Brighton Food Reviewer: Emma Pryke, February 2016
Moonstone is a shining beacon of warmth in deepest Hove as we approach on a cold Wednesday night, huddled in our winter coats. Greeted with big smiles we choose a seat in the middle of the restaurant near to the bar. Moonstone’s decor is tasteful, with touches of traditional Sri Lankan art on the walls.
New takeaway offerings
I notice there is a sign in the window advertising their new takeaway menu and ask about it when we sit down. The waiter hands us a small leaflet with a selection of dishes available for takeaway, including starters, vegetarian curries, fish, seafood and noodles. These are all available to be ordered every evening (aside from Mondays) with free delivery within a one-mile radius. People of Hove rejoice!
A first time for Sri Lankan cuisine
I have to admit, I’m pretty clueless about Sri Lankan cuisine and have never tried it before. Asking around the office earlier I spoke to my colleague who recently travelled there and described the flavours as being fresh, delicately flavoured and not too spicy. This all sounded right up my street as even though I love Asian dishes, I often find myself struggling through an overly hot curry with a pint of water and plenty of tissue for my running nose (sorry for the overshare…).
Spice is a serious business!
Moonstone take their spice blends seriously, explaining the process on their menu;
“Our curry powder is homemade within the family and has been handed down through the generations. This intricate blend of spices consists of coriander, turmeric, cumin, fennel, curry leaves and rumpa. The curry powder used with meat also includes cinnamon, cardamon and cloves.”
Spices feature heavily in Sri Lankan cuisine, due to their history as a spice producer and trading post over several centuries.
The national beer of Sri Lanka!
Our appetites whetted, my boyfriend and I perused the drinks list with me choosing a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and Tom a large bottle of Lion Beer. This was a total fail on my part as the beer was incredible – one sip transporting me out of bleary Blighty and to a tropical beach in Asia.
We ordered a poppadom to nibble on which came with a sweet and sour chilli sauce, and two starters from the menu, capsicum (pepper) stuffed with a shrimp mixture and chicken roll with Sri Lankan sweet and sour sauce.
Starting as we mean to go on
The capsicum was chargrilled and sweet, stuffed with a mixture of shrimp, onion and spiced potato and served with a mild curry dipping sauce which was delicious. The chicken roll casing was crispy and light, encasing a filling of chicken and vegetables. The pineapple salad garnish was tangy and fragrant – the perfect accompaniment to the plainer flavours of the roll.
Great for veggies
We asked for recommendations for our main, and was advised that the most popular dishes on the menu were the vegetarian curries which are also gluten free. We went for the sweet potato curry with a side of plain steamed rice and the Moonstone special red snapper. The waiter explained that the curries were served mild as standard and gave us the option to crank the chilli up if we wanted it to be hotter – we declined as I wanted to taste it as it came but I think it’s great to have the option.
As we waited for our main courses we watched as the table started filling up, with a mixture of couples and groups, a few of whom seemed to be regulars and enjoyed a good chat with the owner throughout the night.
A coconut condiment
The potato curry was certainly worth recommending, the sauce was flavoursome and rich with coconut milk, and the plain rice was a good side to have without overpowering the flavour of the curry.
Every rice and curry is served with pol sambal, a scraped coconut condiment that varies in spiciness and is delicious sprinkled over your food.
The red snapper had a meaty texture and was marinated in spices. It came on a bed of spiced squash which was really tasty and had a side of rice flavoured with cumin and saffron. I found the fish a little salty for my taste, but my boyfriend loved it and devoured the whole dish!
Although we had eaten two courses I didn’t feel overly full, which was just as well as I had my beady eye on the desserts! We went for the pancakes rolled with a filling of aniseed and coconut and served with strawberries and a swirl of chocolate sauce. This was a real hit for us, the filling oozing with sweetness and a coconutty crunch, and the pancake crispy – a fantastic combination!
You really get the feeling of a family-run business at Moonstone, it’s authentic, friendly and welcoming and also boasts the accolade of being the only Sri Lankan restaurant on the South Coast. It’s certainly opened my eyes to a different style of Asian cuisine and it’s given me itchy feet to head to Sri Lanka in the future… for research purposes obviously!