Tayyabs – Whats all the fuss?

After a night out in Brick Lane a few months back, I ended up going back to Liverpool Street station to catch my train. I ended up talking to a lad who lived in the area who claimed to love Indian food and curry as much as I!
Hard to imagine, right?
He suggested that I try going outside Brick Lane and go to a place in Whitechapel, around the corner. The place he recommended was a place called Tayyabs.
He said that Brick Lane is often catering for the tourists, so wasn’t always the best quality.
Naturally I disputed this, as I have been to Brick Lane several times now and it has always been excellent.
Either way, I took his word for it and decided to think about what he said.
Once I got home, I ended up doing a bit of homework on the place and found it to be notoriously popular with nearly everyone. It wasn’t a traditional Indian either, but more of a Pakistani grill house.
The Guardian reviewed it and claimed that it was one of the best places to eat in the city, which for a city like London is a phenomenal statement. It went on to say that the reason it is so good was not just for its food but also its incredible value and service.
I had to check this out, so assembled the Cambridge Curry Crew.
We ended up booking a table for 5 at Tayyabs. Their website was fantastic for booking and editing tables, which was great because we had to change the numbers of people attending our table several times. Sadly the site didn’t give away prices, which made it hard for us to really see how good a value it was until we got there. Some reviews claim that a Seekh kebab were as little as 70p each, wow.
The place is in the heart of the muslim community and looks absolutely fantastic from the outside. Blue neon lights across the top with a busy crowd bustling outside. The place is clearly popular with many people itching to get in. I highly recommend using its website to book a table, as by the end of the meal the place was so busy the queue was leaving the restaurant and spilling out on to the street. Which is surprising, as it is a massive restaurant and can hold many many people.
We were greeted, taken up stairs and seated immediately. The table was well presented with poppadom sauces already waiting for us, I am not too sure how long the sauces were there waiting there for us, but by judging how busy the place was I wouldn’t say that long. A few moments later we learn that the sauces are there because poppadoms are given out for free during the evening on numerous occasions. Sadly I wish I could say the sauces were of good quality, the mango chutney was runny and tasted cheap, the lime pickle-like sauce was basically a runny hot sauce and wasn’t too appealing. The last sauce was yogurt which was quite nice but nothing incredible.
We were allowed to bring in our own alcohol which ended up saving us a few pounds. I would highly recommend you find a super market to buy from before hand because there aren’t many off licences in the area which serve alcohol, and the ones which do aren’t cheap. A 660ml bottle in the off licence we used was £3!
The staff were incredibly busy and we noticed that once people left a table close by it was filled nearly immediately. A lot of people on reviews have mentioned how they cannot understand how Tayyabs is so cheap, it seems to me that it is down to the famous old business model “small profit, mass turn over”. They were rushing around a lot to make sure they had a massive customer turn over. Though strangely it took them quite a while to take our order and when they did there was little small talk, we got a very strong feeling that we were being rushed, almost like we were being timed. It was horrible, and made us feel uncomfortable. It was very impersonal.
Seekh kebab
While we were taking our order we saw the famous Seekh kebab on the menu which was 70p (and the main talking point) in most reviews I had read. Sadly due to inflation and such it is now £1. I would still argue that it was good value. The rest of the menu was quite cheap, nothing revolutionary, but still cheap. There was a poor selection of food to choose from. Often in any asian restaurant if there isn’t something on a menu which is quite common then they are still able to make it for you, not here. Several of my friends couldn’t have one or two of their usual dishes, quite simply because it wasn’t on the menu. Heck, even I couldn’t have what I wanted, so ended up having to have a chicken tikka masala. I asked for it hot in the hope that it might simulate my usual dish.
It took quite a while for our food to come out and when it did the orders were wrong. Drinks and samosas were forgotten completely and our starters came out at the same time as our mains. I would certainly agree that the seekh kebab was good value with each one shown above being only a pound. They were very nice, especially for the price.
My saag aloo was not too impressive. It felt like two single potatoes floating in a spinach soup. The potatoes were a little hard but nothing too bad, it tasted fine. The spinach tasted ok but was liquid.

Saag aloo

My chicken tikka masala wasn’t of the highest quality, heck, I would even say it was quite poor. It was incredibly dry and tasted like it was home made. The ingredients however did taste fresh but the dish lacked sauce and was quite dry. The rice was of an average portion but tasted very nice. The texture was great and was well presented.
While I was eating I noticed that nearly everyone around me was ordering larger seekh kebabs and chicken tikka dishes. The sound of the dishes sizzling while being carried back and forward through the restaurant made the place sound incredibly exciting, it added to the bustle of the place and really made you feel like you were out on a Saturday night. Though it did make me wonder if I had ordered the right dish. Why was everyone ordering only these two dishes? Why was my chicken tikka masala curry so poor in one of the highest rated restaurants in the city?
I asked my friend if I could try some of his chicken tikka dish, which he kindly obliged. It was delicious. I really started to regret what I had ordered yet I couldn’t understand why there was such a huge difference, as in a sense, it was the same dish! The mini seekh kebabs I had ordered as starters were quite nice too. Maybe Tayyabs really is a grill house only kinda place? Not for us traditional British Indian restaurant users.

The samosas finally came out, when they were supposed to be starters. They weren’t very nice. They looked slightly over cooked then left under a warm lamp for some time. In the end we ended up leaving a few of them. That being said, they were only £1 each. It’s a shame really because you can forgive a forgetful service if the food is delicious.

When we finished we ended up waiting quite a while for our plates to be taken away, they were still incredibly busy. I wonder if it was down to it being a Saturday night or just because it’s always so popular? Maybe both. It took them so long we ended up having to wave them down. We had to do exactly the same thing to get the bill. It was quite irritating and mildly stressful. I couldn’t help but feel like we were constantly bothering them.
We were pleasantly surprised that the bill for all 5 of us was only £68. We were offered a chocolate and a glorified hot towel which in reality was just a wet wipe. The packet of the wet wipe felt warm but when we opened it the wipe was cold. I was incredibly disappointed by this, not that I needed it anyway because even though I ordered the chicken tikka masala very hot, it was still served mild.
When we left we had to battle through dozens of people queuing on the ground floor and out into the streets. The people too were very unwilling to let people pass, it was packed!
There was a general consensus that the place was disappointing, not only considering the hype but considering it was just a regular restaurant in London. If you love a good chicken tikka or seekh kebab for a competitive price I would recommend it here, that’s it.
Otherwise the service was cold, incredibly slow and overly busy. There was no room for chit chat and even though I was a customer dining in their restaurant I felt like I was constantly bothering them with my custom.
The selection of food was poor and they were incredibly stubborn when asked to cook something off the menu. The chicken tikka masala was one of the worst I have had. I understand this was not their specialty but I was still incredibly disappointed.

Our hot towel was disappointing too, and there were no sweets or shots offered after the meal.

The place might be considered a fun exciting place to be on a Saturday night with lots of noise, life and modern decoration, but personally I didn’t like it. That’s not saying I do not like this kinda thing, Aladdin on Brick Lane was incredibly similar but still offered far superior food for cheaper prices and the staff still managed to find time to have a chat and a laugh with us. They had better decoration at Aladdin and the place felt much more modern.
For anybody reading this I would recommend Aladdin as a far superior alternative unless you are after seekh kebab or any meat tikka particularly. I am sure there are many other places on Brick Lane too which offer the same value and better quality and choice.
It feels strange going against the grain here considering there are so many positive reviews out there but I can only speak for my friends and I.

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