VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
VENUE & ATMOSPHERE: 4/5
Note: Alcohol is NOT served on the premises. All meat is halal.
Friday night dinner – has to be somewhere good right? The last few steak dinners have left a lot to be desired, so Mrs Plug and I were desperate to restore the balance. We quickly settled on Sahara, as we had plans after and needed somewhere local and nice without the headache of time wasted faffing around. On our way, Mrs Plug rang and made a reservation for 20 minutes later – seemed pointless at the time but we were glad we did, as by the time we arrived, there was already a queue building up of people who weren’t as pro-active.
On arrival, we were promptly seated – my usual biggest annoyance is when there isn’t enough space between tables, and the chair jiggery begins with people constantly shuffling through every 5 seconds. Luckily, on this occasion there would be no such drama, as we were pretty much in a corner away from the pathway.
Sahara has changed. I remember when it newly opened in my early teens in their original premises – Gants hill to Leyton on the central line, out the station and chuck a left, a small humble shop, with a simple menu, and basic food with view of the kitchen as the brothers were busy slogging away. The immature teenager that I was, my visits were spent hoping that none of the brother’s MashaaAllah beard made it’s way into my rump steak. When it was time for salah, no problemo – the shop was locked with the customers still nibbling their food and the staff headed next door to the masjid – ‘BRB’. Sahara has massively evolved since then. Admittedly at the time, I wasn’t their biggest fan. In fact, I had steered clear for about 10 years as I had it in my head that you don’t get enough bang for buck.
Fast forward to today, new bigger premises (still in Leyton), lavish decor with the air of a classy place with a wide range of customers – yet somehow, for me, it still is unmistakably Sahara, with its humble friendly staff, still a view of the kitchen, but an even more expensive menu!
Down to business then, we ordered Sahara wings to start with. We expected the usual kind of peri style niblets, you know the ones, like 3 tiny wings dry AF which will just about suppress your appetite long enough for the mains to arrive. Not sure if it’s because I wasn’t expecting much, or because the wings were genuinely, in that moment, the best thing I have ever eaten…but the wings were…well.. in that moment, the best thing I have ever eaten. Firstly, they weren’t just Sahara wings, they were Sahara BUFFALO wings (maybe they should write that on the menu). Secondly, they were PERFECT – crispy wings underneath the best buffalo sauce I have ever tasted – tangy, spicy and delicious. Finally, at close to £10 a for a portion of 5, if theres more than 2 of you…get 2 portions and you won’t regret it..or forget it.
So the bar had been set for the main course and it did not disappoint. I ordered the Sahara lamb leg sirloin steak (standardly cooked medium well with chips) and Mrs Plug went for the Sahara Lamb Fillet Steak (standardly cooked medium rare with chips) and both came with gravy. The Sirloin was cooked as requested, and was nicely textured like it had been beaten and flattened. The meat was tender and flavoursome, each bite more rewarding than the next. It was for this reason Sahara has gone straight to the top of the charts in my eyes for steak. Mrs plug was also extremely impressed with her steak describing it as the best steak she has ever had. We were both left savouring every mouthful and were disappointed the steak had to end – such is life. We ordered drinks (a mint crush and a coke) and the total bill came to approx £53 – fairly reasonable for what we ordered and with the meal tasting so good it was worth every penny in my view.
Overall, I’m glad I live close to Sahara as I suspect it will be a regular visit when in the mood for great food – the only downside is that any other steak house will now be measured against Sahara, and like in my early teens, I now have another view of Sahara in my head, which will probably not be shifted for another 10 years.