Tom Flint: A superb show of spicing

Spice Circuit pop-up at Etch
Spice Circuit pop-up at Etch

You may remember reading about chef Kanthi Thamma’s new Spice Circuit venture when I interviewed him following his departure from Curry Leaf Café.

Kanthi has plunged into his new project and pop-ups are popping up. One such event was an Indian fine-dining evening at Etch, in Hove.

Spice Circuit pop-up at Etch

Spice Circuit pop-up at Etch

Taking Indian street food and presenting it in a fine-dining environment takes a lot of skill and vision. Indian food is generally known for its comforting and hearty style, not something that lends itself to the high-end restaurant setting. Knowing Kanthi’s food well I was sure he would be able to deliver on flavour, but could he present dishes befitting of a restaurant such as Etch, especially when head chef and former Masterchef: The Professionals winner Steven Edwards was one of the guests?

As with most events we were greeted with a cocktail. That evening’s was the Seven Year Etch courtesy of Sarah from Blackdown Spirits. It was a mango take on the porn star martini and a fitting introduction to the meal.

Kanthi had ‘etched’ his menu for the evening, merely listing two elements on offer per dish. One would be the lead spice and the other the key component. In keeping with Steven’s style, we kicked off with a small snack of tomato salsa on mini poppadom and some excellent Indian bread and mace butter. Both whet the appetite for what was to come.

Next was fennel and mango. Presented in the format of a pakora. Crisp and not the least bit greasy, the balance of sweet mango and fragrant fennel meant this was the pakora to judge all future pakoras against. A classy start, the standard was set.

Spice Circuit pop-up at Etch

Spice Circuit pop-up at Etch

Coriander and scallop followed, presented on a black plate with a shock of purple broccoli puree and battered cauliflower florets. It was a sumptuous display of how spicing can be delicate and not overpower.

Next up was cardamom with paneer cheese. The vibrant green cardamom sauce was as intensely flavoured as it was colourful, and the silky paneer with fresh chillies added the exact balance of spice and heat.

The main event saw a rack of lamb paired with the king of all spices – black pepper. Perfectly tender and served with the nearest thing to a curry sauce on the night, the dish was a resounding success. If I could replace my usual Sunday roast with this each week I would have happily done so.

The palate cleanser of star anise and ginger sorbet was beautifully made, although I thought the spices were a little too powerful to cleanse. This was followed by a rice pudding that paired clove with apple, very comfortable bed fellows.

The meal was a superb journey through the medium of spicing. Kanthi showcased each spice perfectly, balancing them with precision and skill. This was one of my highlights of the year so far. The Spice Circuit has been unleashed and I look forward to seeing where it takes us.