Tayyabs – the Best and Most Treasured BYOB Curry London Has
Tayyabs is by far the best loved and most treasured Punjabi restaurant London has to offer.
Tayyabs Indian in Whitechapel has to be one of the most talked about restaurants in London. First opening its doors back in 1972, this Punjabi creation has had queues spiralling out of its doors and down the road since anyone can remember. Thankfully you can now book and don’t just have to turn up in the hope of a table. That said the place is so huge on the inside you’ll never be waiting for long. It’s like an Aladdin’s cave inside – but without the treasures. There’s seating upstairs, downstairs, round the corner – they’ve even got some next to the toilets. With so many people making their way through the doors of this institution every day, it’s no wonder Tayyabs London is looking a bit tired inside.
There is however a silver lining to all of this grotty decor and abrupt service – BYOB. For no extra charge you can bring as much alcohol as you like. Don’t bring white wine because you won’t get ice and don’t expect wine glasses because a tumbler is as far as it goes. But when it comes to final bills, you won’t get one much cheaper than here at Tayyabs restaurant East London. It’s no wonder as to why Tayyabs has picked up a reputation as one of the best restaurants in Whitechapel for all impassioned diners, not just the scabby youth. If I recall the meal came to around £18 a head for everything we wanted – and we didn’t hold back. Vegetable samosas were packed to the brim with potato, chili and onion. A good crispy pastry, but on the whole a little too much oil made its way through it all. Good flavour but perhaps a little extra draining before it arrives wouldn’t go a miss.
One of the best things we ate here was the Karahi tarka dahl. Soft lentils in a rich, nutty sauce made up of vibrant turmeric, garlic, chili and who knows what else. How they managed to get such a depth of flavour, but with a lingering smokiness to it all was beyond me. Perhaps it was the butter which was bubbling away during cooking or just the expert blending of spices I’ll never know – what I can tell you is if you come to Tayyabs and think it’s only about the meat, your wrong. It’s also about the dahl.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen any good photos of the food here at TayyabT London restaurant, and mine are no exception. After waiting quite a while for our food to arrive it all suddenly appeared sizzling in iron. Naans, were actually quite good (especially the peshwari) but that wasn’t before they first arrived on a neighbouring table, who started to take a nibble and then the waiters rudely telling them off. Not entirely sure how they were supposed to know they got an incorrect order. Especially given the amount of alcohol everyone is consuming in this place – me included. The thing we all really came here to try though was the much hyped about lamb chops. They hype is unfortunately so big now that it only means for slight disappointment. We were expecting them to be sensational but instead they were just good. Quality of the meat is questionable – more mutton and quite strong in flavour. I suspect this is why the chops are always cooked well done and never a tender medium rare. The spices that covered them on the other hand were exceptional and couldn’t be faulted. Chicken tikka was again nice but I’ve had better elsewhere.
Between the three of us we managed a bottle of lukewarm Champagne, three bottles of red, and dessert wine – minus any dessert. We left stumbling out, but we also left with lingering traces of oil stuck in the corners of our mouth from this next dish. Chicken Karahi, a slow cooked dish with morsels of moist chicken, a good hit of ginger, garlic and again an array of spices which I’ll never know the secret too. The flavour and meat in this dish were stunning but the oil I found was just too much. A good layer of ghee or light lashing of oil on the top of any Indian dish is perfectly fine, if not expected – but when there is this much it becomes a little questionable. This is artery clogging stuff.
If anything here was made to go with a naan or roti then it’s this keema dish. I’d actually meant to order the classic ground lamb kind but somehow that got lost in translation and I got a chicken variant which turned out to be a fantastic choice. This time oil was certainly not the focus of the dish and its smoky deep flavour and good hit of chili seemed to me perhaps what Tayyabs do best. I’m sure some of you will send me hate mail for saying this, but perhaps it’s not all about the grills here?
Tayyabs is still, one of the most talked about restaurant in London, even after 30 years – and it seems to always be about those lamb chops. The question I want to ask, is why? There are so many Indian restaurant in London who use better quality meat and can cook such it to such a fine medium rare, it makes me wonder just what are Tayyabs doing right? Well for one, some of the curry (sorry for using that word) dishes have such a depth of flavour it’s hard to match them on that. Pricing is incredibly cheap and quite frankly I think a big part of its popularity has a lot to do with the BYOB. Tayyabs ultimately serve some good food, but its service, dirty restaurant and the need to burn you’re clothes after just doesn’t seem attractive. If you simply just want to catch up with friends, spend little money, get incredibly drunk and gnaw on meat for an evening, then look no further – Tayyabs is your answer
Tayyabs addres: 83-89 Fieldgate Street, London, E1 1JU
Tayyabs hours: open daily from 12pm-11:30pm
To make a Tayyabs booking, contact them via their website.