83-89 Fieldgate Street
London E1 1JU
Tayyabs bestrides the capital’s curry houses like a spicy colossus. Thrice I’ve tried to get in and thrice I’ve failed. Each time that I’ve driven past it’s heaving. Everyone bangs on about it. So here I was, finally presented with the opportunity of standing toe-to-toe with a legend.
Not every restaurant review makes for a good story and this is no exception, but I’ll tell it anyway. I was to be joined by two cousins for the Tayyabs experience. We arranged to meet in a pub near Liverpool Street. Thing is I forgot my phone. I don’t know if you’ve ever left your phone at home but it’s a truly terrifying experience. You feel naked and alone. Modern plans change at the drop of a hat. Without a phone frankly you’re funstered.
I arrived late, went straight to the pub and they’d gone. Would they note my absence, put three and three together and return to our original assembly point? I commandeered a phone from a passerby, called my uncle – one of the only numbers I can summon on account of its highly unusual 111 suffix – and asked him to send for his sons.
Five minutes later they arrived. We headed back to the pub and I went to the bar. Here I discovered that the forty quid I had in my pocket was missing, presumably lying helpless on the pavement next to the bus stop where I first realised I’d forgotten said phone and started frantically riffling through my pockets. Forty quid? Ten years ago I left the self-same amount in a cab and only came to terms with it about a week ago.
My mood lifted upon our arrival at Tayyabs. Dancing our way through the melee both outside and in, we were shown to our table. Make no mistake this restaurant is one busy fucker of a mutha. It’s hot, hectic and loud. Open from 12 til 12 every day there are no peak times: apparently it’s like this all the time. But that only adds to the ambience. It’s exciting being inside a crammed eatery. You can be confident you’re in for some tasty treats.
We kicked things off with a curried mixed grill: lamb (kofte + chops), chicken and the most exquisitely barbequed white fish, coming away in flaked layers neither dry nor crumbly. A truly excellent start.
For our mains we eschewed the daily special (quails on a Tuesday, chicken biryani on a Sunday) and plumped for an assortment of chicken korai, lamb korai, lamb bindi, tarka dahl and sag aloo. The lamb was supreme: so succulent and tender, far better than anything you might expect from such a modestly-priced establishment. The curries and sides were of the highest standard and in a different league to much of the inauthentic tourist-friendly muck you get down Monica Ali.
We’d Brought Our Own beer (no liquor license here) but I was distracted by the mango lassi. Save for the ‘Come Home’ variety, I’m pretty new to lassi. Perhaps lassi is always this good but I doubt it. This was creamy-dreamy. I daresay one of these a day would see you off within a year but you’d die happy, if a bit burpy.
My one criticism – if it is a criticism – is that the curries could have been spicier. If you like a hot curry – one that makes you want to run out into the street or commit suicide – just ensure you order a grade up from your usual.
As we stepped out into the Whitechapel night and ambled along in the footsteps of London’s most infamous killer, no metaphor surged through the fingertips of this particular reviewer. It’s probably enough to say that we had a superb meal and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Tayabbs to anyone, anywhere.