Last Thursday, a whole gaggle of London food bloggers met for a feast at Tayyabs, that bastion of Pakistani food in Whitechapel. Chris of Cheese and Biscuits and Helen of Food Stories were responsible for the meetup, the booking and the little (actually quite big!) surprise during the meal. I’d read so many great things about this restaurant that I was quite excited about this dinner – I’m probably the last person in London to visit Tayyabs (and probably the last food blogger to post about it)!
We sat down to a table laid with lots of poppadoms and chutneys and salad plates. After all the introductions and the general settling in, we commenced ordering. Actually, we left it to a few seasoned Tayyabs veterans to do the ordering and they did pretty well, keeping everyone full and happy!
The main starters for the tables were mixed grill platters consisting of chicken tikka, seekh kebabs, and lamb chops. I’d heard so much about the almost legendary lamb chops at Tayyabs that I was very keen to tuck into one immediately. I was dismayed to find that my first chop was tough though with a good spicy marinade. The second chop I tried was more tender than the first but these were definitely not the astounding chops I had expected. The chicken tikka was dry and forgettable but the seekh kebabs were excellent, very moist and moreish.
There was also a plate or two of masala fish, grilled chunks of spiced coley. Though they sounded quite promising, this too was a bit dry – was the grill having an off day?
Then the legs of lamb arrived. Legs of lamb!!! Our organisers had arranged for this very big surprise – three legs between the 24 of us or so. The lamb was ever so tender and came off the bone easily and I loved it; it had a very spicy yet fresh spice paste smeared overtop that had me licking my lips with every bite. It was served on a bed of delicious spiced rice and shredded lettuce (the lettuce was quite refreshing with it all). To me, this was the best thing we had at the table that night and I gorged on it. Then again to our massive surprise, these legs turned out to be on the house. Thank you, Tayyabs!
Now for the second round of ordering. Though we were starting to fill up on the lamb legs, we still wanted to try their specialities. Dry meat was one of them – it’s a very dark and dry curried lamb, very rich but a bit chewy. While good, to me it wasn’t as mindblowing as others have stated.
Chicken keema. Again, while tasty, it wasn’t amazing. It was a bowlful of pieces of shredded cooked chicken in a pleasant curry sauce. One thing I adored was the fried onions on top!
Bindi (okra). This was quite nice – I’ve always loved okra.
Tindi masala. This was the famed curried baby pumpkins which reminded me very much of a lot of the Chinese gourds I ate growing up. Again, while good, it wasn’t life changing. I think perhaps my expectations were much too high coming into this meal!
And of course, to go with everything was a huge plateful of very good naans. Each of these fluffy, chewy flatbreads came with a good slick of ghee. These I also loved with their crispy puffy bubbles… these were excellent naans.
Between all of us, this meal (with the exception of the legs of lamb) came to only £12 per person (including service). The restaurant was BYOB and many at the table had brought along their choice of tipple.
I couldn’t believe the queue when we left! The waiting area was packed and there were even a few people waiting outside – I’d also been told that sometimes the queue goes down the road. I’m not sure I’d be willing to wait for so long though, especially since I live in West London, so very close to Southall, where excellent Punjabi food can be found. However, I can understand the excitement people have for the place as it’s one of the few restaurants in central London that serves proper Punjabi/Pakistani food and it’s ridiculously cheap too; if I was in the area, I’d probably visit it again (that leg of lamb!). To me though, while the food is generally good, I don’t think it lives up to the hype of being the best Indian food in London.
But it’s not all about the food, is it? It was great meeting and catching up with lots of London’s food bloggers. An incomplete list is here (those that I remember and met!):
Chris – TikiChris, Londonist
Jonathan – Around Britain with a Paunch
Jeanne – Cook Sister!
Kerri and Stephen – Dinner Diary
Anthony – Silverbrow
Helen – Food Stories
Helen – World Foodie Guide
Niamh – Eat Like a Girl
Lizzie – Hollow Legs
Chris – Cheese and Biscuits
Oliver – Thring for Your Supper
There were a few people I didn’t get a chance to meet – next time! Chris (TikiChris) has posted a full list over at Londonist. Thanks for organising it again, Helen and Chris!
83-89 Fieldgate Street
London E1 1JU