Opening an Indian chain restaurant in London is evidently no piece of cake. This is after all, the city blessed with more quality subcontinental establishments than anywhere else in the world. And, to make it worse for would-be chain tycoons, some of the very best are also some of the cheapest. Think Lahore Kebab, New Tayaabs and the like (and that’s before you take a cab to Southall or Tooting). That may be why the only people in London who’ve to any extent cracked the Indian chain thing are Masala Zone.
Jamal Hirani – once a lingerie buyer for M&S – is undaunted. He already has two City take-aways, plus a Canary Wharf restaurant, plus this new one off Cheapside. Apparently he plans to open a restaurant a month for the next year and a half. To achieve this would be extraordinary. But the new establishments are certainly going to have to be generally busier than this spacious new City outlet was on our recent (Monday) lunchtime visit.
Was this just early days, or was it empty because the market is too discerning for what’s on offer here? You can call it either way. Our experience was fine, and probably better than the standards you’d get in a Café Rouge for the same money. On that analysis, go Tiffinbites! But, then, you can’t eat fantastic French food in London for £20 a head, so you don’t have a nagging feeling you could do better elsewhere, if only you’d looked a bit harder.
Does Tiffinbites offer OK value? Yes. Would we go back? No. Will it be the biggest thing since garlic naan? Don’t bet your last rupee on it.