Tuesday 29 March 2016

Restaurant review: Tayyabs, Whitechapel

This review is rather overdue as I ate at Tayyabs around Christmas time for a team meal – as some time has elapsed I will keep this brief but essentially wanted to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been there!
An award-winning restaurant, it’s near but not on Brick Lane – I’ve found in the past that some Brick Lane restaurants are more geared up for tourists but it is a short walk away in Whitechapel where you find the really good, authentic curry houses frequented by locals – such as Needoo Grill and Tayyabs.
Tayyabs is a family-run business that has been around since the 70s and once consisted of various premises – a restaurant, café, a sweet shop – that have since been knocked through into one. So the restaurant is big – one reason perhaps why it is popular with groups, though to say that is the only reason would be a huge disservice to the food.

Another reason for its popularity with groups, be they birthday parties, work colleagues on a Christmas meal (I fought for turkey and all the trimmings but was outvoted in favour of curry!) is that the restaurant is unlicensed, meaning it has a bring your own (BYO) bottle policy. There’s a Tesco not too far away where you can pick up a bottle of wine for little more than a fiver if you’re on a budget – and with the food in Tayyabs priced very reasonably, this is unlikely to be an expensive night out.
When I originally booked, I gave an estimated number of diners, and rang back nearer the time to confirm – and when I did, I was told that as we were a large group we had to choose a set menu in advance – quite simply menu 1 for £25 or menu 2 for £28, but that the whole group had to have the same thing. I hadn’t been informed of this the first time, and rather than ask everyone what they preferred, I spoke to a couple of people and decided to go for the more expensive menu as it gave more choice and also included soft drinks and desserts, which for £3 more than the menu without drinks or desserts seemed a no-brainer.
Yet when we arrived at the restaurant and were handed the a la carte menus, I told the waiter we had been asked to choose a set menu and he said it didn’t matter and we could have anything!
Tayyabs serves ‘proper’ curry – you won’t get a bright yellow chicken korma or almost florescent pink tikka masala here. One of their specialities is a karahi – a dish simmered in a deep cooking pot traditional in Pakistan. I think we asked the waiter to bring us a selection of dishes that we could share – I remember trying all sorts of things, and it was all very good, particularly the bread.
I am getting to know this area better as for the past year and a half or so I’ve been a reading partner at a primary school just a few minutes from Tayyabs; I go one lunchtime a fortnight to spend time with a 7-year-old girl who struggles a bit with her reading. So I’m quite used to the 25 min walk from my office, walking past student accommodation blocks, the London Muslim Centre and the East London Mosque – my walk usually coincides with hearing the call to prayer which is wonderful as I’d only ever heard that in Turkey before. You can see the men all hurrying to the mosque and it is a great reminder of how multicultural London is. So if your experience of curry in London stretches no further than Brick Lane, I urge you to explore the great restaurants in the surrounding area a bit more, and perhaps pay Tayyabs a visit.

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