We never go to Chingford. It is 10 to 15 minutes drive or bus journey away yet we never go there, how ridiculous is that? We’re still confused by the difference between Chingford Mount, Hatch and North – and I thought they’d be closer together. Chingford for us has always been the place where you end up when you’ve fallen asleep on the train or the stepping stone into Epping Forest for a lovely afternoon stroll, but never a place for a night out.
But recently we went to Zahraa, an Indian restaurant offering free dinner to tables booked on their opening nights – as promoted in an article in the local Walthamstow Guardian newspaper. This was a bold and clever marketing strategy. Instead of spending money on adverts in the paper and junk mail flyers, they managed to get a newspaper article written about them offering food for gratis. And the word must have got around, the place was busy early on Saturday evening.
We were given a set menu with a few limited choices, but asked to select starter, main, vegetable side dish, rice or bread and an ice cream dessert. After the opening poppadoms and chutneys (not home made unfortunately) which although not included in the free meal were as usual irresistible to one of the foodies, we had the predictable onion bhajis and meat samosas. These were fine but nothing special – aimed at the typical Anglo-Indian tastebuds.
So time for the main courses. We had selected a lamb madras and requested that England’s favourite curry – the chicken tikka masala be given an extra spicy chilli hit. Our expectation by now was that these would be ok but nothing exciting. But this is where things changed – the lamb madras was light, soft and bouncing with flavour; the tikka was well spiced, delicious and nothing like the sticky orange mess of an average curry house. This was the kind of sauce to mop-up with the home made tandoori naan bread. The spinach and mushroom side dishes were equally well delivered.
We ate, and ate, and struggled to finish it all. This was meant to be a freebie which we’d already consigned to being a luke-warm buffet affair which we’d have a quick try of and go somewhere else for the evening. But here we were downing a bottle of reasonably priced red and having a really good time.
The decor is contemporary Indian – soft lighting plus red velvet couch, the service was attentive and friendly, the bus stops nearby … we’ll be going here again … soon. A clever marketing ploy won us over initially, but well cooked Indian food made us happy all the way home.
Opening hours: Monday -Thursday 4-11.30pm, Friday -Saturday 4pm – Midnight, Sunday buffet 1-11.30pm including Bank Holiday
Zahraa, Indian Restaurant and Takeaway, 65 Old Church Road, Chingford,
London, E4 6ST
T:020 8529 7222