REVIEW: Grand Trunk Road in South Woodford
PUBLISHED: 13:22 11 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:27 11 January 2019
Lia Vittone Photography
In Stephanie Mackentyre's latest review of Essex's best eateries, she drops into renowned Indian Grand Trunk Road in South Woodford
Before opening Grand Trunk Road in South Woodford, the owner and head chef took a five-week tour of Asia’s Grand Trunk Road for inspiration.
Famed as one of the oldest and most famous trade routes in the world, it’s also home to some of the most outstanding restaurants. Now Rajesh Suri and his head chef Dayashankar Sharma have put all of their globe-trotting research into creating an exciting a la carte Indian menu.
As finalists in the Best Restaurant category in the 2018 Essex Life Food and Drink Awards, it’s not just Essex Life readers who’ve noticed the exciting dishes they are creating. Grand Trunk Road was included in the Michelin guide in 2018 and has since also won Best Indian Restaurant in London at the Asian Curry Awards while also walking away with a trophy as winners from ARTA (Asian Restaurant and Take Away Awards).
Formerly of Mayfair’s Tamarind, as well as Imli and Zaika, legendary restaurateur Rajesh was on hand to personally welcome us for our lunch. We sat at the chic, copper-topped bar for a pre-lunch drink while perusing the menu.
There’s a set lunch plus a la carte and also a tasting menu available for lunch or dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays, and on a Sunday they offer a family buffet. You can also opt to ask the head chef to create something for you – so that’s exactly what we decided to do.
We began with two varieties of freshly-prepared poppadoms served with four homemade chutneys: apple and ginger, beetroot and fennel, chilli and mango and a more traditional mint and yogurt raita. The presentation of the trio of starters was an entrancing array of colours with promise of fragrant flavours.
Crusted grilled scallops with roasted garlic served on a spiced bed of red pepper, tomato and olive oil chutney. Tilapia fish, beautifully cooked with pepper, turmeric and carom seeds served with a mint and coriander chutney.
Wonderfully succulent boneless chicken thighs marinated with fenugreek leaves, raw mango and home ground spices.
As we’d asked the chef to surprise us for our main course we didn’t know what to expect so when the table was filled with bowls rich in colour and fragrance, our excitement grew. We were served more succulent chicken thighs this time cooked with ginger, garlic and onion in a spicy, rich tomato masala sauce.
Then Welsh lamb curry flavoured with saffron, which literally melted in the mouth. These were served with tender baby okra cooked with yellow tomatoes and pickled silver onions marinated with beetroot.
A dal bukhara – black lentils cooked overnight to make them silky smooth with tomato and fenugreek finished with cream – was served with some simply steamed basmati rice and finally a truffle naan, a freshly-baked flat bread with truffle and mushroom oil which was simply delicious.
Dessert was a mini coffee milkshake served with wheat puffs filled with chocolate honeycomb pearls. We were instructed to pour the shake into the puff and pop them into our mouths.
And there was still more, a mini bowl of lavender-flavoured homemade rice pudding decorated with blueberries and red currents.
We promised to return again — and soon!
Petit Fours & Against
To be applauded:
The immaculate presentation and vibrancy of each and every dish.
Prefer less of:
It’s very difficult to find anything, but if I was being really picky I would say the lavender-flavoured rice pudding — I love both, but not together.
Worthy of note:
The sheer range of wines and spirits, and the mixologist who professionally mixed our pre-lunch drinks.
Who would enjoy this place?
Better question to ask is, who wouldn’t?!
I wish I’d also tried:
Sikandari Raan (serves three to four sharing). It’s a slow braised leg of lamb cooked for 8 hours then served with browned onions, yoghurt and Kashmiri chillies. You need to pre order this special dish two days in advance.
Worth returning for:
Their exotic cocktails and another chance to explore the extensive wine list.
Useful to know
The total bill came to £81.50 for three courses for two people, with drinks. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and wine editor.
Book a table
Grand Trunk Road, 219 High Road, South Woodford, Essex, E18 2PB
0208 505 1965