- Capsicum chugging spice fiends with a penchant for Thai
- Explorers of far East’s multitudinous flavours
- People seeking Thai food with a Western approach to presentation
- Thai expats who want to dine amongst non Thai people
- Those who like the ‘intimate’ dining space.
- Surf ‘n turfers who approach that term loosely
- People who want a ‘toned down’ Brighton experience
- People looking for a reasonably placed meal (you might spend about £10 for lunch and £20–£25 per head with drinks in the evening.)
I’m not sure if showing up for a review somewhat drunk is a very good idea, but in the case of the Giggling Squid, it seems in retrospect to have been. After spending a day exploring Brighton, we’d made our way down the picturesque Hove seafront as the late summer sun transitioned into a sultry sunset. In appearance, Hove’s a bit like Brighton, but in terms of atmosphere comes across as slightly more relaxed and toned down (since I envision Brighton as some permanent, all encompassing seaside party).
Approaching the eatery from the outside, you immediately sense a welcoming vibe from the venue. The Squid’s staff is mainly Thai, sporting particularly thick East Asian accents and the propensity for much bowing and nodding. Regardless of what food was going to arrive, it certainly felt like we were getting a real ‘Thai experience’ (minus the snake blood vendors and ladyboys) at this point.
Doing our best to put on our ‘sober faces’ (in which I believe we succeeded) we were lead upstairs and sat where we could watch the remains of the sunset turn the sky various shades of indigo and magneta.
On a tangential note, I don’t know where they got the name Giggling Squid from, since squids look like one of the least likely creatures to giggle, have you seen one up close?
They also have their own signature dish, the ‘Giggling Squid’ – which is squid stuffed with chicken (yes pls) – we didn’t get to try it (very sad face).
So, how’s it look then? Well, the restaurant feels like it is on the site of what was once a house (not exactly sure of this), which gives the whole place a kind of cosiness which works very well to create that ‘intimate’ space that strips away that intimidating grandeur you sometimes experience in ‘higher end’ restaurants. Maybe I show my working class roots here.
Anyway onto what they fed us…
So, how ’bout ‘dat food then? Giggling Squid’s presentation certainly exceeds what I’ve experienced in other Thai places (though as I say, it’s not like I’ve eaten at hundreds of them). Here you’re not looking at semi identifyable submerged in a formidable looking sauce. Instead, imagine colourful, thinly sliced peppers arranged artfully around a turnip that’s been carefully cut into the shape of a flower in bloom (well, I think it was a turnip). And then the searing sauce on the side…most artfully placed.
As is always the case, I felt a little tinge of regret before I demolished the delightful thing before me. And then after the tastes kicked in I sorta forgot what I was all regretful about, exactly. Overall, it was a bloody good dining experience, and one of the rare ones that left me satisfied – like I’d eaten a good ‘square meal’ and not just entertained my tongue in a new and novel way.
All that said we would have appreciated it if one of the more knowledgable of the staff had given us some guidance on what to get . We did try to get some advice out of our waitress, but I there was certainly a severe language gap. I could tell by the increasingly pronounced smiling and nodding that we were getting in response to asking open questions. Oh well, all part of the fun!
+1 described them as generously sized, tender, and with a good chilli kick – surely there are few fish quite so satisfying and ‘meaty’ in mouth feel than a properly cooked scallop. I don’t know why they’re not a more common thing.
Actually I do, ‘cos they’re so bloody expensive!
Sleeping Honey Duck with Orange Salad
Served sizzling, rich and moist, with a sticky sweet sauce, this was a damn fine and delicious decadent delight (OK, enough with the alliterations already). I only tried a little (seeing as this is what my +1 ordered) but I think it was the savoury thing of which I enjoyed most.
Rack Of Lamb
For myself I picked the rack of lamb, which, although a great choice (hard to go wrong with lamb, right?), was a lot hotter than I expected. Hot enough to make my eyes water… gratuitiously. I dunno if they regularly serve it like this or if I’d pissed off the chef in some manner, but despite the heat, I still enjoyed myself. In a masochistic way.
Sweet Sticky Rice Banana Parcel
We shared this between us, in spite of actually ordering two. By the time just the one arrived we were kinda too busy eating it to rectify the error, once you try one, you might see why. It’s some of a melange – parcels of sweet sticky rice that has been soaked in coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and served warm with a generous slab of vanilla ice cream that melts on top. The complexity excites your tongue on many levels.
The +1 described it as ‘unctuous’ – I’m not sure I agree but let’s use the word anyway!
A beautiful spot, cosy ambiance and, joy of joys, one that offers substantial meals too! (a pint I’m keen to reiterate) I did feel like I’d ‘got my money’s worth’. It’s a cliche, but I very often leave restaurants still somewhat hungry. I don’t know what that says about me.
I don’t know all that much about Thai food, but from what I’ve seen, it’s adoption to the European palette here is subtle and well done. As a guy who eats out mainly in London, what you get here for the price is really quite refreshing. And only 30 odd minutes train journey from East Croydon too.
That said, I would recommend a little more advisory on the menu on how spicy the dish you’ve ordered is, like a lot of curry houses do. I was not expecting ‘weapons grade’ lamb, even if it was a Thai place. Or maybe I’m just losing my touch lately, I never had that much of a spicy palette anyways…
(almost) Anything by the seaside gets my vote.