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Tayyabs

Tayyabs

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First dates are the worst.  I particularly hate first dates that involve going to a restaurant because I get so nervous that eating – such a simple thing – becomes impossible.  So a first date that involves not just food, but very spicy food, really is the stuff of nightmares for me.  On the plus side, however, this date took place at Tayyab’s.  Despite the fact that the relationship eventually crashed and burned, I will be forever grateful to him for introducing me to this gem of a restaurant.

Tayyab’s is a Punjabi restaurant tucked away down a side street in Whitechapel.  It is something of a local institution, with people prepared to queue down the street for a table. Tayyab’s made queuing for a restaurant a thing before those pesky, oh so trendy, no-reservations restaurants were even a twinkle in Time Out magazine’s eye.  It is worth persevering with the wait though, because the food here is something else.  Seriously, forget all about going down the road to Brick Lane because Tayyab’s is the real deal.

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My friend and I visited on a wet Saturday evening, getting in just before the queue got too crazy.  The sound and scent of sizzling meat was all around us, transporting me right back to when I visited the Punjab.  Tayyab’s is rightly famous for its mixed grill, particularly the lamb chops which pack a real punch.  However, on this occasion we ordered the karahi chicken and the karahi lamb chops, with rice and a tandoori naan.  A karahi is a large, circular pot used in traditional Pakistani and Indian cooking.  Karahi dishes are similar to stews, where the meat and spices are slowly simmered together for a really robust flavour.

If I had to use one word to describe our meal it would be this: decadent.  Now this may not be a word that you would usually find when reading about an East End curry house, but every single mouthful felt indulgent.  The meat fell apart, the sauces were rich and silky, the bread was soft and oozing with melted butter.  Eating this meal felt like I was wallowing in a velvet-covered room while being gently massaged by someone wearing fur gloves.  And, of course, the spicing was spot on.   My former flame made sure that I continued to appreciate Punjabi fare over the course of our relationship, mainly via his mother’s cooking.  For the first time, I began to understand the delicate balance between heat and flavour – something that I constantly struggle to obtain with my own cooking!  Tayyab’s totally nail it.

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For me, Tayyab’s is a restaurant of discovery.  I discovered great food off the beaten track in east London.  I discovered Punjabi cuisine and learned that it is complex and flavourful, something that I will keep coming back to.  I discovered that I love a mango lassi.  I discovered that you can experience luxurious cooking for next to nothing – Tayyab’s is exceptionally reasonably priced.  But, perhaps most importantly, I discovered that it’s a really bad idea to eat very very hot food on a first date because that face-melting look is never sexy.

Tayyabs, 83-89 Fieldgate Street, E1 1JU
£30 for two people including soft drinks

Tayyabs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Diner’s Review of January

The Diner’s Review of January

Crash dieting.  Dry January.  Drinking kale smoothies for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  January is a rubbish enough month as it is, so why make it worse by punishing yourself?  I, for one, believe that January should be spent enjoying good food and drink to make up for the cold days and long nights.  So, with this in mind, here is my round-up of what I ate & drank last month.

Best Restaurant
A spontaneous lunch at Dishoom at Kings Cross hit the spot on a freezing day.  Stepping through the front door was like stepping into another world; a world of warm, humid days, lazily spinning ceiling fans, exotic drinks and exquisite service.  Oh and the food was pretty damn fine too.

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Best Street Food
This one is a toss-up between The Little Yolk’s “Bacon One” – a toasted brioche filled with bone marrow butter, streaky bacon, fried duck egg, caramelised shallots and grilled tomatoes (kind of a posh “all day breakfast” sarnie) – and The Frenchie’s confit duck burger – a toasted brioche filled with pieces of duck meat, crispy duck skin, truffle mustard, onion relish and smoked cheddar.  Can you tell there is kind of a decadent brioche theme going on here?  As winter should be all about comfort food then you could do a lot worse than paying a visit to these two traders.

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Best Beer
I never – EVER – “do” Dry January.  Or dry any month for that matter.  So this month it was all about the “tryanuary” movement.  Thanks to Honest Brew I was able to get a good selection of craft beers delivered to my doorstep – about time you can get decent beer delivered, as well as decent wine!  I enjoyed working my way through beers from Camden Town Brewery, Five Points Brewing Company, and Brewdog, but my favourite by far was the exquisitely named “Wu Gang Chops The Tree” by Pressure Drop.  A “foraged herb heffeweisse”, this was light, refreshing and oh so very drinkable.

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*Special mention to By The Horns Brewing Co – technically speaking, I drank all their beer in December but it was so good that I will definitely be back for more.  So pleased to have these guys just down the road from me in Tooting.

Discovery Of The Month
London is full of surprises and hidden treasures, and there are few things more pleasurable than the discovery of a wonderful little drinking den on a cold, miserable January day.  Little Bird Gin are a distillery company and bar, based under the arches at Maltby Street Market.  I was unable to resist ducking inside their cosy nest, filled with odds and ends from reclamation yards and lit by candlelight.  Their drinks menu offers a concise selection of gin-based cocktails so I chose a Hot Aperol – gin, aperol, mulled wine, hot apple juice, herbs and spices.  Just the thing on a cold day.

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Dishoom, Kings Cross

Dishoom, Kings Cross

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I’m always slightly wary about venturing outside of Tooting for a curry, but last Saturday I found myself in the freezing wilderness of a redeveloped Kings Cross and on the hunt for something that would warm the cockles.  Cue a queue free Dishoom.  Stepping into the cavernous converted warehouse was like entering another world.  Tiled floors, lush palm plants, ceiling fans lazily spinning; it was as if we had gone back to a more elegant time.  We had to wait for around 10 minutes before a table was free, but this was hardly a chore as we relaxed in the sophisticated lounge chairs and perused the menu.

