I was going on a first date, see, one of these met-on-the-internet hook-ups. Normally you just stick to a drink the first time round; it’s much easier to run away from a bar than a dinner table, should it turn out the other person isn't a true likeness to the "best" photos they've used for their dating profile.
I had a good feeling about this one though, so I figured why not nudge out the old proverbial and go to a restaurant I’d had my eye on for a while, The Giggling Squid.
Housed in an old fisherman’s cottage in the middle of Brighton's Lanes and set across three floors that aren’t shy of a baby-making booth, it’s a step on from your normal standard, both in terms of food and surroundings: you could come here on a first date, a first anniversary, or a first birthday (lunch for the latter). With the exposed wood-work matching the tables, its modernist rustic stylings are matched by the food.
Surely all Thai meals should start with Tom-Yum soup; it’s simplistic but you can tell within one spoonful how good the rest of the meal is going to go. If the stock is Gulf of Siam deep , if you can pick up half a tail of shrimp, and if you get gritty-bitty-bits of lemongrass and galangal on your spoon that a drowned cilantro leaf flops over as you excavate it from the bowl, then you might just be in for a meal
Looking back I wish I’d had it.
Given the nature of my company I figured it best not to run the gauntlet of chucking soup down myself, so instead we shared up with the Chicken Satay and Seared Scallops, as recommended by the smiley French man in the waiters’ outfit.
The satay sauce was thick and creamy, with pinky-sized peanut chunks bobbing around the pretty heart that had been dribbled into the middle of the sauce. We both looked at it, each other, went “ahhh” and wondered if it was a sign,
With hindsight I can declare it definitely wasn’t, a point emphasised by the fact I only had eyes for her scallops. Thankfully she recognised this, handing the precious meaty pearls across to me, sitting in shells and atop the obligatory shredded carrot and cabbage dashed in sea-smokey nam pla sauce. They sizzled then shrunk in my awful mouth and I bemoaned the fact there was only three on the plate.
The main courses soared, with her Lamb Shank Massaman Curry being a lesson in combining a classic British aesthetic with a Thai concept, the industrial-sized shank swimming contently in the light yellow sauce. It was an inarguably vast plate of food, verging on too big, though she forgave them this trespass for the sweet nutmeg-y undertones that implored her to look at me with a saucy grin, and say: “this is the nicest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.”
Thankfully I didn’t have the inclination to splutter a crude reply, as my attention was again focused entirely on a plate below me; this time the Tipsy Beef, another recommendation that more than lived up to its endorsement. Served on a plate hot enough to scald an ice-cap, its name comes from the fact the meat is a red wine sauce, which when you think about it is a little bit clever.
It was nigh-on the best Asian dish I ever had (other than perhaps a damnation-hot Jungle Curry at Thai Square), with the beef’s inherent richness being enhanced by the wine, but counter-balanced by a sweetness that gleefully poo-pood all over the idea that I don’t like sweet food mixed up with the savoury.
With a nad-lamping papaya salad to accompany, the main disappointment-other than the creeping sense that this girl was quite clearly not The One (or The Two, Three or the Sixty Four)-was that when it came to desserts we were both lacking a bit in willpower. However, we manfully donned our spoons anyway, with her ordering black chocolate truffle and me a black sesame ice cream scoop the size of a bowling ball. The menu for The Giggling Squid takes the liberty of describing the latter as a ‘phenomenon’. I’m not sure I’d go that far but it did make me glad I’d taken a punt on this as a first date place.
As you can probably tell, we never actually got to a second round and I think we both knew this when we had an awkward half-snog goodbye, but for my next internet-indebted soiree I know where I'm going.
There's seven branches of the Giggling Squid across the South of England, have a look here