighton & Hove (e.g. Sukhothai, Street Thai and Chilli Cafe), few live up to the dishes I sampled in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Ko Phi-Phi. Luckily, I’ve now found somewhere that serves Thai food that comes close to what I had on my backpacking adventures – Giggling Squid in Hove.
Sat in the basement of a tiny fisherman’s cottage (now the Brighton restaurant) back in 2002 husband and wife team, Pranee and Andy Laurillard, pulled together their first Thai Tapas menu. The idea, to cook simple, rustic, fresh Thai food and create a menu that people could eat like they do at home. Because in Thailand, mealtimes are all about lots of dishes that everyone shares.
According to Pranee: “we had no money and no idea what we were doing, a leaky roof, dodgy wiring and a pile of washing up to the ceiling but luckily the menu was a massive hit.” Fast-forward 14 years and Giggling Squid in Brighton is now 1 of 17 Giggling Squid restaurants (and soon to be 19).
Just around the corner from Hove Town Hall, on Church Road, sits the group’s Hove branch. The decor is style rustic with driftwood panelling and an exposed brickwork wall. The tables follow the same theme and church pews make surprisingly comfortable perches. It’s magnificently light and spacious both up and downstairs too.
As we sit down I notice there are polished wine glasses, weighty cutlery and fabric napkins set on the tables. None of the cheap throw-away paper variety in sight. This is dining like it used to be – not just to fill a hole in the stomach but a dining experience and a treat.
It may only just be November but the restaurant is fully prepared for the festive period with its brand new Christmas menu laid out to tempt us. There’s plenty of choice too. A 3-course Christmas Evening Menu (without fizz) for £24.95, (with a glass of fizz for £29.95) and both options include spicy Prawn Crackers that stand out in their own right. 3 courses too much for lunch? Then go for the Christmas Lunch menu at £18.95 – served until 5:30pm. This includes three different tapas sets, the Festive Squid, The Jolly Squid or the Merry Squid each with 4 items and a mix of Tom Kha Chicken Soup, Duck Spring Rolls, Pork Belly Thai Style and Jasmine Rice offered.
Speaking of squid, this is a must order if you visit. My guest went for this and I snuck a morsel from her to try. As the feather light batter dissolved on my tongue it was evident I’d missed out. It was fresh and done to perfection.
My huge portion of Tom Zap Beef Shin Soup, slow-cooked in a warming fragrant lemongrass broth, is a strong runner-up though so I can’t complain. Not normally a big lover of Asian soups, I go for it on our waiter’s advice and I’m converted instantly. There’s a whole lot of ingredients too, (water chestnuts, spring onion, kefir leaves, coriander and chilli flakes) giving it a deceptively strong flavour and a killer kick. I just can’t help dreaming of the Salt & Pepper Squid whilst I tuck into it.
Mains glide out and I know already that I’ve won with this course. I ordered the Chu Chi Sea Bass, with red curry & shredded lime leaves – a dish from Chiang Khan in Northern Thailand. The skin on the bass is beautifully crisp but the fish flesh remains moist – hats off to the chef for that skilled cooking. The sauce is thick and creamy but verging on oversalted and there’s a huge portion of fluffy jasmine rice on the side that I can’t finish.
Somehow we convinced ourselves we can manage desserts too and when they arrive I’m glad I’ve reserved a pudding-sized pocket in my stomach for this, as it looks gorgeous. The vibrant colours from the fruit remind me of a cocktail I had once on the beach in Koh Samui. It’s all about the details here too with tiny, intricate red hearts hand-drawn in the accompanying pot of cream. Taste-wise the choc pud is very rich and there’s a nice crunchy base to the moose that’s a welcome surprise. The glacé cherry and orange pieces look pretty and are sweet to taste but the kiwi is a bit sharp for my liking, so it stays just as a garnish.
PRICE: £59.90 for 2 people including 2 glasses of fizz
RATING: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give It A Miss
SCORES ON THE DOORS: 5/5 from the FSA for food hygiene
I’d come here again. Particularly with a group of friends to have a festive get-together since the Christmas menu is such good value. It’s also leagues above the Brighton branch, which I visited recently on a separate occasion. The Giggling Squid web designer also deserves a huge pat on the back as the site not only looks visually very appealing but it’s also really easy to navigate and find the information you want (on desktop or mobile). You can book online too – a must in the 21st century.
Need to know:
Over the festive period, Giggling Squid will be open every day, except Christmas Day and the 9th & 10th January.
If you think you might try Giggling Squid’s new Christmas menu let me know by hitting the heart button below. If you know anywhere else that serves good Thai food in Brighton, please leave me a comment and let know too.
*Disclaimer: I was invited to Giggling Squid Hove to review on a complimentary basis, but as always my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest view on the whole experience.