Ameya Saraf rests an elbow on the counter of Indian Tiffins, a backpack slung over his shoulder and a small paper cup of chai in one hand, on Monday evening.
“It’s satiating, it’s satisfying, it’s tasty,” he says, taking a sip.
Saraf craves this tea, and savours it while he’s here in the Parnell Street cafe, he says. “Whenever I have this kind of a craving, I come here.”
He hadn’t been able to get tea like this elsewhere, before coming across Indian Tiffins, he says.
Indian Tiffins co-owner Shashidhar Reddy says when the café opens on weekday mornings at 9am, there’s usually a hungry handful of workers waiting.
But for Saraf, the chai reminds him of a cup he might pick up from a small tea shop in his home city of Mumbai in the evenings after work, he says.
“I am a tea drinker. Even back in India, I drink tea in the evening,” he says.
A Bigger Place
Before Indian Tiffins opened, Reddy had another business in the city: the Quik Pick convenience store on Ryder’s Row.
“After my MBA, I worked as a manager at Spar for 10 years. And then I started Quik Pick, five years ago,” says Reddy.
They started to cook and serve dosas at Quik Pick in 2019, he says. With the pandemic, and a fall in customers, he began to do Irish breakfasts too, he says. “I had all this equipment there that I had to utilise.”
Customers at Quik Pick started telling him he needed a bigger space, he says. And he had noticed restaurants closing during the pandemic, so he thought there was room for more, he says.
Indian Tiffins, which Reddy owns with his friend and business partner Shekhar Bhutkur, opened in October 2021.
“I thought it was the right time,” Reddy says.
The door from Parnell Street opens to a counter on the right. Behind the counter are packaged Indian snacks and drinks and a small refrigerator to chill the drinks.
Further inside are 10 wooden tables and benches.
Serving Indian breakfasts has been a big focus, says Reddy. He didn’t think there was much around, he says.
At Indian Tiffins, the turnaround time for an order of dosas – the south Indian pancakes often stuffed with potatoes, served with coconut chutney and a watery lentil curry – can be less than 10 minutes.
Dosas are not the only thing on the menu, though.
On the Menu
Saraf, sipping his chai, says he’s been to Indian Tiffins with friends for food in the evening.
The southern Indian cuisine is as authentic as what Saraf would pick up from his home city of Mumbai, he says. “It exactly matches the taste of what we get back in India.”
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, those in the kitchen cook up chhole bhature, a chickpea curry with fried flatbread, and vada pav, a kind of Indian burger made with traditional bread and a potato patty.
They also offer dabeli, a snack similar to vada pav but also with pomegranate and peanuts, and misal pav, a sprout curry served with bread.
“We introduced north Indian stuff so that customers don’t get bored,” says Reddy. “On weekends, we do biryanis.”
“We do Hyderabadi biryani with meat on the bone,” he says, which is rare in Dublin.
Reddy and Bhutkur have employed three chefs: one for biryani, the second for north Indian food, and the third for dosa.
Sasima Bhutkur, Shekhar Bhutkur’s wife, prepares the bestseller: the dosa. “I’m not a chef, but I love to cook,” she says.
She missed the taste of her mother’s and sister’s dishes when she moved to Dublin in 2009, she says.
“I want whoever is from India and enjoys dosa, idli and vada, to feel that there’s a place where they can find the things they like to eat,” she says.
Bringing the Spice
Sasima – who is from Hyderabad, like her husband Shekhar, and Reddy – says that Indian Tiffins’ main aim was to make spicy food.
“Anywhere you go in Dublin, you don’t find spicy food. Even though there is Indian food, it’s a mix-and-match because they want everybody to visit,” she says.
Reddy also stresses that Indian Tiffins makes spicy food.
“We want to give people proper Indian food, including the spice level and everything. We know our target audience and we’ve reached that place,” he says.
Says Sasima: “If our customers say ‘We know that the food is spicy and that’s why we’re here’, it makes us so happy.”
The restaurant is already growing, says Reddy. “We started with four staff members. At the moment, we are around 20.”
They’re hiring too, he says. “So we’ll be close to 25 in a couple of months.”
They deliver via UberEats and Deliveroo. “On an average, we do 50 deliveries a day,” he says. “That’s our secret. We don’t share this with anyone.”
A server comes over and tries to get Reddy’s attention, but he continues to chat.
“All my customers – or 90 percent of them – follow Indian Tiffins on Instagram and so they know the day’s special. That’s how they come every evening and until late in the night. They treat it like their own place,” he says.
Students get 15 percent off too, he says.