Charm Thai Brighton at The Marlborough – Review
Charm Thai at The Marlborough Pub
4 Princes Street
Reviewed Friday 17th October 2014
Public house, theatre, Fringe venue, gay bar, site of raucous gigs, (hideaway for an illegitimate lunchtime pint) – The Marlborough has been all of these things to me, but has never really been on my radar as a food pub. It looks like this is set to change, as they have just introduced a new Thai lunch menu, revamped Sunday roasts and Charm Thai every Friday evening from 6–10pm.
We visited for Charm Thai, a Southern Thai food kitchen headed by chef Ramida, known reverently by friends as ‘the queen of curry’ in her native Phuket.
The menu is simple: four starter options and six main courses, including regional specialities, offering an alternative to what Ramida describes as ‘generic oversized menus lacking in distinctiveness’.
We start off with the Charm mixed starter platter, unable to resist the variety it offers. The chicken satay is nicely marinated and a perfect vehicle for the accompanying peanut sauce, which is creamy with coconut and a lovely thick consistency. I find the sweetcorn fritters delightfully moreish, but then I’m a sucker for any sort of deep-fried vegetable fritter. These are nicely crisp on the outside and though dense and slightly cakey not at all greasy, a good vehicle for the accompanying sweet chilli dip (which is of the authentic watery consistency). Unfortunately, the batter coating the salt and pepper squid is just shy of satisfyingly crisp but the squid inside overcooked to the point of becoming difficult to bite cleanly through. (No one wants to bite into tempura only to have a mozzarella-like string of squid extend from between their teeth.)
The starters are largely unremarkable; the main courses, however, are outstanding. Green curry is a good measure of the quality of a Thai restaurant, being a dish that almost everyone knows but which cannot often be described as ‘outstanding’. The Charm Thai green curry we have probably can be. Asserting Ramida’s ‘curry queen’ credentials, this one is a perfect balance of those flavours that form the backbone of Thai cuisine: salty, spicy, sweet and sour. The sauce is a perfect consistency, the vegetables crisp and the chicken moist. Perfectly fluffy jasmine rice tempers the lingering heat from each mouthful.
The pad med ma-muang cashew nut stir-fry is similarly enthusing, a glistening spicy sauce coating crisp vegetables and tofu. Despite containing heaps of deep-red roasted chillis it isn’t overly hot but surprisingly sweet and moreishly salty (there are those flavours again). It’s not something we’ve seen on any other pub-Thai menu around Brighton and it’s good enough that we agree we’d come back for more. The pineapple rice is incredibly attractive, flecked with bright yellow fruit and fresh prawns, but it would perhaps work best as an exotic accompaniment rather than a main in it’s own right, as it is a dry dish.
There’s a fair amount of local competition for the pub-Thai crown, with the St James and The Office both also serving up decent Thai food in the area. Actually, I think Charm Thai may well be able to hold its own, capitalising on the pre-theatre goers it is sure to attract. It’s good to see The Marlborough putting itself on the food map.