There are ‘Indian’ restaurants and there are others. Memsaab in Northampton is an excellent Indian in sophisticated surroundings. But at Tayyabs you get a quite different experience.
Tayyabs is on Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel just behind the East London mosque. When Goose and I arrived yesterday it was about 4 o’clock and the local Muslim community was hurrying in to Friday prayers. We had just been drinking at the Ten Bells pub on the corner of Fournier Street, by Christ’s Church having just taken my 3rg years history students on a Jack the Ripper tour. A couple of them chose to accompany us to Tayyabs but most chose to head off for something less exotic than an authentic Punjabi feast.
What first strikes you as you enter is the size and the bustle. This was a Friday afternoon not a Saturday night but the place was heaving. Despite have space upstairs, downstairs and a ground floor level we still had to wait (not long) for a table. So if you want to be sure of a table (and there are several of you) make sure you book.
Tayybas is not licensed so you can take your own drink in with you – we didn’t bother as we’d already had a couple of drinks at the pub but plenty of others were enjoying a beer or a bottle of wine. We satisfied ourselves with soft drinks; Goose asked for her usual lime squash which confused them, she got a glass filled with lime wedges and a jug of water!
So to the food, we ordered pakoras and samosas to start while our friends had sizzling chicken pieces (and lots of them!). The vegetable samosas were crisp and hot (spicy hot too) but not at all greasy. The pakoras were soft and went well with the dips and a proper salad (not the bagged rubbish you occasionally get from a takeaway). Everything was very fresh.
We were sat near the kitchen which is open, so we could see the chefs hard at work as seemingly endless plates of food were sent out from the pass to the hungry diners. I would say the service is fast and efficient rather than personal. We had no complaints but you feel a little like you are in a production line; I certainly wouldn’t opt for a busy time if you want a quite or romantic dinner. But perhaps that is to miss the point, Tayyabs is a lively, exciting and vibrant place, not an exclusive (expensive) restaurant.
Goose and I both went for lamb (or rather mutton in her case0 but we shared anyway. We had an odd pulse side dish which resembled large yellow split peas. It was dry and very spicy and made a good foil for the rich lamb curry. The mutton was interesting as I’d not tried that before. We both expected it to be tough but it wasn’t; it didn’t melt in the mouth like the lamb did but it was really well cooked and easy to eat. Both dishes were hot but not excessive and again, they tasted very fresh and clean. Goose’s was Karahi Mutton Tikka Masala made, as the menu says, with “Marinated mutton Tikka, karahi masala, coriander, chopped tomato, sliced onions and chillis.” I had Karahi lamb, the karahi refers to the traditional deep pot that is used to cook it, and the depth of flavour this achieves is much superior to many inferior ‘Indians’ you might have experienced.
We had pilau rice and a peshwari nan and while these were both absolutely fine they weren’t as good as Memsaabs (whose nans are unrivaled!). We were all stuffed though, and ready to cope with a trip up to the West End so I could visit my favourite London whiskey shop (Gerry‘s in Soho). Tayyabs was good value: we paid £15 a head for starters, mains, sides and soft drinks so given that I paid over £50 for a bottle of Kentucky bourbon I reckon this was a good deal.