Ruby Murrays Executive Chef David Benavidez in the kitchen at Wishbone Farms in Southampton. ANNETTE HINKLE
Ruby Murray's owner Edward Brooks was looking to recreate the Indian flavors from his native U.K. ANNETTE HINKLE
Ruby Murray's Chana Chaat Salad, split chickpeas, English cucumber, tomatoes, mint, cilantro, pomegranate, crispy chickpea and rice crumble tamarind vinaigrette. ANNETTE HINKLE
Ruby Murray's Saag Paneer, cheese cubes, tomato and red onion jam, green chili and spinach purée, cilantro. ANNETTE HINKLE
Ruby Murray's Rogan Josh, boneless leg of lamb braised in yogurt, Kashmiri spices and chili. ANNETTE HINKLE
A trio of Ruby Murray's chutneys, tamarind,fresh mint-cilantro and red chili-garlic. ANNETTE HINKLE
Ruby Murray's mixed vegetable pakoras. ANNETTE HINKLE
A selection of appetizers at Ruby Murrays. ANNETTE HINKLE
Ruby Murrays samosas. ANNETTE HINKLE
Ruby Murrays saag paneer on the stove. KARL AULT
The Ruby Murrays menu offers Indian specialties to go. KARL AULT
Ruby Murrays Indian food specialties on the stove. KARL AULT
A Ruby Murrays order getting ready to go out the door. KARL AULT
In the spring of 2020, like so many other people, Edward Brooks moved to Southampton looking to escape COVID-19 after it first surfaced in New York City. Once he got here, however, the Glasgow, Scotland, native realized that, away from the big city, he was missing a particular cuisine from his home country. Not fish and chips, mind you, but Indian food, which first appeared in the U.K. in the 19th century, owing to India being a British colony for so many years, and in the 1950s and 1960s, really took off when recipes were adapted for the British palate.
So looking to bring a little of his hometown (and the sub-continent) to the East End, last month, Brooks opened Ruby Murrays, a British-style slow-cooked Indian food outlet offering some of his favorite dishes. But there’s no sit-down service here. Instead, this Southampton-based venture is strictly pick up or delivery only and it specializes in offering a small, but refined and changing menu which is served Friday through Sunday on a preorder basis. Meaning when it’s sold out, it’s gone for the day.
Operating as a ghost kitchen from Wishbone Farms gourmet store on Hampton Road, the Ruby Murrays crew arrives in late afternoon, as the storefront is closing for the day, and they cook into the evening in the professional kitchen in the back of the space. The process starts a day or two before the first orders go out, with recipes that require marinating and slow cooking that can take 24 to 48 hours to prepare.
Brooks explained that his dream for Ruby Murrays had been simmering, so
to speak, for some time, but when a previous attempt to secure a location for his vision fell through, he came up with another plan.
“In the depths of winter and with time on my hands, I met with the Wishbone Farms guys and said, ‘What do you do with the kitchen? Will you rent it to us?’” recalled Brooks. “This is the next evolution of the Hamptons. They’re good people and totally open for it.”
In addition to Brooks, the team includes general manager Ryan Glasson, who comes to the project with an extensive background in the East End restaurant business and handles a lot of the upfront logistics, including deliveries across the South Fork, and executive chef David Benavidez who, on a recent Thursday evening, was found manning the stove in the back of the house, cooking savory butter chicken, richly spiced lamb rogan josh, saag paneer and chicken tikka masala, to name a few of the main courses on offer that evening.
These are the dishes that are specific to Brooks’s memory and his love of the flavors of Indian food in the U.K., but also on the menu were appetizers like vegetable pakoras, phyllo dough samosas and Benavidez’s own creation – the chana chaat salad (chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, mint, cilantro, pomegranate, crispy chickpea and rice crumble with tamarind vinaigrette).
Benavidez’s goal with the dishes is to raise the flavor profiles of what is often considered to be late night take-out food in the U.K. and bring it to a more sophisticated level. The chicken tikka masala is a good example of that. A dish that is often made with food coloring or tomato juice in Britain to give it a reddish hue, Benavidez’s version is made with ginger, garlic, a spice blend, yogurt, ghee, red onion, cilantro, lemon and honey along with his own tomato jam that’s added to the curry sauce and braised down from there.
“I refined that dish to our tastes and I’m really happy with it,” said Benavidez. “Our butter chicken is more subtle with sweeter spices and a lot of cream and finished with lemon and honey. The saag paneer is a great vegetarian option, it’s got spinach, arugula, ginger, garlic, spices and some fried paneer that we braise down to infuse the spinach flavor in it.”
But ultimately, Benavidez’s favorite curry dish at Ruby Murrays is the lamb rogan josh.
“This is one of those dishes where I took a lot of time making sure I got it right,” he said. “It’s boneless lamb leg that’s marinated in spices, ginger and garlic then braised in lamb stock and cooked slow and low till it’s tender. Then there’s yogurt spiced with Kashmirian chili and it’s finished with ratanjot, a bark that is the same color as hibiscus. I infuse ghee with the ratanjot and then pour the ghee into the finished product to get that rich color.”
Once the dishes are finished cooking and ready to go, the Ruby Murrays crew takes it upon themselves to deliver the food to waiting customers from Westhampton to East Hampton and up to Sag Harbor.
It may be unusual to find that the guys running the place are also often the ones jumping in their car to do the deliveries, but Brooks and Glasson have learned a lot about their clientele by handling this aspect of the business themselves rather than outsourcing the job to a food delivery service like Uber Eats or Door Dash.
“The pivotal conversation was on the first night,” said Brooks. “This guy texted me and said, ‘Where’s my order?’ I drove it to him and he opens the door and he’s Indian. I’m like, ‘Oh no.’ He takes it and then at 7:15, he texted and said, ‘Can we talk?’
“I was open to suggestions. He said that it was really good. The paneer just needs to soak a bit longer,” he added. “Here we were, late, and he still loved the food.”
Glasson had a similar experience. After jumping in to help out on food deliveries one night when several things went array with a driver, he arrived to one home in Springs with a delivery only to find that the customer was a Brit whose wife is an Instagram influencer.
“He was super excited because after the pandemic, there are a lot of Great Britain people and Londoners who have moved to Springs full time now,” said Glasson. “And so that’s the initial plug in for that. If we didn’t do delivery on our own, we wouldn’t know that.”
It would seem that Ruby Murrays is already hitting its mark among East End customers, and Brooks is hopeful that the flexibility inherent in the model will allow the concept to flourish going forward.
“My view is, this food will work here. The goal was always to refine the model and prove there is demand,” said Brooks. “Let’s do a popup up and see if it works. Let’s do it like a ghost kitchen. If you do it in winter, it gives you time to get the recipes right.”
By all accounts, Brooks’s instincts are good, as is the reception. Incidentally, in case you’re wondering about the name, Ruby Murray was an Irish singer who found fame in the 1950s. But beginning in the 1960s, her name was co-opted in a cockney rhyme that equated it with Indian curry in the U.K. So if you have a hankering for a curry, you might say “Let’s go for a Ruby.”
Edward Brooks certainly hopes that you will.
Check out Ruby Murrays’ menu and delivery schedule at rubymurrays.world. If you’re picking up your order, Wishbone Farms is at 54 Hampton Road in Southampton.
One fine body…