Most of us seeing the relentless march of Indian restaurants down every British High Street would not have thought there was a gap left in the market, even to squeeze a samosa through.
But Mahesh Raikar did.
“Indian food is seen as evening food, which you sit down to eat, but there was no alternative to a sit down lunchtime curry,” he tells me at the opening of his 12th Wrapchic outlet at Meadowhall on Monday. Since The No 1 British lunchtime choice is a sandwich, eaten at the desk or on the hoof, a curry poses logistical problems.
Now M&S do a very decent chicken tikka sandwich but try stuffing a portion of rogan josh between two slices of multiseeded and you’ll come a cropper sooner than you can say Taj Mahal. But what about a wrap to replace the bread?
You’d have thought Mahesh, aged 42, from Mumbai, would have plumped for a chapatti but no. “There are issues with a chapatti : it is not so malleable and there is not much taste,” he adds. As for nan bread, there would be too much of it and it would swamp the filling.
So Mahesh, who had always liked Mexican food since running a outlet in the food hall of a Western-style entertainments complex in Mumbai, settled on a tortilla. Stick a curry inside one with rice, beans, sauce, coleslaw and chutney and you have yourself a burrito.
Or a “beautiful burrito” he murmurs, as if uttering the name of a loved one. Which he is. His website says Wrapchic’s mission is to be “the most loved burrito company in the world.”
His business life has taken him from Bombay (Mumbai’s colonial name) to Brum, where his wife Vrushali studied for her MA in architecture while he took up the reins again of a career with the Compass catering group. He rose up through the company like a soufflé but was already planning to go it alone.
He founded the first outlet in Birmingham four years ago and the concept has rapidly spread. He wasn’t stopping in Meadowhall long for by Thursday he was opening another in Dubai. And he has his sights on the USA.
The six meat and two vegetarian fillings are cooked at a central kitchen in Solihull and shipped out to be reheated. You start one end of the counter and a succession of servers fill the tortilla before it is rolled and wrapped. “We can do it in 90 seconds, rather less if it’s a regular,” says Mahesh as he orders for me.
I’ve got one of the favourites, Chicken Mughlai, chicken tikka with tikka sauce, turtle beans, white rice, coleslaw, sour cream and a mild salsa. I pass on the offer to add guacamole after raising my eyebrows at the coleslaw. But this is, sort of, fusion food.
The name Wrapchic is an Indian in-joke, meaning sexy, but I feel anything but sexy eating my burrito at a table. You need to be a teenager to be at ease eating a wrap.
But it is a tasty and lively lunch and pretty healthy: food is grilled rather than fried. On second thoughts, I’d rather have had chutney than sour cream but I liked it. My regular burrito would have cost £5.70 but it was on the house. As I sit down to eat I ask which is his favourite option. “Mutton Madrasi, with 30 spices and cooked in the sauce for hours,” he says. He’s in burrito heaven.
Wrapchic is on the ground floor in the Oasis. Visit www.wrapchic.co.uk