Writer Giverny Masso visits Grand Trunk Road in South Woodford for brunch with a seriously delicious bang
After making a lengthy journey to North East London (meandering around the tube lines affected by a strike) we arrive at a residential-looking street in South Woodford. The exterior of Grand Trunk Road is unassuming, but when we step inside the air-conditioned space it looks and feels like an oasis.
Grand Trunk Road’s menu takes inspiration from the restaurant’s namesake – the longest road in Asia, connecting Bangladesh to Afghanistan. The restaurant’s owner Rajesh Suri took a trip along the road to inspire the concept of the menu, where each dish can be traced back to different origins along the 16th century trade route. Judging by the certificates on the wall – including one celebrating the restaurant’s inclusion in the Michelin Guide – and Suri’s reputation as a pioneer in the rise of Michelin-star Indian food establishments, I know we’re in for a treat.
The Food and Drink
We both go for the vegetarian brunch (£29.50), which is a set menu (excellent for someone as indecisive as I can be when it comes to such an exciting variety of dishes). First come the poppadoms, and already I’m blown away by the attention to detail in the divine dips that accompany them – including pineapple, mint and the classic mango chutney.
The highlight of the generously sized starter is a creamy chickpea salad with wheat crisps and sweet yoghurt, sprinkled with blueberries and pomegranate seeds and flavoured with spices. This might sound like a confusing concept, but it’s one of the most exciting flavour combinations I’ve experienced in a while. Every mouthful feels like a dream.
The main courses are equally inventive. I am particularly allured by the tandoor grilled paneer with mango – the ideal marriage of creamy saltiness and tangy sweetness – and the tempered cauliflower, which is cooked to the perfect texture. My friend is enamoured with the bottle gourd and the more classic dish of black lentils cooked overnight. While the rice pudding dessert is a refreshingly mild antidote to the spicier mains, I feel it could use a little more strength in flavour.
Brunch-goers can include bottomless drink with their meal for an additional £17.50, with a choice of Prosecco, Bloody Mary or Pimm’s. We don’t go this far, although we do sample the ‘Twisted’ Bloody Mary, which uses spices to create a delicious Indian spin on the cocktail.
The Wordrobe Verdict
This is a restaurant of a calibre you’d expect to find more frequently in central London, but instead resides in South Woodford offering fine dining for a fraction of the price. While the restaurant’s core customers are likely to be local people – it’s more than worth the trip from further afield, perhaps paired with a stroll in the neighbouring Epping Forest.
While the brunch is still in an experimental phase and there are a few details being ironed out (such as the very generous portion size – although I’m not complaining, as we boxed up the extra food and enjoyed a spectacular lunch the next day), I cannot recommend this gem of a restaurant enough.
This was a truly mind-blowing meal, due to both the creativity of the overall concept and the immense attention that has clearly been paid to every little detail along the way.
Make it happen
Where: 219 High Rd, London E18 2PB
How: Find out more and book a table here: gtrrestaurant.co.uk
Words by Giverny Masso, writer