You may or may not have heard of Karam Sethi, but he's the quiet driving force behind some of London's best restaurants – like Michelin starred Trishna and Gymkhana, as well as Sri Lankan hotspot Hoppers. His latest venture, Deliveroo exclusive Motu Indian Kitchen, is reinventing the classic Indian takeaway, and we caught up with him for just long enough to find out how and why.
"It's a part of British culture, getting a curry on a Friday night…"
Karam is matter-of-fact, and gets straight to the point. "I've had the idea to open an Indian delivery kitchen for a couple of years now. Solely on the basis of the lack of quality out there – we spotted a gap in the market. It's a hugely popular cuisine and it's a part of British culture, getting a curry on a Friday night. The demand for it is there, we just felt we could do it a lot better."
So how do you make sure that Motu is better than the rest? "Using better ingredients, and cooking everything to order on a daily basis in a really fresh and classic style. You can't take shortcuts – not using one base sauce – everything is cooked with skill and craft as it would be in India."
"It's not just curry in a box."
As he talks about his vision for the future, Karam mentions another Deliveroo favourite: "When we were opening we looked at Chilli Pickle in Brighton. You can tell that they're using quality produce, their recipes are authentically regional Indian, and there's a lot of thought behind it. It's not just curry in a box."
The Motu method is simple, "It was very much picking the crowd-pleasers: essentially the favourite curry house dishes. So your rogan josh, your korma, your madras prawn. We also do biryanis and then your mixed grill and your keema naan. We do familiar, classic Indian restaurant dishes, but we elevate them using better ingredients, better technique and skill and executing them to – hopefully – a better level."
"We're just going back to the basics and doing it properly."
As you'd expect from a man who was head chef of Trishna at 25, Karam doesn't believe in doing things by halves; "It's the quality of your spices, the quality of the meat, and everything is cooked fresh to order – that's the difference. It's a no-brainer for us, but other operators have got stuck in a lazy rut of serving curry slop. A lot of it is bottled, a lot of it is premade or bought in. We're just going back to basics and doing it properly."
Once you have your vision, you need to execute it – how do you find a crack curry team? "A couple of the guys worked within Trishna and Gymkhana. Raj approached us to come and work for us. He joined as a sous-chef, and we've made him head chef within 3 months." If you'd like to read more about Raj and his story, you can do so here.
"There's nothing better than Sunday, in front of the football, and pre-kick-off, the delivery arrives."
Motu's menu is well stacked with show-stopping fan favourites, but do any of them stand out to Karam? "Probably the keema. It's a classic minced lamb curry, or the chicken biryani – those are two super classic Indian dishes."
And what's the ideal scenario in which to enjoy one of those dishes? "There's nothing better than Sunday, in front of the football. Still in pyjamas, and pre-kick-off the delivery arrives." Hats off to Mr Sethi, he doesn't just know how to run a delivery-only operation, he knows exactly how best to enjoy it too.
"It's an added luxury for people to order great restaurant food delivered."
For a man behind so many successful restaurants, we're interested to get his take on the new delivery market. "There's obviously a huge demand for home delivery. It should be seen as a positive. If you've got people over for dinner, you can get this quality of food. You could order Motu for dinner parties, we can cater for however many people really – we've got the capacity to do so. If people want to lay on an Indian banquet at home, now it's easy."
Speaking of banquets, if you're thinking of having one then Motu's menu famous feast boxes are the perfect solution. Packed full of tasty delights, they take their inspiration straight from the homes and streets of India.
"The idea stemmed from tiffin boxes – a complete meal set up in tiers."
"What you find in India is tiffin boxes, these stainless steel tiered boxes, with a different dish in each box. They're typical in cities like Bombay – it's the standard lunchtime meal. You have these guys, tiffin wallas or dabbawala (dabba means box) who will deliver these boxes to office workers and so on. Across a few boxes you have your main dish, bread, some rice, dal, a veg dish or two, plus roti, raita and maybe a dessert – so it's a complete meal set up in tiers. You give the box back the next day and get a fresh one the day after. It's totally ingrained in Indian culture, so the idea stemmed from that."
So, there you have it: the ins and outs of the latest venture from restaurateur extraordinaire Karam Sethi. When he speaks about Motu's attempt to raise the bar, he's full of passion and ambition to set a new standard for Indian takeaway, and it's infectious. He leaves us with an insight into perhaps the best perk of any job, ever: "I cheat and on Sunday nights, I send food in a cab from one of the kitchens to my flat. I do weekly taste tests – you know, for quality control."
We should all be so lucky. If you want to try out Motu's indulgent Indian cuisine for yourself, then head over to Deliveroo and see if they are available in your area.