Eastbourne has come a long way since the 1980s of my youth. The old Arndale has been replaced with the Beacon centre, there are trendy cafés and a slightly “east of Brighton” bohemian vibe. I like it. And each time I visit, I find I want to stay for longer. On my last trip, I drifted into Chi restaurant, a pan-Asian street food restaurant that was celebrating its first birthday.
An independent chain?
Not sure what to expect from something that describes itself as an independent chain, luckily, one of the two co-founders, Aiden, was in town for the celebrations and on hand to explain. Both Aiden’s and his co-founder’s parents ran restaurants and so they both grew up in that environment. Aiden’s father is from Hong Kong and it was a question of join the family business or go and spread your wings. He chose the latter and after an impressive career in various restaurants, the idea for Chi was born … traditional pan-Asian street food with a modern take. He and his co-founder started Chi in a tiny kitchen in Cambridgeshire in the autumn of 2019. We all know what happened only a few months later and so the fact that they now have nine restaurants gives you a measure of their success.
I asked Aiden what he thought the secret to this success was, and his answer was simple, “It’s unique”. They make everything themselves, including their sauces and they’ve used their own favourite recipes and given traditional recipes a fresh and modern take. It’s an un-prescriptive menu, that allows you to organise your meal in anyway you want, be that sharing platters, sushi or going for a more “your dish, my dish” approach. Signature dishes include katsu curry, fluffy bao buns, crispy dirty fries, and savoury gyoza.
So what’s the ambience?
The restaurant has a modern, fresh feel that would work well either at lunch or dinner. There’s a touch of the Orient and exotic about it too and the staff were lovely. It feels upmarket casual.
What’s on the menu?
We were really impressed as there’s a lot on the menu. There’s sushi, small plates, poke bowls, bao buns, a whole load of favourites which include some familiar faces (katsu curry) and some really tempting teasers (Korean fried chicken and waffle). We had a mixture of starters that included chilli squid, tempura prawns, dumplings, gyoza, Korean beef tachos and chicken teriyaki and satay skewers. We followed that with a Thai coconut curry and finished with little balls of pistachio ice cream wrapped in a sort of dough.
All was beautifully served, well balanced and full of flavour. The chilli squid had a particularly nice sweet chilli mayo sauce and you can definitely tell they make everything themselves. You’ll be happy to know, I put in a personal request for some Sussex drinks to be added to the menu.
Now just hoping they open one over in West Sussex too. How about Chi in Chi?
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