Trunk Road does not feel like an Indian restaurant. Upon entering it feels remarkably like an Italian restaurant, in fact. There are candle-lit tables, dark-panelled walls, jazz on the stereo and even Negronis to kick off your night. The thing about that cocktail is, it’s not strictly a Negroni. Its caramel tones come by way of sweet, spiced rum and sherry, along with the requisite Campari. Sure, it’s sweet, but so is the Indian palate – Trunk Road is a subcontinental restaurant, Darlinghurst-ed.
The restaurant comes by way of Nicholas Gurney and Tapos Singha of Surry Hills’ Bang restaurant (which we love). Gurney is front of house while Singha is out back, cooking up riffs on the village recipes of his native Bangladesh. Despite the gorgeous, small bar-esque surrounds, this place is cheap as chips, especially considering how fantastic the food is.
And speaking of chips, please, whatever you do, don’t leave without ordering the curry fries. In the UK chips, cheese and curry sauce are a late night staple, and here they are serving just that, but with real ingredients, not powdered ones. The chips are beer battered, crisp on the outside and fluffy within. They're drenched in a garlic-rich, cassia bark infused bhuna sauce and topped with mature cheddar. They're also a weird, twisted shape which we really enjoy. At any hour, these salty, spicy, cheesy carbs would suit us just right – especially because they’re only $7 a plate.
The specialities of the house are the ‘roadies’, which are a version of Kolkata’s celebrated kati roll – spicy fillings wrapped up in paratha bread, like Indian tacos. There are four to choose from when we go in. The tikka masala paneer roadie is light and clean, but given the bland nature of paneer cheese, could do with more spicy complexity. The steak roadie is fantastic though: smoky sliced, tandoor-cooked beef, crisp onion rings, cheese sauce, gherkins and rocket, all wrapped in flaky, buttery roti. They’re also both only $10, which feels like a steal.
Try the curry of the day for $15. On the day we’re in it’s lamb masala. A generous serve of slow-cooked lamb shoulder and chaat potatoes are doused in a dark, spicy, deeply savoury, onion-based sauce. You can have saffron-toned pilau rice or roti with it, and if we were ordering this by itself, we'd go both (they're only $3 a pop).
On the side, try a Grand Trunk Road Lassi to cool off that mouth – it’s like a vanilla shake, but with rum, saffron and honey keeping things sweet. Or go a glass of wine from their solid wine list, like the Barossa Duck Duck Goose Shiraz, which holds up to all that spice, and actually feels comparatively light.
For dessert it’s a gulab jamun-only affair: they’re sponge-like doughnuts made from milk and ricotta, soaked in saffron-toned, anise-scented syrup from pastry chef Adelene Stahnke, who works across both of the pair’s restaurants.
Whether you sit upstairs overlooking the street, cosied up in a candle-lit corner or down in the basement depths, you’ll be greeted with warm service as if you are an old friend, and fed food that will heat your soul. It’s just a damn fine place to eat a meal, at a cost that means you can go whenever you please. And you should, because it’s one of our favourite places to eat right now.