Grand Trunk Road (Indian) – South Woodford
Grand Trunk Road (GTR) in the North East of London has created quite the impression since opening in November of last year.
This South Woodford Indian restaurant has thus far received the following awards and accolades:
- ‘Best Newcomer in London Suburbs’ at last month’s Asian Curry Awards.
- ‘Best Indian’ by the East London Guardian in August.
- The Michelin Plate for “good cooking”.
Such success in such a short period shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, with Rajesh Suri, former General Manager of Tamarind in central London, being the man behind this venture. He was instrumental in helping Tamarind become one of the first Indian restaurants in the world to win a Michelin star, which it still holds to this day.
But Mr Suri wasn’t the only one to leave the award-winning eatry in July of last year to pursue his life long ambition of establishing his own place, Head Chef Dayashankar Sharma also left.
As such, GTR’s kitchen boasts 28-years of culinary experience with a man who “has become recognised for pairing time-honoured tradition with contemporary ideas and stylings”.
In fact, the pair have gone beyond the call of duty in bringing their dream to fruition by undertaking a food-inspired journey down the very same road their restaurant has been named after. Following a 4-week expedition from Amritsar in the Punjab to Calcutta, that’s 1600km along Asia’s oldest and longest road, their fact-finding mission helped them create a carefully crafted menu, that even includes the recreation of an 18th century royal recipe.
In short, it appears that GTR’s 54-seater restaurant has gone back to basics by being true to tradition and the region’s rich historical culture.
And their interior decor certainly does well in capturing this concept, particularly with their impressive collection of beautiful charcoal framed-artwork.
With an intricately engraved, large metal double-door hanging at the far end of the restaurant, it’s the tables at the back and beyond the alcohol bar that are worth reserving to get a closer look at said artwork. These collector’s pieces depict historical figures and landmarks drawn entirely by charcoal, and include the renowned Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sheik Iman-ud-Deen, and the tomb of Mughal emperor Jahangir.
Below includes an interview with both the Director of GTR, Rajesh Suri, who proudly gives us a tour of his award-winning restaurant, and Chef Sharma, who provides intimate details behind what inspired both him and Mr Suri towards seeking to create an excitingly authentic Indian menu.
These mocktails certainly tasted as good as they looked. With its ultra-refreshing hit of fizzy lemon, expertly tempered by the subtle flavour of the rose, the aptly named Rose Lemonade was the pick of the three. Wonderfully balanced with the aromatic scent of rose dominating the senses; this was a fantastic drink.
As for the GTR Passion, then it too was well made. Although the mint came through later, the flavour of the passion fruit remained true, but without delivering any real final punch.
The Wild Berry Mojito offered a hit of minty freshness that was softened by the tanginess of the berry concoction and the apparent squeeze of lime. Attractively presented and a real delight.
Peculiarly made in the form of a tart, this near-uniformly presented Delhi Ki Chaat was flavourous and perfectly balanced.
Here you had the sweetness of the tamarind sauce marrying well against the mint, followed by the familiar taste of anaseed.
The crunchy base provided texture, and the blueberries a pleasant fruity sweetness. A sublime starter!
These were unlike any Chapli Kebabs we’ve ever had or seen.
The addition of the fresh mint chutney helped to dissipate some of the heat of the spices, which eventually gave way to a soothingly gentle aftertaste that lingered on the palate for a while thereafter.
The kebab itself was crispy on the outside, with a soft almost meaty-like interior, and had an attractive swirl of cream cheese on top that worked to improve its smoothness of texture.
A very well conceived and executed dish, and one which we all agreed was up there with some of the best starters we’ve ever had.
Thank you Rawalpindi!
GRILL & TANDOOR
But it was the mild sweet-chilli marination, with a gentle heat to it, that made these such a deliciously addictive eat.
Be sure, however, to give them a good squeeze of the lime as it’ll help cut through the spices while delivering a tangy edge.
And the mint chutni accompaniment was vibrant and fresh, with a touch of heat, that complimented and enhanced the dish.
Rather than going down the traditional route of a yoghurt-based marination, Chef Sharma opted for an oil-based one for these Lamb Chops.
No doubt, these French-trimmed Peshawar ki Lamb Chops were on a different level, with the sweetness of the star anise apparent and complimenting the spicy aromatic marination, and a delicate charring of the exterior that assured a delicate hint of smokiness.
These were as soft and as tender as you’d like, and so rich in flavour as to leave us in little doubt of them being some of the best tandoori lamb chops we’ve ever had.
The Banarasi Grilled Stuffed Paneer, Hari Gobi was another cleverly conceived dish – full of flavour and texture – that’ll keep your interest right to the last bite.
The slightly tart mango provided some sweetness to counter the spicy marination of the broccoli, which itself retained a good bite.
The charred peppers not only provided a hint of smokiness, but also that familiar sweet pepperiness.
This exceptionally cooked Lamb Shank was masterfully reproduced from an 18th century recipe rediscovered during Rajesh Suri’s and Chef Sharma’s long fact-finding food odyssey along the iconic Grand Trunk Road.
Collected and preserved, this decadent Lucknow Ki Nihari was presented in all its original glory by a chef at the peak of his powers.
