Red Chilli, Dorking, Surrey RH5 4EH - restaurant review
18:38 06 December 2010
I recently spied an advertisement on a billboard in Dorking that read: 'Red Chilli - the best restaurant in Surrey'. Hmm, a claim that should be investigated, I thought. Having eaten there now, I have to admit that as far as modern, contemporary Indian cuisine is concerned, they may have a point.
Situated on a fast stretch of the A24, just south of Dorking, Red Chilli is another example of a restaurant you may have zoomed past but never stopped at; certainly that was true of me. Interior and exterior both reflect the contemporary feel - bright, light, lots of glass and 21st century furnishings - with a touch of American roadhouse about it. Not a hint of 'traditional' in sight, until of course the menus arrive - extensive and offering all your favourites from kurmas to vindaloos, loads of vegetarian options, tandoori dishes - you name it. But Red Chilli's own selection, the Khas Khana section, is the place to focus on, and even better the Specials of the Month, as I discovered.
After the obligatory poppadoms and accompanying pickles and sauces, I chose as a starter Fish Pakora - salmon parcels fried in garlic paste with coriander and other herbs; full of flavour and quite delicious. My daughter, Helen, had Paneer Mehbobi - cottage cheese stuffed with spinach and nuts; not so strong in flavour but pleasant nevertheless.
On to the mains and my choice from the Specials of the Month was a winner - Lamb Kabul, described in the menu as 'a classic Afghanistani dish which, considering the expense and effort involved, is normally cooked for royalty'. That's because the rich dark brown sauce comprises no fewer than 21 spices, each roasted individually. The effect is stunning and, surprisingly, the spices didn't overpower the flavour of the lamb. Served with pilau rice, it was quite superb. Helen, meanwhile, settled for her favourite King Prawn Kurma with vegetable pilau rice and an onion bhajee - all cooked to the same high standard.
I forwent wine in favour of a large bottle of Bangla beer, brewed as the name suggests in Bangladesh as opposed to India, and rich and strong in flavour. Not to everyone's taste but in fact a good choice to complement the headiness of the Lamb Kabul.
We couldn't manage desserts - too full. And let's face it: the quirky ice cream based selection that invariably features a penguin (why?) is never hugely appealing after a wholly satisfying feast. I can't recommend Red Chilli highly enough.
There are Indian restaurants in Surrey as good (and everyone has a favourite - more than one probably), but none better I would suggest, so they can be forgiven their proud claim. As for the service, it was faultless - courteous, attentive yet discreet and so smooth that you didn't fully appreciate it until driving home and reflected on the experience as a whole.
And finally! Every Wednesday is Special Banquet Night at Red Chilli when you can order any starter, main course and side dish, plus a rice dish or naan bread and coffee for just 14.95 (with a surcharge for king prawn and duck dishes). At this level of quality, that's a bargain not to be missed.
What we ate...
Fish Pakora 3.75
Paneer Mehbobi 3.95
King Prawn Kuma - 9.75
Lamb Kabul - 11.95
Pilau Rice - 2.25
Vegetable Pilau Rice - 2.95
Onion Bhajee - 2.95
Bangla beer 4.45
Food and drink 9
Three other blink and you'll miss them Surrey restaurants
Hogs Back, Seale, Farnham GU10 1HE. Tel: 01483 810272
Get ready to hit the brakes otherwise you might just go screaming past Squires Holt, off the A31, between Farnham and Guildford.
2-4 London Road Reigate RH2 9AN. Tel: 01737 222733
An award-winning restaurant set just off Reigate's High Street. You'll have to keep your eyes peeled to avoid another lap of the one-way system...
The Inn @ West End
42 Guildford Road, West End GU24 9PW. Tel: 01276 858652
Just off the A322, The Inn @ West End was voted the Good Pub Guide's Surrey Dining Pub of the Year this year.
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2009
Red Chilli Restaurant, Horsham Road, Mid Holmwood, Dorking, Surrey RH5 4EH Tel: 01306 644816
Blink and you'll miss it, but for a restaurant that claims to be Surrey's best, perhaps it's time to pull off the A24 and visit Red Chilli, just south of Dorking. Surrey Life restaurant reviewer JOHN HUGHES did just that...