Restaurants: Take-home treasures

You don't have to book a table at a trendy eatery to taste the best food
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It used to be the case that if you wanted restaurant food you booked your table and spent your lunchtime or evening at the establishment of your choice (or phoned your local Indian, Chinese or Pizza place). But now a growing number of eateries are coming up with different ways of ensuring that you can eat their food whenever and wherever you want.

At Mash, just off Oxford Street in London, you can tuck into a three- course meal at any time of the day or evening thanks to its exclusively designed "Mashboxes". The trendy opaque plastic boxes have three layers. The top section holds the cutlery, napkins and condiments; the middle section the starter and the main course; while the bottom layer contains dessert and, to round off your meal, some freshly-baked cookies. The menu changes weekly and customers can choose from meat, fish and vegetarian options for pounds 12.90 each or, if you want to impress or indulge, there's an pounds 18.50 version with Sevrugar caviar and smoked salmon and a pounds 25 version with foie gras.

According to a spokeswoman for Mash, the boxes are proving popular for a variety of reasons: "Some people just want a proper meal but don't have time to sit down in a restaurant, so they'll have a Mashbox at their desk. Others call in on their way home from work because they are too tired to cook."

And it's not just Londoners who can sample Mash-style food away from the restaurant. Mashboxes are being introduced at Mash & Air in Manchester from next month. Meanwhile, Gresslin's in Hampstead will not only deliver its Modern European food to local residences but, for an extra pounds 50, it will provide you with a chef who will cook a whole meal for you in your own home. "It started a few years ago," explains manager Robert Holland. "Regular customers approached us about catering for dinner parties. Originally they just wanted us to cook the food so they could serve it up themselves, but then we hit on the idea of sending one of our chefs, because not all dishes travel brilliantly. It's been incredibly popular, especially in an area like this, where people have big dining-rooms, big kitchens and little wish to cook for themselves."

And you don't have to be in the Hampstead set to be able to enjoy food from top chefs at home, or at least their recipes. Gary Rhodes's "Rhodes to Home" range, offering dishes such as salmon fishcakes and bread-and- butter pudding, is now available in many supermarkets.

Mashboxes are available from Mash, 19-21 Great Portland St, London W1 (0171-291 1500) and Mash & Air, 40 Chorlton St, Manchester M1 (0161-661 6161)

LUXURY DOOR-TO-DOOR DELIVERIES

Gresslin's

13 Heath St, Hampstead, London NW3 (0171-794 8386)

Customers can either collect their food part-cooked or it can be delivered (at an additional cost). For 10 or more people, Gresslin's (left) will provide a chef in your own home, and even a waiter should you require. Meals are charged at ordinary restaurant prices (minus service), which is usually about pounds 23 a head.

Chutney Mary

553 King's Rd, London SW10 (0171-351 3113)

This popular gourmet Indian restaurant has introduced a delivery service to selected London areas, but this is probably not a quick-curry-after- the-pub option - it's only for orders in excess of pounds 100. But you can also order its food through Room Service (0171-431 5555), which is one of a number of companies which can arrange to deliver takeaways from a large selection of restaurants to your home.

Sonny's

94 Church Rd, Barnes, London SW13 (0181-748 0393)

Like a growing number of places (including Conran restaurants such as The Bluebird, Pont de la Tour and Mezzo), this re-vamped Modern British restaurant has an adjacent shop which sells ready-made food similar to that served next door.

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