Tayyabs Restaurant – Whitechapel, East London
Published 24 July 2009
It is not often that I have the patience to wait an hour and a half for a table at a restaurant, especially one where the waiting area is essentially the passageway from the kitchen to the tables. But wait I did because of the reputation of this place, and it seemed like it was a wait worth the time spent.
Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
Cuisine: Pakistani/Punjabi, South Asian
Price Range: £11 per head, without drinks
Tayyabs has been an institution in London for a long time, and this hidden restaurant on a backstreet between Whitechapel and Aldgate East tube stations certainly has a massive following. The “no reservations” policy within 24 hours should have tipped me off, yet a friend and I took the chance on a walk-in booking, and on a Friday night too. When we got there at 7pm, the place was certainly heaving with diners. Eventually, we managed to get a table, and was promptly served some poppadoms and the trio of sauces (mango, mint, and something else), which were pretty standard. The menu itself is quite short on variety, with beef and pork definitely off the menu, and dishes featuring chicken, lamb, prawns, or vegetables.
We ordered the grilled lamb chops (which were actually like spare ribs, but mutton instead of pork), as well as a Karahi (curry) chicken and a karahi bindi (okra) stir-up, as well as peshwari and garlic naans. The food arrived really quickly, within 5 minutes (This might seem like a shock to those inexperienced with Pakistani or Indian food, but in reality most restaurants prepare the curry sauces before hand, and cook the meat and sauce together to save time). Our lamb chops came on a sizzling platter that was still producing smoke 5 minutes on, but it was extremely full of flavor and spices, with the lamb very tender, but regrettably there was not much meat on each lamb “rib”.
The Karahi chicken curry came next, and although the sauce was a standard, oily, curry house type, what was special was that the chicken was really juicy and tender. Normally chicken curries tend to be hard bits of meat that taste like they have been boiled for hours, but this was really nice and cooked just perfectly. The bhindi curry came as quite a large portion and was pretty bog-standard. As were the naans, although I have the say that the peshwari naans got the balance between salty and sweet quite well, whilst in some other places it sometimes tastes too sweet like a dessert bread.
Despite the huge crowds, the staff seemed well trained in service, and we were able to order quickly, our food arrived very promptly, and the bill arrived shortly after we called for it. They did forget our mango lassi, but we were too content and full after that meal to complain.
Verdict: Overall, this is one of the better South Asian restaurants I have been to London. The quality of food is excellent, and the prices very reasonable (our very filling meal for two without drinks came up £22), but is it worth the trek all the way to the East End and a long wait for a table? Probably not. The one point of note is that it is one of the rare few restaurants where they encourage Bring Your Own (BYO) drinks without charge. Whilst they have a wide selection of soft drinks and lassis, they don’t serve alcohol at all, and for those who like a drink with their meal this is a cost effective way to beat the credit crunch by bringing your own. One wonders, though, if this place is popular for the food or for the BYO policy; we certainly saw many diners having cans of lagers with their curries.
Address: 83-89 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1JU
Tel: 020 7247 9543
P.S. Some websites call this place “New Tayyabs”, others just “Tayyabs”, but essentially they are the one and same place.