The Tiffin Cup at The Taj Mahal

St Leonards on Sea is a winner! As a resident, it’s not every day you get to say that.

A small backstreet Indian restaurant The Taj Mahal serves fabulous, and authentic Indian food. They opened over a year ago, and as soon as we saw the writing on the window “South Indian” and “vegetarian and non vegetarian” it grabbed our attention. Oggling the menu of Dosa’s, Vada, Bonda, Idly, and main dishes of Elephant Yam Curry, Garlic Curry, Lemon or Tamarind Rice, we were in through the door before you could say Veg Thali!

Taj Mahal

We were their first customers, and we’ve been going back regularly ever since, working our way through the menu, returning for old favourites and sampling the specials menu, taking our friends and generally waxing lyrical about Lakshmi’s cooking.


Having got to know the owners, and eaten many a meal there we arranged for some of our photos, taken on trips to India, to be printed up and framed; a shot of the Taj Mahal, fishing nets on the backwaters in Kerala, mountain views in North India decorate the walls of this little restaurant.


As their success as a restaurant has continued to grow, they have expanded the restaurant to next door, and we’ve  been asked to provide some more prints. We have to chose images that reflect South India, that are colourful, distinct, and will reproduce well. We all agreed that we need to think big with distinctive images. One shot is of Krishna’s Butter Ball, Mahabalipuram.

And the Tiffin Cup ? It’s an annual competition to find the best Indian restaurant in the UK and is organised by the MP’s in the Houses of Parliament who nominate restaurants in their constituency. A final shortlist of 12 restaurants is voted for by the MP’s and a “cook-off” is held. And yes, a few months ago our favourite restaurant is the overall winner. Amazing. And as a bonus, Lakshmi was the first female chef to be a winner.

And what did she serve the MP’s?  Elephant Yam Curry, which we sampled the night before the contest, gently flavoured and spiced, a quintessential South Indian vegetable dish.

After the announcement we joked that we would have to start booking a table up to 3 months in advance. Today those predictions are coming true, they have taken bookings for 2 months time, plus bookings for Christmas; many of the new customers are from those who heard they had won the Tiffin Cup.

I’m chuffed to bits for them, I just hope we can get a table the next time we visit!


My Mountain Man and I are published photographers! Wooo Hooooo !

The Tiffin Cup – Hastings Observer, Wikipedia, and the Taj Mahal restaurant.


  • what a wonderful story, and your beautiful pics are on the wall too! My sad story is that there are no indian restaurants out here in the boonies.. and I love Indian food.. c

  • It’s great to see a place that you love and frequent do so well. I’ve a feeling that you’ll always have a standing reservation at whatever restaurant they own. They’d be risking bare walls should you be turned away! 🙂

    • You know you are right John, there have been a couple of times when we’ve been able to sneak in 🙂 They are such lovely people so I’m really happy for them

  • Wow. That’s fascinating. And congratulations. I haven’t really tried much Indian food so I can only imagine what elephant yam curry tastes like.

    • 🙂 I ‘ve enjoyed sharing their story (and ours). I’ll have to make my own Elephant Yam curry one day, that way I’d be able to describe it better!

  • Congratulations for your friends. This is so proud of story. I wished to visit too. And also how beautiful your photographs on the wall. This is great. Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, with my love, nia

  • I, like Cecilia, have no local source for Indian food. LOL, I once bought an Indian cuisine cook book hoping to be able to recreate those wonderful flavors at home, but sadly, though the pictures were wonderful and exotic, the recipes were junk, and lacked substance. Perhaps it could have been that the recipes were not traditional and too Americanized, I can’t say. Or it could have just been the cook? How wonderful for the restaurant and for you! ~ Lynda

  • That’s so lovely how awesome it must be to see your photos on the wall and to be a part of the restaurant

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