Food: Open the box

No time to leave your desk for lunch? Fed up with the same sandwiches every day? Caroline Stacey reports on the companies catering for stressed execs, with tasty take-away lunchboxes (and not a bag of crisps in sight). Photographs by Ross Kirkman

Mash 19-21 Great Portland Street, W1 (0171-291 1500), Mash & Air 40 Chorlton Street, Manchester (0161-661 6161). The Mash box is set to take off, with a vastly elevated version of the airline meal from the two cool restaurants and microbreweries - Mash & Air in Manchester and Mash London. Available now in London from the deli counter, imminently in Manchester, the contents of the boxes are cooked in the restaurants' kitchens and can be picked up or delivered for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Menus change weekly, but there's always a breakfast box, fish box, meat box and veggie box for pounds 12.90 each for three courses. Other boxes range from a pounds 10 box of cookies, to pounds 25 deluxe box of three classy courses. Each see-through box has three levels: cutlery, napkins and condiments on top, starter and main course underneath, and the pudding layer with Mash cookies at the bottom. If these lamb chops look deliciously juicy, that's because they are, but don't expect them hot. This box is far too cool to go in the microwave. Other temperate, transparently tempting Mash meals-to-go might include guinea fowl with rocket salad and roast tomatoes or a toasted ciabatta sandwich with mozzarella and roast peppers.

Deliverance (0500 888800/fax 0171-801 0017). For a very, very late lunch. You don't even have to get out of bed to fetch it; just be prepared to answer the door when your repast arrives. Deliveries start at 5.30pm, although genuine lunch-time deliveries are promised soon. Top- of-the-range take-aways come from a Battersea-based service that distributes to the more central areas of south-west London, north and south of the river - ie, Chelsea and Wandsworth, yes, Brixton, no, Tooting, no. To take-away food what Harvey Nichols is to the cornershop, the menu is divided by cuisines, each cooked by its own chef - Thai, Indian, Chinese, pizza, even salad. Deliverance came out top in a recent contest between London's delivered meals, beating even ethnic specialists. Around 35 minutes after placing your order, it's brought round any evening of the week in a corrugated cardboard tote box with a handle, inside which are natty sealed transparent containers for runny dishes, American-style take-away boxes if they're not - either way, there's no red grease leaking into a brown paper bag. "We get a lot of praise for our packaging," says Rowan Blacker, one of the deliverers. A meal for two, pounds 14 to pounds 20.

Cranks (above) 8 Marshall Street, London W1 (0171-437 9431) and branches. Sunny-coloured cardboard cartons contain the hot dishes - jacket potato (pounds 1.95), light lasagne, roasted vegetables and couscous (pounds 3.25) and stir-fry (pounds 2.95) - to take away, but only temporarily distract from the fact that the vegetarian chain has run out of steam, despite jazzier packaging.

Sofra Cafe (right) 145 High Holborn, London WC1 (0171-430 0430) and branches. Transparently excellent take-away boxes from this estimable chain of Turkish cafes may not be as stylish as a cardboard tuckbox, but the meze of kisir, imam bayildi, hummous, manca, taboulleh, and falafel for pounds 2.90 beats all the others for value and variety. Or take away the clear plastic container filled with basmati rice and kofte, chicken, lamb or vegetarian casserole for pounds 3.10.

Cafe Plaza (far right) 7a Hanover Street, London W1 (0171-629 4361). Part of the JAL designer mini-market - all very echt Japanese - this little luncheonette does a bento box (Japanese for a meal in a compartmentalised box) of rice and a meat dish, pickles and salad for pounds 6. A snip for a Nippon tuck box.

Lunch (above) 60 Exmouth Market, EC1 (0171-278 2420). Matthew Conrad is the originator of Lunch (why didn't any one think of the name before), the filling alternative to the sandwich bar, putting a box around salady lunches. It only opened in the spring, but already another has just opened in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Conrad, a solicitor who decided to change direction, believed he was best qualified to tackle the midday meal, "because it's what I had most experience of as a consumer. Lunch was so important to me, I'd think about it from 11am, but more often than not I was disappointed." He'd lived in the States, and watched LA Law often enough to envy their take-away lunchboxes, then tracked down the cartons here. Now his staff fill them with a selection of substantial salads - chicken with cashew nuts, chilli and honey; potato, sweet-and- sour grilled pumpkin and courgette; spicy chick peas, at pounds 3.50 for three, or maybe char-grilled tuna Nicoise (more expensive at pounds 6.95), kept as separate from each other as possible by lettuce leaf compartments. Even risottos and posh hot dogs - duck and orange sausage in a roll - have been turned into a packed lunch. If you eat in the boxy concrete cafe, you still do it from the disposable container

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?