A master conductor, in fact, who played out a symphony of spices that opened with mellow notes of subtle sweetness, which gave way to varying degrees of heat and piquancy, before tailing off into a warm and blissful spicy sonata.
This was a masterclass of balancing complex spices to produce the most luxurious version of a Nihari we’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.
An absolute triumph and a dish that epitomises the meaning of the phrase: “Old is gold!”
What defines great curries from mediocre ones? Distinctness of core flavours, of course!
This mouthwatering dish comprised of a vibrant orange curry sauce with chunks of chicken which, despite their tenderness, still had that perfect springiness to them.
The peppery-iron richness of the soft spinach along with the spicy strong sauce just resonated with a tanginess to it, offset by the garlic running through the background.
Lovely, aromatic and, more importantly, characteristically different to the other curries had.
And the same was true of this Punjabi Murgh Masala re distinct flavours. Althoug this was far mellower in terms of spices, it was just as exotic as the above.
Despite one Lion considering it to be a tad salty, the others considered it to be a “balanced” dish, with a beautifully textured and relatively thick tomato base which, coupled with the soft and tender chicken, made for a satisfying curry.
This certainly was khatta meetha, or sour and sweet. In fact, the sour was so efficacious that it tantalisingly teased the sour taste receptors found at the back of the tongue, before giving way to some mango sweetness and the gentle heat of the chilli therein.
The butternut squash was soft, with a touch of bite to it, and well coated in the curry sauce.
What a fantastic little Bhindi Masala bowl this was!
Simple, yet superbly executed and with okra that retained a sufficient bite while being coated in an equally simple, though tasty sweet and sour masala base.
This bowl of Zaffrani Pulao Rice was perfectly cooked, with separate grains of rice in the absolute sense, and cooked in a unique blend of soothing spices before being sprinkled with dry rose petals.
Unbelievably fresh and fragrant, and definitely worth ordering.
A quartered Tandoori Roti that was properly buttered, and definitely more a roti than a naan given its thin, crispy texture.
Truffle heaven here! Admittedly not the most attractive naan you’ll ever see; but, when it tastes this good, looks shouldn’t really matter.
The truffle and mushroom were strong and heady, particularly the former, and married as one. The naan was crispy and beautifully puffed up.
Yes please! Classically made ghulab jaman; thus definitely not your bog standard, mass-produced variety readily sold here, there and thither.
These were soft and thoroughly saturated in their respective syrups, and presented on a smear of fruit puree. The dark halves had more of a lighter and spongier texture than their white counterparts, and while the former was sprinkled with pistachio powder, the latter was covered in a pinch of crunchy almonds.
If you love your ghulab jaman, then you will not be disappointed with these.
The tandoor grilled pineapple – warm and juicy with an attractively shiny glaze – was marinated with star anise.
Accompanying it, and resting on a bed of biscuit soil, was a smooth and creamy ball of saffron-infused ice cream, whose sweet floral taste acted as a wonderful foil against the light spicy-sweetness of the star anise running in the background.
These Home Made Sorbets were, both in terms of originality of flavours and execution, mind blowingly good.
In terms of texture, these were perfectly set and thus smooth in consistency.
The Apple, Basil & Blacksalt was sharp and refreshing, with the fruit materialising first in a rich burst of tangy apple green freshness, followed a short while later in roughly equal measure by the salt and basil.
As for the Blood Orange, then this was a powerful combination of sweet and zingy sour (though we were fairly certain that there was more to this than just merely blood orange given its strength) that tantalised our collective taste buds.
Essentially, what set these apart from the rest is not only the distinct layering of complimentary flavours, but the incredible manner in which they came through on the palate; so clean and precise in fact that these are undoubtedly some of the best we’ve encountered.
NOTE: We can confirm, however, that since our review, the Blood Orange has been replaced by another novel flavour combo: Lychee & Crystalised Ginger.
The consistency of this Banaras Ki Kheer was on the watery side, and offered a subtle sweetness. With a hint of sour to it, along with almonds therein, this culminated in a light and delicious rice pudding that would be perfect after a heavy, spicy meal.
We weren’t too sure where the raspberry coulis fitted into all this. No doubt more for decorative purposes than anything else.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
In fact, the last restaurant to do so was not only a while back in June 2016, but also another Indian in London - Darbaar.
Congratulations Grand Trunk Road; thank you for a truly memorable experience. Thank you also to the Asian Curry Awards without whom we would never have learned about this gem of a place.
To be sure, this is one of those unassuming restaurants which, given its modest location and the fact that it's nestled in between two equally unassuming corner shops, you're likely to miss if you blink!
But, if this proves anything it's that incredible food doesn't require any particular location to make it happen, only passion, belief and determination.
Traditional at its core, this quietly confident restaurant offers incredible hospitality and food produced by a chef at the peak of his powers. Truly memorable!
GTR offers an "add on value" for regular customers, i.e. regular perks for regular customers. They also offer child seating, but only during lunch, with admission for over-12s only during the dinner service.
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Grand Trunk Road
219 High Road, South Woodford,
London E18 2PB.
T: +44 (0)20 8505 1965 | W: www.gtrrestaurant.co.uk
Opening Hours: Tue-Sat (Lunch) 12:00-14:30, (Dinner) 17:30-22:30 | Sun (Lunch) 12:00-15:30, (Dinner) 17:30-20:30