Review – Blue Mango
I’ve always struggled with the idea of going to the Brighton Marina for dinner. I tend to think of it as less of a dining destination and more as just, well, a destination. There is little wrong with the big chain restaurants that dominate the front (Nando’s, Pizza Express etc), but equally they’re not establishments that I’d go out of my way to visit.
When I heard that the Blue Mango franchise had just opened their new site at the Marina, I was intrigued. Would this be the start of better things for the marina’s food scene? And could they deliver on their promise of ‘fusing culinary excellence with impeccable service for the perfect dining experience’? Try saying that without stopping for a breath.
We kicked off with a dosa (£4.95 for the starter size), one of my favourite South Indian dishes. I watched these being made at a street food stand in Delhi (despite dosa being very much a Southern speciality, they’re immensely popular for breakfast in Northern cities) and it has the same mesmerising effect of watching a perfect lacy crêpe being crafted in a French market. Only this one is filled with spicy potato.
Perhaps my expectations were a little high, but unfortunately Blue Mango failed to nail the headline of this dish: the dosa itself. It should be light, crisp, and barely able to contain its filling. This was heavy, thick, greasy and worryingly tepid. Dosa must be made fresh and served immediately. However, the filling was great: lightly spiced, soft potatoes, the familiar pop of mustard seeds and a generous helping of fried curry leaves. They managed two out of the three sides well: the coconut chutney was cooling and fresh as it should be, the sambhar (a light tamarind and vegetable broth) tangy and well spiced. However the tomato ‘chutney’ had the appearance and, more worryingly, the taste of tinned tomato soup.
Our other starter was exceptionally good. I had failed to let the restaurant know in advance that my dining partner was lactose-intolerant (naughty me), and therefore the chicken tikka Harabara wasn’t an option as it had been marinated in yoghurt. The manager assured us that if we waited a few minutes the chef could do a dairy-free version using cod.
The result was three large chunks of fresh cod loin which had been coated in a fiery ginger and green chilli sauce then given the tandoor treatment: beautifully charred on the outside yet still cooked to spicy, smoky perfection. I’ve cooked on a tandoor several times and it’s a struggle to prevent your arms from combusting, let alone cook fish as good as this. My only gripe with this dish was the unnecessary adornment. I have no idea what the red squiggle of jam was doing on the side of the plate.
My main course, Karahi Chicken (£9.95), was generous on beautifully tender, well spiced chicken but unfortunately equally generous on surface oil. Peshwari Naan (£2.95) was one of the best I’ve had: soft, hot and buttery, generously stuffed with coconut and raisins.
Masala Gosht Tak-a-Tak (£12.95), spiced lamb and peppers served on a hot griddle, was ceremoniously presented still sizzling at our table, but unfortunately the fireworks ended there. Whilst one or two of the pieces of lamb were as tender as the menu promised, the remainder was tough from overcooking. Surely the selling point of this dish lies in its freshness? The redeeming feature was the accompanying romali roti; a delicious paper thin, smoky bread.
As a vegetarian side dish I chose another long-standing personal favourite; Dal Makhani (£4.50 as a side). This black lentil and kidney bean dal is traditionally cooked very slowly, rendering the pulses soft, creamy and comforting. Despite the menu stating that the dish had been cooked overnight, the onion was still very much on the raw side indicating a shortcut somewhere along the way. It was also finished with a heart-slowing quantity of double cream which was completely unnecessary.
Service was attentive but fairly slow, despite there only being two other tables occupied for the duration of our visit. Blue Mango’s position at the rear of the restaurant ‘strip’ doesn’t help matters.
Our experience was one of dizzying variety. When they get it right the food really is exceptional, but I was left frustrated by too many fundamental errors in the kitchen. I suspect that Blue Mango have brought in one of their experienced chefs to get this new site up and running, and he was manning the tandoor that night as anything that went near the coals was excellent. However if they’re hoping to compete against the high street giants that dominate the prime strip at the front of the marina, they need to address the basics to make it worth the journey.
Blue Mango, 1 Boardwalk, Waterfront Building, Brighton Marina Village, Brighton BN2 5WA.
Words and images by Rich Harris
Rich’s food and drink was complimentary courtesy of Blue Mango.