It’s usually a hopeful sign if an Indian restaurant has a small menu. It’s less likely that a standard masala base has been used to cook all the (fast food) dishes and instead a fresh and distinctive masala has been cooked for each dish — as it should be. But I save my real test to end. Does the restaurant serve proper masala chai or not? All too often the answer is no: we do tea with a teabag, sir. However there are exceptions: I am happy to report that Mumtaz up in Bradford does a wonderful chai, no problem. No wonder the Queen has visited the place.
Help may soon be on the way to solving the general paucity of chai in Indian restaurants. A company in my town of Leicester has started to produce instant chai. (No, I’m not on commission.) What heresy is this, I hear you ask? Out of curiosity we tried some at home just before Eid, and much to our surprise it was really rather good. They are producing it in cardamom, ginger and masala varieties, all with a nice zing to them and all you have to do is to add water (and a bit of milk to get a properly creamy effect). It might not beat the homemade variety but it gets pretty close — and only takes a minute to make. Surely that’s efficient enough to tempt any restaurateur?