There couldn’t be a more typically English setting than Sawbridgeworth.
Dating back to Saxon times, and mentioned in the eleventh century Domesday Book, you’ll find the picturesque town nestling in impressive countryside on the Herts-Essex border.
Yet it is here, in this olde-worlde setting, that some of the best Indian food in the area is being served to an ever-growing clientele – at the Chandini restaurant.
The restaurant is even based in a quaint early 18th century former pub – originally known as the Half Moon Inn – but there’s nothing at all staid or old fashioned about Chandini or the approach of its owner Abu Mojid.
“We are constantly changing and adapting to the needs of our customers,” he explains.
“That might mean ditching dishes that aren’t too popular, experimenting with new ones or increasing the number of tried and tested favourites.”
This philosophy is clearly reflected in Chandini’s excellently explained menu – which has separate sections for ‘traditional’ dishes, ‘customers’ favourites’ and chef’s ‘signature’ plates.
The former predictably includes varieties of vindaloos, bhunas and kormas – while clients’ choices incorporate all the various combinations of biryani, balti and butter dishes.
Among the restaurant’s signature choices are the exotically named Hyderabadi -small lamb meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, topped with a boiled egg – and the equally delicious sounding Aromatic Duck Naranghi, which blends tender meat with a range of spices, sauces and jeera seeds.
Attempting to get a taste of the menu’s main sections, we went for a signature dish intriguingly named 65 – which turned out to be a mouth watering combination of tandoori king prawns tossed with chargrilled onions and a range of spices, mango, garlic, chilli and fresh lime juice.
The Chicken Biryani from the ‘customer favourite’ sections was also beautifully cooked with melt in the mouth chicken supplemented by a lovely vegetable curry – while from ‘traditional’ section the creamy Lamb Korma also ticked all of the boxes.
All of this followed the Chandini Platter – an appetiser that combined chicken and lamb tikkas with kebabs and bhajis.
Taken as a whole our experience definitely satisfied owner Abu’s recipe for success – and all at the very reasonable price of around £20 a head for our virtual feast.
He sums up: “My approach is simple really.
“We want customers to leave the restaurant feeling they’ve had a great, value-for-money experience.
“That means providing quality food and service at a reasonable price. Once you’ve cracked those three elements, you’re on the right road.”
The road to Sawbridgeworth may well be paved with reminders of England in days gone by, but there’s nothing behind-the-times about Chandini’s approach and its offer to an ever growing band of devotees.
Chandini is in High Wych Road,
Tel: 01279 600062 – www.chandinirestaurant.co.uk