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michelin guide, OCTOBER 2016


It may have opened in 1926 but this celebrated Indian restaurant just keeps getting better and better! The classic dishes from across the country are prepared with considerable care and it's run with great charm and enormous pride.

The 20 best restaurants

The Observer, 28 April 2013,

Written by Jay Rayner

To celebrate 10 years of the Observer Food Monthly Awards, Jay Rayner picks the best restaurants of the past decade.  How to sum up a decade's shameless eating in just 20 restaurants? After all I've written about well over 500 and gorged in a whole bunch more out of plain greed. That's a lot of lunch.

The only way, I concluded, was with extreme prejudice. So no big names make it in just for being so. They still have to be serving up great, interesting food. In the end, I came up with a simple test: did writing about the restaurant make me hungry? In each case, yes.

This list, compiled because it's the 10th Observer Food Monthly Awards this year, is not ranked. These 20 are all equal. I wanted a geographical spread, although I can't apologise that there are more in London than anywhere else. The capital has a greater concentration of good places in which to eat. That's not my fault. But this list does get out and about, much as I always have.

Of course, a best restaurant list is a fight waiting to happen. If you're reading this you will already have your opinions. Some of my choices will make you cheer. Some of them will make you roll your eyes. A lot of them, I hope, will make you just as hungry.

Amaya, London

The notion of the big-ticket Indian restaurant has never quite worked in Britain. Partly it's our own expectations. There are literally thousands of cheap curry houses in the UK. As a result we find it hard to get our heads around paying serious wedge for curries, whose names we recognise from those budget joints. And then there's the restaurants themselves. In reaching for ideas of luxe, the kick and fire of the food, the very thing we come for, gets blanded out; it feels like a desperate echo of itself. Sure, you get a better quality of tablecloth. You get more waiters and better lighting, but the rest of it, drawn from the international hotel sector in India where most of the chefs at the top end train, feels corporate, one long exercise in blah.

Amaya, in Belgravia, is an exception. From the moment it opened in 2005, it was clearly something different. Sure, it was night-time shiny. The lights twinkled. The seats were comfortable. But the food still retained its power. Of course, it's Belgravia expensive. But there's no reason why we should be less willing to pay big numbers for Indian food, than say French or Japanese, other than cultural snobbery.

At the heart of the restaurant and the food is an open kitchen with super-heated tandoor ovens and flaming grills. Come here, then, for smokey kebabs, chargrilled seafood, for glorious breads, great chutneys and pickles and some especially good sealed pot biryanis.

Amaya, Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street, London SW1. 020 7823 1166; Meal for two £140.

The Spice Merchant,
Restaurant Magazine, uk, February 2011

Written by Joe Lutrario

Ranjit Mathrani’s Masala World operates 10 restaurants in central London, but now looks set to take its authentic Indian food and high service standards nationwide

Ranjit Mathrani is not your typical restaurateur. A former investment banker, he spent much of his career managing merchant banks and advising governments and corporations on privatisations and large-scale project financing. But a head for numbers and strong stomach for risk and deals happen to be highly relevant experience for running a group of restaurants.

Initially his involvement with the restaurant was born of a desire to catalyse and monetise the talents of his wife and sister-in-law but as things progressed it became clear that restaurant business had been in his blood all along.

The first challenge Mathrani set the group remains his biggest to date: to bring authentic Indian cooking to the mid-market and take on the curry houses at their own game. Masala Zone, now the largest branded Indian restaurant outfit in the UK, was born.

It may come as a surprise that the boss of a group gamed for the authenticity and quality of its food believes service is a more important attribute to a restaurant than cooking. As a rule, investment bankers spend a lot of time in restaurants, and Mathrani was not exception. His former career saw him experience hospitality at all levels – restaurants and hotels, airlines and conferences all over the world.

He says, ‘People come to enjoy themselves, the quality of the food is a backcloth, Warmth and friendliness is paramount. When people come to a restaurant they spend their money but even more importantly they spend their time. You have to give a good overall experience – you can’t hide behind good food.’

The Span of Control, 
EP business in hospitality Magazine, uk, January 2012

Written by Arlene Tobin

Over the course of the last two decades masala world has grown into the largest Indian branded restaurant Chain in the UK. With three Fine dining venues and seven ‘Masala Zone’ outlets, Directors Ranjit Mathrani, his wife Namita Panjabi and sister-in-law Camellia Panjabi epitomise true entrepreneurial spirit and how structure and procedures can be as important to the success of a restaurant chain as the food and beverage offerings themselves. Arlene Tobin met Ranjit and Camellia to find out what sets them apart.

Masala World comprises the fine dining establishments: Chutney Mary (purchased by Namita in 1990), Veeraswamy (London’s oldest Indian restaurant, which the trio took over and reopened in 1997) and Amaya (opened in 2004), operating alongside the seven Masala Zone restaurants, which opened the doors to its first venue in Soho in 2001. As a group Masala World has in excess of 350 employees, welcomes around 18,000 guests through its collective doors each week and has an annual turnover in the region of £20million.

Where some may baulk at the idea of working with a sibling or partner this intrepid trio of family members have created a working relationship which accentuates the talents and know-how of each player. Both Camellia and Namita are well regarded the world over as leading authorities on authentic Indian cuisine.

As a financier, Ranjit places a high value on the importance of systems, procedures and CRM. With this in mind the company has gone against what many would see as the norm and with centralised restaurant stock control, budget planning and P&L management from the on-site management team. Managers’ time is freed up to allow them to ensure the guest experience is enhanced rather than thinking about the bottomline. That, say Ranjit, is his responsibility. This model enables the company to strictly monitor each venue’s profitability, stock control, most popular dishes, return clientele and so on. As opposed to running a business based on opinions and one-off events, Ranjit can monitor the company as a whole with all the relevant data.

Proactively sought customer feedback is also essential to this business model. Between 800 and 1,000 customer feedback cards are collected every week and a team at the company’s head office in Marble Arch sift through each and every one looking for ways to improve upon the high standards set by Ranjit, Camellia and Namita.