THOSE who have already visited the Indian Tiffin Room might wonder why it hasn’t been featured on Confidential yet, despite having been open for over three months.
The ‘grazing or starters’ represent the fact a huge proportion of India is vegetarian, although carnivores can chew their way through a marinated chicken lollypop or an Indo-Chinese chilli chicken.
I’ll take responsibility for that because I bagsied it first.
I swan-dived across Gordo’s food map and marked my territory, screeching ‘mineminemine’ like the seagulls in Finding Nemo. However, word has already spread about this place and it turned out to be harder to get into than a damp pair of skinny jeans on Boxing Day.
We were first turned away last bank holiday Sunday. The following week I called them the moment they opened at 5pm for an early table and they were already full. In the end I had to book a midweek evening table, a fortnight in advance.
The Indian Tiffin Room is doing something quite different to your average Anglo-Indian flock wall-papered curry house. They specialise in serving restaurant versions of the typical street food you’ll find all across India.
I decided to mostly order things I’d never heard of before and though the menu isn’t long or complicated, there were a fair few. Our waiter talked us through it with the easy confidence of someone who knows you’re in for a treat whatever you order. The ‘grazing or starters’ represent the fact a huge proportion of India is vegetarian, although carnivores can chew their way through a marinated chicken lollypop or an Indo-Chinese chilli chicken.
We decided to share a plate of Paani Puri (£3.25) because a menu that tells me I need to prepare for ‘a taste explosion’ is throwing down the dining gauntlet.
Six delicate pastry shells arrived, containing lightly spiced potatoes and chopped salad, like they’d just been hatched and vacated by a vegan chick. The idea is to pour some ‘chilled flavoured mint water’ into it and then pop them quickly into your mouth for said ‘explosion’. The water turned out to be hotter than Satan’s tears and the overall effect was like the vegetarian teetotaller’s equivalent of a tequila slammer.
We also shared a portion of Bhel Puri (£3.25). They’d thrown everything into this harmonious collection of over fifteen different ingredients, defying the modest menu description of ‘crushed crispy pastry, seasoned potatoes and puffed rice coated with date chutney’.
Each dig of the fork revealed a new combination of vegan buried treasure topped with shining pomegranate rubies. I could happily walk around wearing a nosebag full of this stuff for days.
The menu highlights a selection of giant pancake dosas, uttapam and passarattu which illustrate that what they don’t know about the more interesting combinations of rice and lentils isn’t worth knowing. Our waiter mentioned that Idly’s don’t always appeal to western palates and recommended we first timers try the mini idly (£3.50) – which they’ve missed a trick not calling tiddly idly’s.
They’re essentially a spicy version of the same cheap and nutritious ‘dumplings and gravy’ dish peasants across the world have been eating for centuries.
There are less than a dozen main course curries, and all are served with rice, chapatti or naan bread. The gently spiced, coconut Kerala fish curry (£8 - main image) was made using tilapia so was on the slimy side and a little too tomatoey but my friend said she enjoyed it.
I definitely won the main course round by choosing ‘ITR Lamb’ (£9), which I had to choose as they’d marked it with their signature. It was no different from your average lamb curry to look at but a quick peep under its skirt revealed slow cooked tender pieces of lamb in a multi-layered, glorious sauce made from a combination of freshly ground spices. No generic base sauces here. The warm, accompanying roti served the dual purpose of picking up the lamb and making me very happy.
We were kindly reminded that Indian puddings are typically much sweeter than western ones (like that would put me off) so we shared carrot halva (£3) and rasmalai (£3.50); two gently pressed tabs of homemade milk curd flavoured with saffron, cardamom and pistachio. If you don’t like any of the above ingredients then Indian desserts are not for you.
The menu makes a passing reference to the fact that they are licensed and our enquiry regarding white wine was met with a simple ‘sauvignon blanc’ or ‘pinot grigio’ which served well enough to wash the food down and lubricate the chatter. The focus here is on the food.
Coincidentally, as I was writing this, I got this email from my uncle who lives in London:
‘Thought I should let you know (if you don't already) Indian Tiffin in Cheadle. As you know we have reasonably high standards re food and are notoriously difficult to please - Tiffin is simply the best Indian food I have ever eaten. We have been to Trishna and Tamarind in London - both Michelin starred Indian restaurants and neither compares to Tiffin and at half the price. Give it a go.’
So word is out and spreading. If you want to visit this place sometime before Christmas, book now and hopefully they’ll push forward their intentions to extend their opening hours.
You can follow Deanna Thomas on Twitter @deannathomas
ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.
Indian Tiffin Room, Chapel St, Cheadle, Cheshire SK8 1BR. 0161 491 2020
Food: 8/10 (bhel puri 8.5, paani puri 8.5, mini idly 7.5, ITR lamb 9, Fish curry 7, rasmalai 7, carrot halwa 7)