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
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine