This is the first of my eating entries from London, where I spent 1o days in May as the tour guide/co-teacher/all-around problem-solver on a study tour with another colleague and 12 of my students. During the day, we visited all the requisite sites such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and The British Museum. But at night, we had a few hours of free time, which I promptly planned within an inch of their lives with – what else – food. Fortunately for me, my students were as receptive to good eats as I’d hoped, and I always had some adventurous eating buddies for all of my desired destinations, including Tayyabs, a Pakistani favorite in Whitechapel.
The place is known for their Punjabi Pakistani cuisine, an area in eastern Pakistan that borders with northern India. Admittedly, my knowledge of the food culture there is limited, though I have heard the food is especially tailored to replace calories lost by the agriculturally-working local people. Good thing we did plenty of walking on our trip!
We made a booking for 6:30 but actually showed up around 6:15. The place was relatively empty at the time, and we were promptly seated; we took to scouring the menu. They asked if we would like poppadums, which I thought was a strange question (the answer is obviously “Yes!”), until I looked at the menu and realized they charge 60p per poppadum. Not outrageous, but a bit of a “hidden charge.” Anyways, they were delicious, as were the yogurt sauce, red chili, and green chili that came with.
We ordered the lamb gosht, which had ample gamey flavor. It was also the least spicy of all the dishes. Normally, I don’t pay too much attention to the least spicy dish, but as we had one in our party who didn’t eat too much heat, this was perfect. Therefore, if you’ve got a semi-spice-averse friend, there’s at least one dish for them!
Of course, we also had to order a chicken tikka masala, England’s national dish! It was a classic. The curry itself had an after-kick and lovely sautéed/slightly burnt onions on top, adding a smoky flavor to all that heat! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
The saag aloo was a bit skimpy on the potatoes, but the curry on this dish was perfect for soaking up the deliciously buttery and soft tandoori roti; they looked like beautiful pillows of bread when they brought them out piping hot. I also ordered a mango lassi which was smooth and creamy, the perfect antidote for a mouthful of spicy food!
Service was perfunctory, with waiters asking once or twice how the food was, but we got the idea that once we finished, we should vacate the table. Though pushy wait staff anxious to turn tables is a small pet peeve of mine, I suppose they were justified, as a line had grown shortly after we sat down around 6:30. Here’s what it looked like around 7:15:
I’ve read about people lining up even for booked tables, so I think the key is, book for an earlier seating to minimize wait time. Don’t worry, though, with food this good – and did I mention the reasonable prices?! – it’s totally worth it.
83-89 Fieldgate St.
Nearest Tube: Whitechapel
020 7247 9543
Cost: ~ £12/person (or approximately $150 HKD)
Note: Tayyabs is BYO