MW Eat acquires the Criterion Restaurant site in Piccadilly Circus for Masala Zone

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

MW Eat acquires the Criterion Restaurant site in Piccadilly Circus for Masala Zone

Related tags MW Eat Masala Zone Ranjit Mathrani

Chutney Mary and Amaya operator MW Eat has taken the Criterion Restaurant site in London’s Piccadilly Circus for its more informal Masala Zone brand.

The high-profile acquisition marks a return to growth for the brand, which at one point had seven locations in the capital and was eyeing nationwide expansion. 

Masala Zone Piccadilly Circus is anticipated to have around 180 covers and will join sites in Soho, Covent Garden and Earl’s Court when it launches towards the end of next month.

Masala Zone was launched as an affordable counterpoint to the influential group’s flagship Chutney Mary​ and Amaya and Veeraswamy (the latter two hold Michelin stars) in 2001 but has moved into premium casual territory in more recent years. 

One of London’s best known restaurant premises

Adjacent to the London landmark’s famous statue of Eros, the Grade-II listed site launched in 1873 and is one of London’s best known restaurant premises. 

Notable tenants include Bob Payton’s My Kinda Town Restaurant Group and Marco Pierre White. More recently, it was operated by the Gatto family as Savini At Criterion. 

The site is understood to have been vacant since before the pandemic, with MW Eat taking on a new lease with the site’s landlord Criterion Group.  

“This area has been a long-standing target of ours, in fact we have been searching for sites here for the past 15 years," says MW Eat's chairman Ranjit Mathrani. "As a large site it meets our requirements. We continue to search for locations for Masala Zone but we have to be pragmatic given the challenges the industry is facing, not least staffing.” 

A design that does not impact the fabric of the building

The group has had to come up with a design that does not impact the fabric of the building, at least those parts that are Grade-II listed.  

“It has been complicated. We have had to create a more-or-less self-standing visual concept involving screens that don’t touch the walls," Mathrani continues. "We can’t touch the ceiling either, which means we have had to create an internal lattice work of grills to suspend the lighting from.” 

The dining space will feature a vibrant colour scheme of deep purples, bold reds and rich greens alongside metallic panels housing sculptures and paintings from India. 

Masala Zone Piccadilly Circus' menu will consist of ‘showstopping’ grazing dishes such as sprouted lentil bhel, vada pao sliders and gourmet grills including Lucknowi lamb biriyani and paneer tikka, alongside regional curries and thalis. 

Masala Zone Piccadilly Circus will be initially open for lunch and dinner; but will offer afternoon tea from around a month after launch with breakfast set to launch later this year. 

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