*Azaro in Hove has now closed*
Authentic Desi Dhaba Food in Hove
Brighton & Hove residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to Indian restaurants, with well-established favourites such as The Chilli Pickle and Curry Leaf Café taking centre stage. Just like these local gems, Azaro of Hove is a far cry from your local curry house. It’s Indian, but not as you know it. Positioning itself as authentic Desi Dhaba food, as you’d have it if you were in India, and using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
I dined over Easter with Simon on the invitation of the owners as well as a couple of days later with my parents, which we paid for in full. Dinner began with freshly made (gluten-free) popadoms, alongside an assortment of homemade chutneys, of which the mango was the show-stopper.
Az the owner also surprised us in-between courses with a preview of the Punjabi Samosa, which will be sold at the Brighton Food & Drink Festival, between the 19th – 30th May. This was the highlight of the whole meal. Presented on a shiny silver plate and full of colour, it was the culinary equivalent of a plate of precious jewels, stolen from Aladdin’s cave.
As we tucked in, the dish’s many layers appeared, each bursting with new ingredients. On the bottom a warm, crisp homemade samosa, then chickpeas, rajma (red kidney beans), masala, tamarind and date chutney. Followed by sweet yoghurt chutney, mixed with coriander chutney and then smothered with vermicelli, and (yes another) layer of chutney, garnished with fresh coriander and pomegranate.
The spices were delicate and didn’t overpower and the mix of crunchy and soft textures, alongside the earthy and sweet flavours made the dish fun to explore. If you’re not normally a fan of chickpeas or kidney beans don’t let this put you off, as neither is Simon and he loved this dish.
For the main course, Simon went for Azaro’s signature dish, the Hyderabadi Dhum Spring Lamb Biryani (£13.95). When the Biryani arrived both our jaws dropped and I had instant food envy. Unlike any Indian dish we had seen before, it looked more like a traditional English pie. Made with basmati rice, traditional herbs and spices and covered with a flour dough to lock in the flavours & infuse the aromas. Then served with raita and masala gravy.
Following the directions given to slowly remove sections of the dough lid with a special knife, the dish remained as hot on the first mouthful as the last. The lamb was butter soft, although the volume of veggies, which we were advised covered your 5 a day were somewhat lacking, leaving a lot of rice to work through. Simon only managed to eat half of the dish but when reheated for lunch the following day it tasted just as good.
When female head chef and co-owner Kirti, visited the table after the meal she told us about the work that had gone into creating the Biriyani. During multiple visits to India they had seen this cooked in large dishes serving many. To recreate for single portion took multiple attempts and the sourcing of special clay dishes that survive the high temperature of the oven and retain the heat. It was lovely to hear the background story and effort that had gone into perfecting it.
I ordered a Fish Grand Thali tasting platter (£9.95), which is possible thanks to local supplier, Fish Galore off Third Avenue, Hove. What I like about Thalis is the way there’s always items you may not choose to order as a main, giving you the chance to try something new. On this occasion, my ‘something new’ was the sesame and poppy seed alu tiki. A potato patti infused with ginger, fresh coriander and lemon zest. It was tasty but very filling so I couldn’t finish it. The rest of my Thali included a prawn curry, lentil dahl, a chappati, fragrant basmati rice, kheer (Indian rice pudding) and a mango lassi (yoghurt drink). The mango lassi was beautiful and the perfect sweet end.
On my second visit we had the Signature Tandoori Sizzler ( £19.95) to share between three of us, it was like the love child of a hot plate and a mixed grill with lamb chops, seekh kebab, tandoori king prawns and chicken tikka piled high and served sizzling. The meat was tender and spicy. In my opinion, it’s the best dish at Azaro and the must pick if you visit.
RATING: Must Go | Worth a Try | Give it a Miss
PRICE: £30.45 (not including the Punjabi samosas or wine)
There’s a limited but varied menu, which I like because the team has focussed on honing and delivering each well. But what really shone through was the owners’ enthusiasm and passion for creating authentic Indian dishes. Nothing is too much trouble and the kitchen team are happy to adjust the level of spice in the dishes to your taste.
Azaro makes its food from scratch each day, utilising its on-site spice cellar and prides itself on a highly personal service, so I’m prepared for a slightly longer wait time for food. However, on my second visit, the food took longer than I’d expect and I had to request both the bill and my coat twice from our waiter. Taking all this into consideration it’s just shy of full marks.
If you’re in Hove, swap your local curry house for Azaro and spice things up a bit.
*Disclaimer: I was invited to review by Azaro, but as always, my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest opinion on the whole experience.