19 Anyards Road,
Massala is an Indian restaurant in Cobham, situated at the end of a road that houses chains such as Carluccio’s, Strada, etc. However, if you can walk past these other restaurants, it's very much worth holding out until you get to Massala, as this restaurant serves up some of the best Indian food there is.
Massala is not much to look at from the outside. It sits awkwardly at the end of a row of non-descript, unmemorable shops. They could be fast-food joints, they could be hardware stores, as I say, unmemorable. Either way, they make unglamorous neighbours, and because of this there is a danger that you might not give Massala a second glance.
Once inside however, Massala’s interior is really rather sleek. The walls are white-washed rough brick, with occasional embellishments in the form of brightly coloured Indian paintings or wall hangings. As great as the décor was, it was the food we were really keen to experience. And here the Massala experience gets even better. The chef prepared a tasting menu, and there was nothing we tried that I wouldn’t order again. When the chef came to ask us what we had liked most, we reeled off a list of everything we had tried, and recalled, with earnest and unbounded enthusiasm, the tenderness of the prawns (Jhinga Merunisha), the strange delights of the paneer, and moistness of the chicken (Zafarini Malai Tikka).
And that was just the starters. For our main dishes, we tried the chicken first, and both agreed that it was one of the best curries we’d ever had. Little did we know that the best curries we’d ever had would be coming our way in the next few minutes. The flavour combinations in the fish curry and the lamb were extraordinary. Sometimes I get the impression that curry houses try to fool us with the same curry base, and varying amounts of chilli powder. Massala however lives up to its name, and creates unique and extraordinary massalas for every dish. The food doesn’t come cheap, but when the quality of the food is this good, it’s worth the price.
We had wine with our meal, choosing (because of its humorous name) the Austrian “Salmon Groovy”, and an Argentinean white. Both went very well with our spicy food. Massala serves haute-cuisine curry that works particularly well when matched with a wine, although they do of course have Kingfisher and Cobra and other non-Indian beers in the menu. The only small reservation we had with the food was the kulfi. Was it kulfi? Or was it just ordinary vanilla ice-cream? It was perfectly okay vanilla ice-cream, but after such a fantastic meal, it tasted a little bit unremarkable.
Massala is a fantastic restaurant, and it deserves a better location. If it was in central London (or another city centre) it would be a serious rival to the top Indian restaurants in the city. Failing this, it at least deserves some more charismatic neighbours. It’s a Beauty and the Beast situation… if you are prepared to overlook the shabby setting and unremarkable exterior, and find out what is on the inside, you will be very definitely rewarded.
* If you like the sound of Massala, look of for special events that they run at the restaurant. Their next event will be a “**Taste of Chilli**” dinner on the 23rd of September 2010.*
**Reviewed by:** Emily Boyd