What it's like at The Devil in Rye
PUBLISHED: 10:00 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:00 02 July 2019
Rye restaurant The Devil prides itself on offering wickedly good food discovers Laura Paton
In terms of doing what it says on the tin, The Devil in Rye does indeed serve wickedly good food. Perched at the top of the High Street and easily spotted thanks to its hellfire-coloured frontage, The Devil is one third of the award-winning Ambrette chain, owned by chef and restaurateur Dev Biswal.
Seated in the conservatory, I'm captivated by a view of the neighbouring 14th-century monastery (the irony of which isn't lost on me), the ancient walls beautifully lit to reveal the decorative tracery of the original stained-glass windows. Indoors, the whitewashed walls, wicker furniture and local art are subtle nods to the town's coastal setting and artistic heritage.
Eating alone has its advantages - uninterrupted people-watching and occasionally overhearing (inadvertently, of course) interesting snippets of conversation. Poring feverishly over the menu, while nibbling a juicy green olive, I hear a diner proclaim loudly that the food here is the "the best in Rye".
Dev Biswal favours the use of both local and exotic ingredients, and The Devil's (noticeably curry-free) menu entices with locally-sourced meat, fish and vegetable dishes cooked with African, Indian and Mediterranean flavours. But there are exceptions - Rye Bay chowder (£6.95) and fresh fish of the day (£18) being two of them - where Biswal abstains from adding powerful herbs and spices, instead serving Rye's finest produce in a simple fashion. The drinks list comprises mocktails, cocktails, local wines and champagnes, and Indian beers, and for those unwilling to restrict themselves to just three plates of food, there's a seven-course tasting menu for £49.95 (or £69.95 with wine).
I'm torn between the dosai (a South Indian crepe) with avocado (£6.95) and the Moroccan-style game pastilla (£7.95). Having never strayed from the path of sweet fillings, I settle on the dosai, which succeeds in converting me to a new way of thinking. A popular street food, the crisp, lacy edges crackle as I cut through the pancake to expose a stuffing of soft, spiced potatoes and ripe avocado. The earthy flavour of the dosa is contrasted by a bright salad of rocket, slightly under-ripe pineapple and pomegranate seeds.
There's a mix-up with the main which results in my dish being delivered to the wrong table and vice versa. I point out the error to the front of house manager who, strangely, doesn't feel the need to apologise, but does rectify the situation promptly (although the tahina mayo never finds its way to my table). The lid of a slightly chipped tagine is removed to reveal a coconut Kerala beef stew (£18), releasing with it an intoxicating aroma of roasted spices. There are three gleaming hunks of slow-cooked beef, topped with broccoli florets and batons of carrot and parsnip - all cooked separately to preserve their joyful colour and texture - and a light, deep coconut sauce that's the colour of molasses. Fried discs of potato, served in a small bowl on the side, soak up every lustrous drop. Along with a glass of Blackdown Ridge red, which is sharp with redcurrants, it's an almost religious experience.
The menu lists five desserts, but there are only two available tonight: mango kulfi and a lemon pomegranate bavarois (both £6). I decide to quit while I'm ahead. With the help of a 15-minute pause I'd happily devour either, but time is not on my side, especially as I fear I'll now need an extra few minutes to lumber down to the station.
I can't possibly comment on whether this is the best food in town, but allow yourself to be lured over to the dark side and Devil-worshipping is likely to become a regular activity.
The Devil in Rye, 6 High Street, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7JE; www.thedevilinrye.co.uk
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