I have written a book about Indian restaurants but they were all in London. I review Indian restaurants almost every month but I have never reviewed one outside the UK hub of Indian food – our capital city.
But here I was in a traditional English seaside town and a long way from home, and invited to an Indian restaurant. Was this menu going to be watered down? Perhaps a rather old-fashioned ‘curry house’ selection? Was this going to be the last refuge of the iconic red-flock wallpaper and a tapestry of the Taj Mahal? Those above worries, had I really had them, would have been unfounded. Sea Spice is a credit to its culinary genre.
This is a smart restaurant and the sea couldn’t be much closer. The wide Aldeburgh shingle beach is literally across the road. The decor here is cultured Indian colonial, with soft lighting to complement dark wood. Plenty of seating for small groups as well as couples makes Sea Spice not only a venue for holidaymakers but also a regular haunt for locals who will likely appreciate the quality of food here.
Head Chef Pratap Singh Rawat has a grounding in the best Indian cuisine and in some of London’s best restaurants. He has worked at Mayfair’s celebrated Chor Bizarre as well as Tamarind and Benares, both of which have been awarded Michelin Stars. The pedigree of this chef is beyond doubt.
Sea Spice manager Anupam Seth is justifiably proud of his domain and indeed of the chef who is making Sea Spice a ‘destination’ restaurant. Service here is swift and coordinated and as good as one would hope. It’s a well-presented and professionally-run small-town establishment with big-city polish and standards.
But the food will likely be the reason for your visit. Sea Spice takes advantage of Aldeburgh’s fantastic location on the Suffolk coast. Fish is showcased here along with fresh local organic vegetables and craft beers.
We started with Crispy Coated Okra. This is one of my favourites and ideal as a canape with drinks while perusing the menu. It is crunchy and spicy, and a dish which I have never been able to perfect at home. I’ll be asking Chef for the recipe and preparation details.
Masala Dosa was my companion’s starter, although in India it’s often found as a breakfast item. It’s a substantial plate but a delicious example of this dramatic-looking item. A dosa is a light and crispy fermented rice flour crêpe and is served with a potato stuffing seasoned with fenugreek and curry leaves. Garnishes were a brace of vibrant fresh chutneys which add so much to the dosa experience.
I enjoyed my starter of Jhinga Dakshini – tiger prawns in crunchy chickpea flour were simple and flavourful and gave a nod to the sea just outside, although I suspect these prawns came from more exotic climes. The chickpea flour gives not only texture but flavour to ingredients which it coats, and it also adds a pleasing colour when a little turmeric is included.
Goat Bhuna was my guest’s main course and this proved to be a robust gravy dish slowly cooked with tomato and ginger. The sauce was the star of this bhuna and would have been a joy on its own with a side of Indian bread.
Free Range Butter Chicken intrigued me. It’s a standard in most Indian restaurants but quality can be patchy. Yes, it’s a popular dish but Sea Spice elevated butter chicken by offering the meat on the bone rather than in chunks. This results in more succulent chicken and a more flavourful dish. Another bread-dipping bowlful. This with some Tadka Daal – yellow lentils, garlic and fresh coriander – and some rice completed this truly comforting meal.
Gulab Jamun was my guest’s dessert, chosen from a selection of traditional sweets. This was perfect when paired with well-flavoured Masala Chai – tea with a house blend of well-balanced warming spices. A cosy cuppa to end a delightfully unexpected meal by the sea. I can recommend Sea Spice. It’s worth the trip!
Tuesday to Sunday:
12 noon till 3pm for lunch
5.30pm till 10pm for dinner
The White Lion Hotel
Market Cross Place
Phone: +44 (0) 1728 451 800
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018