We’ve been saying for ages how much we love Tayyab’s restaurant in Whitechapel. This is our favourite place for tandoori meat grills and we’ve been visiting for years, ever since we first moved to East London. But every time we visit either the lighting isn’t right to get any decent photos or we forget to take any before devouring everything. Well this time we remembered – but only just!
Tayyab’s has been serving Punjabi food in a backstreet of Whitechapel, East London since 1972. The family-run business has grown from a small cafe to the current 3 floor mega restaurant. The queue for a table is as legendary as the lamb chops, but it’s easy to understand why – the quality of the food is so good, it’s cheap and it’s BYO alcoholic drinks. At this time of year that can only mean lots of office Xmas parties with a box of beers!
Tables are set with 3 chutneys - tomato & chilli, sweet mango and yogurt & mint, plus a plate of salad and a large jug of water. Poppadoms, spicy and plain, arrive quickly. They offer starters including vegetable pakoras and samosas, but we always head straight for the sizzling tandoori meats – 5 pieces chicken or mutton tikka for £3.20, the famous lamb chops (x4) or our favourite masala fish both cost £6.40, or lacto-free paneer tikka. Often people around us order a tandoori mixed grill. We’ve never felt flushed enough to try the grilled king prawns at nearly £10, but the minced meat seekh kebabs are more accessible at about £1 each. We love the lentil and beef shami kebabs but for some unknown reason to us, they are only available on Wednesdays and sell out quickly.
The tables are packed in so space is tight plus everything tends to arrive at once, so we always only order our tandoori meats and a couple of fresh brown roti first. The meat all arrives piled high on a sizzling, scorching hot platter complete with smoking onions that sets everyone off coughing and spluttering. It’s all well spiced, marinated and cooked expertly so that it’s still juicy and tender.
Once we’ve cleaned up on the tandoori we order again. Depending on how much space we’ve left, we then tend to opt for a vegetarian curry. They offer some interesting combinations of dhal and chickpeas with bhindi (okra), spinach or baby pumpkin for around £6. However if you want even more more meat or fish there are karahi lamb, chicken, keema (mince), prawn or fish curries served in a variety of ways all about £7. We ask for ours to be cooked with less oil. There are also daily specials including a slow cooked lamb nihari (Mon), an unusual batara (quail) curry (Tues), prawn masala available on Saturdays and my favourite nutty, chicken biriyani only on Sundays.
As I said, it’s BYOB for wine and beer, but they have a range of soft drinks including lassis, sweet, salty or mango. For dessert there are kulfi ice creams, syrupy gulab jamun doughnuts, kheer rice pudding or a halwa sweets counter.
They do take table reservations and also do takeaway, but if you can’t face the queue the Lahore Kebab House nearby on Commercial Road or Needoo Grill on New Road are good alternatives.
Tayyab’s restaurant, 83-89 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1JU
Tel: 020 7247 9543 / 6400
Open 7 days a week from midday and last orders at 11pm