Señor Buddha Brighton Review
9 Preston Road
Visited August 2015
The top end of Preston Road, opposite the Duke of York’s cinema, is not necessarily the first place that you’d expect one of Brighton’s most interesting new restaurants to appear. Given that most of the places to eat nearby tend to either fry or slice their food before it goes into a paper bag, opening a stylish twenty-cover tapas restaurant seems like a bold step. Yet the excellently named Señor Buddha – so called because of the mixture of Spanish and Asian influences in the cooking – swiftly establishes itself as the place to try roundabouts.
The Señor behind the restaurant, Lee Shipley, wanted to open a tapas restaurant, but one with a twist; therefore, his food would owe as much to Thai cuisine as it would to traditional Spanish ideas. After trying out his dishes at various pop-ups, most notably Lala’s Café in Hove, his first venue has a sophisticated and intimate feel, with bare brick walls, an open kitchen and a cosy booth designed for small groups. Lee’s genuine enthusiasm for everything he’s doing is contagious; talking to him for a few moments is almost enough to convince you to throw it all in and open a restaurant yourself.
None of this would matter if the food wasn’t any good, but it’s always interesting and often brilliant. Scallops and morcilla de burgos (a kind of black pudding) are plump, juicy and delicious, and a slow-cooked squid tentacle (freshly sourced from Spain, like all the seafood) is something really special indeed. Carnivores are also well catered for, with a confit duck leg that tastes like the very best version of crispy duck and a tender, delectable mountain mutton stew. The only main dish we weren’t entirely blown away by was the sherry pig’s cheek croquettes, although this was possibly due to expectations; these hefty meat-filled things are a very long way from the daintier croquettes you might expect. Desserts are less of a big deal, although the ice creams that we sampled were a nicely understated end to the diverse flavours of the main meal.
All of this comes in at very reasonable prices; most tapas are around the £5 – £6 mark, and some are even cheaper. The same generous attitude towards cost is taken towards the wine, where a range of unusual and interesting Spanish and Portuguese vintages are available by the glass and bottle at far less than you would expect to pay elsewhere. According to Shipley, this is in order to allow people to taste a wider range of wines with their meal than they otherwise would. It might, judging by our visit at least, lead to people leaving the restaurant full of both good cheer and staggering slightly. One thing’s for certain: we’ll definitely be back.