What: A lunchtimes-only restaurant that trades from within a specially-designed area at popular Brighton Indian restaurant The Chilli Pickle. As the name suggests, Hawkerman is inspired by Asian street food markets, specifically those of Singapore. The 28-cover restaurant offers a tight small plates menu with more substantial dishes averaging out at a little over £10.
Who: The Chilli Pickle’s owners Alun and Dawn Sperring are behind the concept. The food at The Chilli Pickle is informed by their travels around India, and Hawkerman is no different. “We are in awe of these incredibly skilled cooks who spend decades honing one ostensibly simple dish - which customers will form long queues to eat,” says Alun, who oversees the food side of the business with wife Dawn heading front of house. “With Hawkerman, we set ourselves a bit of a challenge – creating our own interpretation of some of these time-honoured specialities, using the best local produce we can get.” The pair launched The Chilli Pickle in Brighton’s Meeting House Lane in 2007 but moved the restaurant to a much larger and more prominent location in Jubilee Square three years later. Alun is currently cooking the menu pretty much solo but will soon spread the workload across the kitchen's other sections.
The vibe: Designed by local agency Good Noise, the space has a clean, stripped-back look that contrasts well with the rest of the restaurant, which is colourful and packed with India-sourced objects and ingredients.
The food: Using a melting pot like Singapore as a culinary muse gives the kitchen a good deal of flexibility, allowing it to serve their own takes on tried and tested Asian dishes including spring rolls, sticky ribs, ramen and dumplings. That said, the pair can’t be accused of playing it overly safe. More adventurous dishes include Singapore fish head curry - a popular dish in the island city state and more familiar territory for The Chilli Pickle due to its Indian-style spicing - and congee with roast duck. How these challenging dishes will go down in Brighton remains to be seen. Other items from Hawkerman’s seven-strong selection of main plates include Canton BBQ sunshine chicken and The Don’s Pot Noodle. The latter is served in a disposable container that apes the student staple, but happily that is where the comparison ends. Sides include Xi’an spiked cucumbers and flash-fried greens.
Korean dragon foo ramen ©Xavier Buendia Photography
And another thing: Hawkerman was originally conceived as a delivery concept to run alongside The Chilli Pickle’s popular and long-standing Indian delivery offer, which is focused on thalis. The Sperrings changed their minds at the last minute, deciding a new eat-in concept could be a good means of driving lunchtime trade (The Chilli Pickle fares far better than most Brighton restaurants at lunch thanks to its relatively affordable and flexible menu, but dinners are busier). If Hawkerman is a success at lunch Alun and Dawn will look to open it in the evening and - eventually - may even explore a standalone location for the brand.