The main restaurant is up one floor on a mezzanine and resembles a cross between an old fashioned railway lounge and a colonial gentleman’s club.  First things first: a glass of masala chai.  There are few things more wonderful on a cold day.  This was sweet, but not overly so, with a big hit of cardamom which made me think it would be the perfect cold remedy.  My dining partner does not drink alcohol and often struggles to find a decent range of soft drinks when eating out.  Not so in Dishoom.  The range of lassis even tempted me away from the booze!  I settled on a rose and cardamom lassi, while my friend chose a mango and fennel one.  They tasted amazing.

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Both of us decided on a biryani – I went for the chicken, while my friend chose lamb.  I’m very difficult to please when it comes to a biryani, having been spoiled for so long by my absolute favourite from Masaledar in Tooting.  However, the Chicken Berry Britannia may well top the charts as the best biryani in London (well, that I have tried…).  Laced with cranberries, this Persian take on a classic was a delight.  We accompanied our dishes with okra fries and a garlic naan.  The okra fries were moreish with a subtle spicy heat, while the naan was loaded with garlic – just the way I like it.

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Unsurprisingly I was feeling rather stuffed after all of that, so I eschewed dessert in favour of a naughty Bailey’s chai.  My friend, who has the appetite of an elephant, decided to try the pineapple and black pepper crumble with custard.  A strange combination perhaps, but it works!  Not too sweet but with bags of flavour.  The Bailey’s chai was a little strong for me, so I couldn’t finish it, which was a shame.

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As seems to be the norm with most new London restaurants, the service was a little intrusive and over-eager, with plenty of attempts to upsell.  However, I mellowed towards our waiter somewhat when he came over to tell us that his shift had finished and introduced us to the waiter who would now be looking after us.  A nice touch.  Both my friend and I are notoriously difficult to please when it comes to dining out, but we left Dishoom singing its praises.  A beautifully designed space where you are spoiled for choice when it comes to delicious food and drink.  I can understand why people queue for so long just for the chance to dine here.

£54 for two people, including drinks.

Spice Village, Tooting

Spice Village, Tooting

Was it the screaming baby right behind me?  Was it the two drunks next to me who only stopped slurping cans of Carling to pass out?  Was it the food so smelly that it assaulted my nasal passages and walloped my sinuses?  Or was it the person playing their music so loudly that I’m sure they were only wearing headphones as a fashion accessory?  It was shaping up to be the journey from hell, and by the time I arrived in London I was feeling about as festive as a turkey on Christmas Eve.

Returning to an empty kitchen and having already made myself sick after gorging an entire box of Quality Street in one sitting (it was a small box!!), I was in the mood to eat the least Christmassy food that I could find.  And in Tooting that means one thing – curry!  Now, I have lived in Tooting for five years but, embarrassingly, I tend to divide my time between only two of the neighbourhood’s famed curry houses.  So, as the title of this website declares, I am determined to break the habit of a lifetime (or of five years at least) and venture forth into new territory!  With this in mind, I boldly strode into the first restaurant I came to, which happened to be Spice Village.

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I vaguely recalled hearing good things about Spice Village so I felt fairly confident that I would be fed well, despite the fact that there seemed to be more people at the humongous Chicken Cottage next door.  Maybe they had been dazed by the oversized “crystal” chandeliers that adorn the ceiling of Spice Village and stumbled into Chicken Cottage by accident, who knows….?  However, the chef at Spice Village is definitely better than their interior designer.  I began my feast with the “world famous” masala fish – cod that had been marinated in masala spices then deep fried.  As it was a starter, I had imagined being served delicate little goujons of fish that I could elegantly nibble on.  Not so.  I was unceremoniously presented with a huge fillet of fried fish.  It may have looked like something you would find down the local chippy, but it sure didn’t taste like it.  Moist, flaky white fish coated in delicately spiced crispy batter, with just enough heat to keep things interesting.  I gobbled the whole thing down in record speed.

For my main course I had ordered Afghani lamb karahi, with an onion kulcha and raita on the side.  A karahi is a cooking utensil similar to a wok, but is used for slow cooking.  Therefore Afghani lamb karahi is basically a lamb stew, or as the waiter described “it’s a bit dry, a bit saucy, it’s dry-saucy”.  It was big chunks of lamb on the bone, slow cooked so that the meat fell apart, coated in a rich sauce.  It had a little bit of heat, but not so much that it obliterated all the other flavours.  I ate it with the raita to be on the safe side, which I was pleased to note was “proper” raita with bits of cucumber and tomato mixed through the yoghurt.  The “dry sauce” was mopped up with the onion kulcha – a large flatbread stuffed with minced onions and topped with sesame seeds.  I wish I could tell you exactly what was in the lamb karahi (other than lamb!) but the waiter wasn’t able to share that information with me – apparently it’s top secret!

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Spice Village has apparently been voted the best Indian and Pakistani restaurant in Tooting by the local residents.  In an area with so much competition, this is praise indeed.  I was impressed both by the food and the service, but do I think it’s the best in Tooting?  I’ll have to try a few more restaurants before I decide…..

£19.99 for one person, excluding drinks.  Salad, chutneys and a jug of water were provided.  Service not included.

Spice Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato