Tiffin - pushing the envelope of Indian cuisine in Berlin
Sachin Obaid's delivery service is bringing Berliners the homemade cuisine he grew up with. The Michelin star chef Tim Raue is a fan.
Berlin-Sachin Obaid, originally from Kerala in southern India, is the co-founder of Tiffin, a high-end Indian food delivery service that launched last December. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the start-up brings about 100 orders to doorsteps across Berlin.
What’s the story behind Tiffin?
I worked in investment banking in my twenties. I had a couple of start-ups and then set up a media agency called Took Took focussed on content creation and storytelling with photography and video. I worked with a lot of gastronomy clients, so I met my co-founder Suleman Thakar, the general manager of the Thai restaurant Khwan. He’s from Pakistan and came to Berlin six or seven years ago as a refugee. He got a job as a dishwasher at Khwan and, within a few years, worked his way up to become general manager and a partner in the business.
You connected over food.
Karachi, where Suleman grew up, is very much a migrant city where you get food from all over Pakistan. A lot of people in Karachi are migrants from India that moved there after partition. A lot of the food he grew up with you'll find in India as well. His experience is more on the northern Indian side, while mine is on the southern side. His palate and my palate are quite different so together we’re able to represent a large part of the cuisine.
How did you actually get Tiffin off the ground?
Suleman had some time off since the restaurant Khwan is on a break because of Covid, so we decided to do it as an experiment. We were talking about it in November and launched in December. We got some help from our friend Zed who owns Moksa. We used his prep kitchen and his staff. We put together a menu and just put it out there to test the waters, not knowing what would happen. The affection we got from our communities has been very strong because our food is very good. We take a lot of care in terms of how we procure our ingredients, how we look at packaging, how we look at the delivery process. All our food is cooked on the day of delivery. Everything’s very, very fresh. We only work by pre-order. Our menu comes out Monday mornings and then people start ordering for the weekend.
It appears to be a runaway success.
I don’t want to toot my own horn too much. It’s been a lot of hard work, and we’ve been very lucky. We got a lot of media coverage. And we were lucky that someone like Tim Raue stopped by early on. We have quite a few Michelin star chefs ordering from us, which is cool to see.
Honestly: would you have set up a delivery-only service before Covid?
It probably wouldn’t have happened the same way. What has helped is that you see the top restaurants doing takeaway and delivery. People realise they can get a dinner at home that is the equivalent of what they get in a restaurant. That’s part of our success.
Tiffin is branded as “Indian soul food”.
For us it’s just about memories from home. The simple things on the menu are what we eat daily. The idea of tiffin is home-cooked food. Some of it might seem a little fancy, but we do cook it at home, maybe on special occasions. In India, restaurant culture is very new. Good food is generally eaten at people’s homes. I lived in London for a long time. The quality of Indian food there is incredible. It doesn’t exist here outside of maybe the India Club at the Adlon Hotel. That’s a very particular kind of cream-based, heavy North Indian cuisine. We want to introduce people to other things. It’s not the chicken tikka masalas, the jalfrezis, the vindaloos etc. There’s so much more to Indian food.
Tiffin is pricier than most Indian food in Berlin.
It’s definitely not cheap because we try our best to deliver the best experience possible.
What are your bestsellers?
What sells well are dishes that our community has never tried before. Things like our mushroom dish from Andhra Pradesh or fish curry from Goa. There is a lot of love for these dishes because we’re introducing new flavours and showing the depth of what Indian food can be.