27 September 2018: Tayyabs - Top of the chops
Another outing for the old work football team and this time it was eastbound again. Having sampled Red Chilli and Lahore Kebab House it was Sean's turn to pick somewhere with eastern promise. He didn't exactly dig out a hidden gem, but rather a more tried and tested option in Tayyabs.
Whilst I've been a few times, it was a debut visit for half the squad so it was going to be interesting what they made of it. Unfortunately, Pete was sidelined late on with a cold. However, Instagram pics showing him at a wedding in the West Country the next day suggested he might have been pulling our leg after some diary mismanagement, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. In tribute we produced poppadom portraits of his snotty mug which provided a creative start to proceedings. But how would we rate Tayyabs, after a few beers at the Blind Beggar we went to find out?
Tayyabs is nothing short of an institution; it's reputation as one of London's most popular and reliable curry spots proceeds it. Tucked away on Fieldgate Street just off Whitechapel Road it's not in the most obvious place, but crowds of people and electric-blue neon signs let you know you're in the right place. In fact, from the outside you could be forgiven for thinking it was a nightclub such is the buzz about the place as chaotic crowds of punters jostle for entry.
The carnage continues inside with queues for bookings and walk-ins merging into a curry-hungry (and slightly tipsy) scrum. After 15 minutes of trying to find someone to confirm our booking we finally found a frantic manager who eventually showed us to our table on the first floor.
This is curry on a super-sized scale, multiple floors, wall to wall tables and hundreds of noisy diners. Despite the crazy factory level output, the decor is plush, with bold colours, patterned woodcuts, and mood lighting creating a glitzy, Indian-style glamour. Perhaps not an ideal choice for a candle-lit curry for two, but otherwise this is a must visit for any London curry fan.
Starters and sides
2 x Lamb chops
The menu at Tayyabs isn't extensive, perhaps deliberately so to meet such high demand, but still offers a good range. We started with our poppadom homages to our absent friend, with mango chutney and salad pieces providing the medium for our artistic talents (and his distinctive nose). Despite our creative touches we couldn't dress up what were essentially very average poppadoms (and an average face). However, Sean, on a diet, was keen to point out the quality of the side salad which was notably fresh. We didn't care.
But it wasn't the poppadoms we came for. It's the showstopping lamb chops on offer here that draw the crowds. These signature chops are to die for and didn't disappoint on our visit - char-grilled to smoky perfection and glazed delightfully they pip nearby Lahore Kebab House's to top the chop charts.
The naans were also very good, a touch on the buttery side, but deliciously fresh and elevated by extra touches like the sesame seeds on the peshwari and the loaded meat centre in the keema.
Pushed up by the chops it's 8/10 for Starters and Sides
Karahi daal gosht
Karahi mixed vegetables
More curry and more curry sweats for Wakey, this time the cheeks were moist within moments, but there was a smile on his face. And why not? Following the lamb chops were a host of excellent mains that ticked all the right boxes.
The karahi daal gosht housed beautifully succulent lamb in a chunky lentil, dhansak-esque sauce whilst the dry meat', dish was equally tender, with a lovely signature rub on the slow cooked lamb.
Arguably better still were the vegetarian mains. The tinda (pumpkin) masala would have me swiping right every time with its excellent zingy, bitter, almost sour, taste. Pumpkin seeds added an extra crunch. Equally taste-bud tingling was the mixed vegetable karahi, a welcome home to the ever underrated jack fruit in a bitter fenugreek sauce and the chana (chickpea) dish which had a lovely, buttery flavour and silky texture.
Finally the chicken karahi again had nice rich flavours, excellently tender meat and was capped by caraway seeds and an underlying, subtle heat. As with all the curries it had a nice oily finish, which does hint to mass production and/or reheating, but adds a look and feel (and taste) of authenticity.
Unfortunately, with the scale of Tayyabs and the sheer number of punters, service suffers as a result. It's chaotic on arrival and this doesn't improve as your meal goes on. At times it can even be quite stressful. The covers are crammed in and teams of waiters require each others help to navigate the tables without incident, like cameramen tracking backwards. Despite this, service is fairly quick, but generally a bit haphazard with dishes coming in dribs and drabs. Our naans were cold by the time the rest of our food came and the chana followed long after that. The pace of service also leaves little time for pleasantries between the staff and customers, so all in all it's not the highest score for Service. 5/10.
Value for money
This is a BYOB restaurant and no corkage is charged meaning value is on the cards from the outset. As always, sharing is caring and the best way to maximise value. We were fully contented for about £18 each which is excellent value for the quality of the food.
Tayyabs offers the great British curry experience but at scale. In the past I've been critical of it's factory like production and the service is a little sketchy, but there's no denying the quality of the food. Whether it's the signature chops or delicious vegetable curries you're unlikely to be disappointed, least not as everything comes at fantastic value. If you've not heard of Tayyabs then why not and if you've never been then what are you waiting for? Avoid disappointment and book ahead, but be sure to do so soon.
Overall, it's a very high 37/50 in total.
Address: 83-89 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel, London E1 1JU
Cuisine: Punjabi (NW Indian)
Alcohol Policy: BYOB
Summary: Famous London curry spot that's more nightclub than restaurant, serving delicious chops and beautifully oily curries by the bucket load