Brighton’s Indian summer

Posted on Front of House Dec 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
Brighton’s Indian summer

A catchy name, a 10th anniversary to boot and even a makeover. Indian Summer’s co-owner Bryan Swales tells Tandoori how it all began.

 

The UK-wide edition of the well-respected restaurant guide Harden’s describes Indian Summer as offering “authentic cuisine with a twist”, along with being “very popular with almost all who comment on it”.
 
Judging by such a praiseworthy review, one is left in no doubt that owners Byron Swales and Manish Agnihotri, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary of their Brighton-based restaurant this year, have got the formula of authentic Indian cooking, modern, plated presentation and contemporary environs, spot on.
 
“Having been quite disillusioned with the restaurant scene in general,” says Swales, who started his career at Brighton’s two rosette La Parisienne, before embarking in a career as a European chef in Australia, “I thought surely it couldn’t be that difficult to have a restaurant that offered good food, good service and all at reasonable prices.”
 
Swales started to look for an appropriate site before as word spread of his endeavours to his friend Agnhorti, whose family had always wanted to get into the restaurant trade.
 
Though Swales was a tad skeptical as they might just end up opening just another formulaic curryhouse, the pair ensured that they opt for food which offered true Indian flavours albeit with a modernistic flair.
 
Originally launched in Hove, the establishment’s reputation grew to such an extent that they eventually bought a site in Brighton.
 
“Manush grew up on his mother’s freshly prepared Gujerati cooking every day in Brighton,” notes Swales, “so he clearly knew what good, home-style Indian food was all about.
 
I recall him telling me once that when he was 18 years old, he went to try his first Indian restaurant meal and was absolutely appalled by the standard of cooking. It made him even more determined to ensure that any Indian restaurant he was going to be involved in would be as good as he can make it.”
 
Agnihorta gave up a career in prosthetics to realise his dream of opening a restaurant venture while his father played a strong role in suggesting the kind of chefs that would be suitable from India.
 
“Initially,” states Swales, “our menu was south Indian because our head chef was from that region. But subsequently, we went on to bring chefs from other parts of India so our menu became more pan-Indian.
 
We also wanted to move on to project an image of a refined yet unpretentious restaurant. In the early days when we lunched, we would get people asking for korma or Madras style dishes and we would have to turn them away saying that we were offering a fine dining experience and not one they could get at any of their local Indian.
 
Indian Summer’s current head chef Maharaj Jaswantsingh boasts an impressive CV - as do the rest of the kitchen team - with credits including the Bukhara restaurant at the Maurya Sheraton, in Delhi, along with the Taj Gateway Residency, in Bangalore.
 
“Celebrating our 10th anniversary this year means a lot to us,” says Swales. “We have had a refurbishment recently and there are various other things we have been putting in place.
 
One of these is home cookery lessons where we give people a choice of dishes they might want to make at home for a three course meal. Then our chefs will go to their home and teach them how to cook as well as giving them the recipes. It’s a lot of fun.”
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