I think we were some of the first people to go and try Tandoori Flame a few years ago when they opened. To be honest, we didn't expect much from this little Indian restaurant in Chorlton, the decor looked like a scruffy Rusholme Café and it was empty.
The food though was sensational. We've been back several times since. But here's the problem. The interior is still awful, there is no atmosphere and there is often no other customers in there. The decoration is so amateurish with black walls and terrible lighting. Although they have spruced it up recently a little with fairy lights.
We decided to just get take-outs from there from now on, for that fantastic spicy home cooked comfort food.
There's another problem though. The service. We clearly have a situation where the husband is the chef and his wife is the (reluctant?) front of house. But here's the thing; I don't feel that she has a natural aptitude for this type of work. (I know I wouldn't be able to do it either). When you see a really good waiter or waitress who have real charm, it's an admirable skill, but not everyone can take to it immediately. A gregarious sociable character trait is helpful in a client based industry. They never seem to remember us, despite us being fairly regular for years, and sadly I don't detect much warmth which is useful when dealing face to face with customers. However, this can be worked on with a little effort.
Running a successful restaurant is a lot more than good food, but for me, Tandoori Flame currently only has this one element right.
So we ordered a take-out, we had Chicken Makhani Ka (£7.95) which comes with Pilau rice, also a Garlic Nan, (£1.95) with some Poppadoms which are included as our bill was over £15. I calculated that our total should have come to just under £18, but we were charged over £20. It was either a mistake or the extra poppadom I'd asked for cost me £2. This was quite irritating as most local take aways give you a few extra anyway.
The Chicken Makhani's were delicious, warm comforting and creamy with a hint of spice. Slightly lacking the smokiness of my favourite, The Great Kathmandu, but very enjoyable all the same. The poppadoms were not quite as fresh as they could have been, but the dips were excellent. The nan was pretty good with real pieces of garlic, the chicken quality was passable, and the rice was ok.
But £20 for a takeaway for two is just a little too expensive.
It's sad to see a restaurant like Tandoori Flame not do as well as it should.
I always try and be constructive in my criticisms, but I have to be honest. With so much competition for Indian eateries in Chorlton and with Coriander soon to be their next door neighbours, these are my main points;
1. Re-decorate. The room is uninviting and poorly lit as it currently is. It needs a little imagination, small can be cosy, this space isn't. Why is the new Indian restaurant Sher Akbar in Chorlton so busy when their food may not actually be any better? There's your answer (in part, customer service is another).
2. Work on customer skills. Be interactive. Make an effort to ask them how they are, chat - you want them to return! I love the food, but will go to a competitor who treats me like he wants me there and is delighted to see me again, he treats me like a long lost friend. He understands that a happy customer is a returning customer.
3. The pricing needs attention. Don't forget you want me to return again and again. Repeat customers are your lifeblood. Give me a few extra poppadoms, offer me some shots of cheap baileys at the end if I sit in. You may lose a few pennies, but you'll gain plenty of pounds when I return.
It all works to entice me back.
These are some of the reasons why Tandoori Flame appears to be struggling.
I'd love to see it survive, but they have to understand that a profitable restaurant is not just about great food it's about making the effort to give the customer a pleasant experience as a whole.
A successful restaurant is partly the food, partly the service and partly the atmosphere.
Unfortunately right now Tandoori Flame has only achieved success in one of these areas which is why they are so often empty.
Price: £20 for a take away for two is not value for money.
Service: Not overly friendly.
Atmosphere: There is none.
Star dish: Chicken Makhani Ka.
This review is based on several visits.