Wednesday, 22 October 2008


most londoners i have met think tayyab’s when they think pakistani food. as a pakistani who has spent almost four and a half years in london i felt i must get onto the bandwagon of tayyab-ites and see for myself. one very chilly early winter evening found me negotiating east london. my first tayyab’s experience took place with two friends both of whom regard themselves as tayyab’s experts. having studied and lived locally tayyab’s has been their kitchen away from home.

but as it is turns out i had come better equipped to wait. one of the things you need to know about tayyab’s is that it’s waiting times have grown exponentially since it’s become a regular feature in all manner of cheap eat guides and newspaper reviews. in fact while you wait you have ample time to read up on tayyab’s hall of fame which takes up most of one wall of the place. even so a fifty minute wait can be taxing especially if in the course of it you are abandoned by your fellow foodies for their nicotine fix. 

once seated i had the chance to hear s’ tayyab-isms and was pleasantly surprised to note that they echoed mine. i left the old timers to order the food which arrived promptly and piping hot. there was chicken and paneer tikka followed by chicken karahi and chana’s. the paneer tikka was a disappointing affair; overdone and rubbery but the chicken tikka almost quite hit a note of home. the meat was white on the inside and drew a deep orangish color on the outside from its marinade – comfortingly close to the tikka i have known and not the pink-red executions that often make their way to tables at sub-continental eateries in london. 

i have no complaints to make of the flavor of the chana’s (chickpeas). you can tell that the ingredients are fresh and nothing has been masked by additives of curried powders or sauces. however the authenticity of the karahi was slightly dubious. karahi dishes draw their name from the dish they are cooked in. essentially this is a sub-continental version of the wok. the meat is stir fried with spices and some tomato. the karahi i have known is not saucy. it has what is known as a kharha masala (literally a reduced ‘standing’ sauce). roughly cut tomatoes are added last and stir fried just enough for them to be slightly bruised but still retain their shape – also there has to be coriander leaves and julienned ginger as garnishes. the chicken karahi we were served was halfway to a curry (and if it had been named such i’d say it was very good). the roti (bread) that came with was really good. 

as we worked our way through the food s and i deconstructed the tayyab’s experience. these are our notes – service although quick is at the same time harried. while our food was being served our table was being nudged a few spaces down to create area for movement. this is an oxymoron given the place is packed like sardines with tables. in fact it is quite marvelous as to how many seats and tables line the length of this compact space. meanwhile behind and around us snaked the queue of people waiting – the constant shuffle and movement as much as it is part of the tayyab’s experience has a subliminal effect on eating speed (i can’t doubt the tradition of this in pakistani culture as i recall evenings at zenose and jahangir where the primary sequence was order-eat-leave all in quick succession). however tayyab’s leaves you feeling harassed on account of the tightness of the space. s is right when he says that tayyab’s can be expanded space wise. 

i’d definitely say that the fact that food is piping hot is great. there is also a neatly cut plate of salad and condiment bowls as well as poppadums to munch on while you wait for the mains. for those of you who aren’t concerned with the authenticity of the dishes as well as the feeling of being rushed tayyab’s is a good choice, especially because it is fresh and filling. it’s also very reasonable. i would recommend reserving or else avoiding peak time unless you really want to do a long wait… 

83-89 fieldgate street london e1 1ju