Nick Mosley chats to Manju’s and Le Baobab Cuisine, recently opened in Trafalgar Street.
In recent years, we’ve seen a number of food clusters develop in the city. Preston Street is – of course – the original with a heady mix of international flavours, barbecue and pub grub alongside chef’s favourite Bincho Yakitori Japanese grill. Meanwhile, London Road and the Open Market made a foothold a couple of years ago with Semolina, Sunbird Café, Fatto a Mano, Señor Buddha and Carlito Burrito joining the long established Pizza 500 and Bardsleys fish and chips.
Just down from Brighton station, part of North Laine has been quietly expanding its own unique food offering; the next one-to-watch has to be Trafalgar Street.
A place that really caught my eye recently is Manju’s, an Indian restaurant focusing on Gujarati vegetarian food, with an excellent vegan selection too. The interior is a pleasing mix of Indian nostalgia with wooden tables and cushion strewn benches.
The front of house is run by brothers Naimesh and Jaymin, whilst Dipali, Naimesh’s wife, and family matriarch Manju head up the kitchen.
The menu is definitely not stereotypical British-Indian. Everything is made from scratch, using family recipes passed down from mother to daughter.
Manju’s dream has always been to open her own restaurant and share passion for food thats grown over a lifetime. And, as you can imagine, at 80 years old, Manju has quite a wealth of experience and knowledge. So how did the family end up here in Brighton?
“We’re originally from Uganda”, says Naimesh. “We, along with many of the Asian population of the country, moved to the UK in 1972 when we were exiled by dictator Idi Amin. We originally settled in London but moved to Brighton as a family in 2002. Brighton is home now and we’d never move anywhere else”.
With so many small units available across the city, what potential did the family see in the Trafalgar Street area?
“We’ve always felt North Laine would be an ideal location to open as our food is very different to other Indian restaurants”, continues Naimesh. “But North Laine is expensive so when this property came up, Dipali jumped at the chance. Trafalgar Street has developed into a real food hub”.
Neighbouring business owner and chef Abdoulaye Gaye of Le Baobab Cuisine agrees.
“Trafalgar Street has a really trendy and creative feeling with the small shops, artisans and food offering of North Laine, but also feels more underground and innovative. Its the cross-roads of everything that makes Brighton what it is”, Abdoulaye says.
“More than 20 different cuisines surround Le Baobab Cuisine including a Chinese herbalist, a Spanish botega, a Japanese sushi bar and the traditional pubs of The George with its vegetarian offering and The Great Eastern”.
La Baobab Cuisine showcases the food of Senegal combining fresh produce with traditional ingredients from Africa including smoked fish, yam, peppers and spices. The country’s cuisine has been influenced by many ethnic groups alongside Portugal, France, Tuareg and East India.
“Being on the sea means that every day we can offer fresh fish straight from the boats. The focus on ecology and ethical eating, that so much underlies the Brighton food experience, also shapes also our attitude at Le Baobab Cuisine”.
“Senegal is the country of ‘Teranga’, meaning hospitality”, says Abdoulaye. “It’s our pleasure and happiness to welcome a guest in our house, as an occasion to cook and serve the best food. And that is the spirit of Le Baobab Cuisine”.
With so much culinary choice and passion, Trafalgar Street is now quite rightly a food destination in its own right.