Born in Hove, Thai chain Giggling Squid has gone through quite the change over the last few years, however one ethos has always prevailed: bringing authentic Thai techniques and flavours to a Western palate. It makes sense, then, that when testing the restaurant’s new Summer menu, we would test things out close to where it all began. Though among their newer sites, Giggling Squid in Market Street, Brighton, shares a city with the original – and it thrives in its own right.
We’re taken to a private dining spot upstairs – a beautiful, dimly lit table behind a curtain, the room adorned with hanging synthetic florals – and are presented with the menu. Truthfully, we don’t know where to begin. While there’s still all the Thai favourites of pad thai and noodles, the new additions of coriander chicken wings and watermelon salad with pork floss (£5.95) looked a treat. We opt for the latter, along with a sharing platter including the wings, salt and pepper squid, vegetable spring rolls and pork skewers (£16.75) – just to make sure we have all bases covered. We also give our drinks selection – for me an American Riesling called Kung Fu Girl (£6.50 medium glass), a medium white which matches well with seafood, and for my friend a Lucky Buddha beer (£4.50 for a bottle), an Asian-style lager which even comes in a buddha-shaped bottle.
It’s not long before everything arrives at the table, and the verdict was given for the dishes we had chosen to start. Spoiler: It was overwhelmingly positive. The salt and pepper squid, though not strictly a Thai dish, is delectably crispy, while the sweet watermelon salad is perfectly offset by the tangy lime flavour of the sauce and salty finely shredded pork. The new wings are really something else too, with the meat so tender it does – in honoured cliché – really fall off the bone. For the mains, I opt for the Salmon Paneang (£14.50), a new dish on the menu combining a creamy red curry sauce with tenderstem broccoli, pak choi and the best cooked salmon I’ve tried for a long time. Despite not being a fish traditionally served in Thailand, I can see how this menu made the dish: the flavours are complex and delicious, but not unfamiliar enough to put off more traditional diners. My dining companion pondered over the Beef Stir Fry Pak Maew (£10.95) for a while, its curious new blend of leafy greens with turmeric and red curry paste, however was let down when the waiter informed us there had been difficulty sourcing the main ingredient from the motherland. Instead, he chose the house favourite of Beef Chilli and Basil Gra Pao (£10.95). A staple Thai stir fry using chilli and holy basil, gra pao is described as being something that always ends up on the table when chefs run out of cooking ideas at home. The flavours impress us both and gluttony prevails – resulting in us devouring every last morsel.
We delayed our desserts a little due to fullness, the generous portion of prawn crackers (paired with three dips) bringing out the greed in the both of us between courses. However, once a little room had been made, we decided to be well behaved (a rarity) and go for something light. I chose the black sesame and jasmine rice ice creams, which come in separate bowls – something I appreciated as I don’t like to mix flavours when trying something new – accompanied with fruit and a wafer. Both my companion and I agreed this plate was truly “ice cream for grown ups” (£4.95), the delicate notes of each providing a refreshing end to my meal. My friend went for the mango cake (£5.95) – a sweet treat to round off the evening. One thing that I have to mention about Giggling Squid was how impressed we were at how well the staff knew the menu. With only a small indication of the sorts of things each myself and my dining partner liked, we were recommended dishes for each course that really could not have suited our preferences better.