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Needoo, Whitechapel [London]

Following on from the Dos Hermanos blog post on Needoo, I went with a party of 10 to Needoo to test it against the glory of Tayyabs. Dos Hermanos have found a gem and, frankly, it's better.

Needoo is much smaller that Tayyabs (it boasts 80 seats but I think that would be a struggle), and yet the lack of rampant publicity means that for a party of 10 we were not rushed throughout the whole meal. In fact, the customer service was excellent and our young waiter remembered who ordered what with no prompting. He was also good at helping with orders/dishes, even to the extent that he was willing to tell us that 10 mixed grills was too much for us all.

In the end he was right, although I (and a few other ppl) persisted and ordered a whole mixed grill each (£10). It could be shared and was, but I reckon 2 sikh kebabs, 4 lamb chops and 5 pieces of chicken tikka is about right for a glutton. The sikh kebabs lacked the green chilli zing of tayyabs, and fell well short of the far superiour ones at lahore, but were still very tasty. The chicken tikka was much better than both lahore and tayyabs. Moist, well marinated chicken. Lamb kebabs had a good char, and I think held their own against Tayyabs. In my head Tayyabs lamb kebabs were better but i think this is because they were the first proper pakistani chops i ever ate, so I have an emotional attachement.

Better than both Lahore and Tayyabs were the side dishes. Following on from the Dos Hermanos review, I had a dish of the Aubergine Daal (£4ish). It was stunning. Beautifully cooked lentils in a sweet tomato and gently spiced sauce with smokey aubergine on top. The Paratha was a good wholemeal type version i think with a nice slick of ghee to lift its flavour. Peshwari (always a bit too sweet for me) and garlic naan beat the hell out of tayyabs offerings with proper raisens nuts and seeds covering the peshwari rather than just a filling of sweet paste, and a lovely spread of garlic over the other. The keema naan was good as well.

The one dish that didnt really do much was the lamb pilau. Essentially a large portion of rice with some lamb chunks in it, it didnt really excite me at all. Fine though, just dull.

Overall for ten of us, with 6 mixed grills, 7 side dishes, and 10 breads it came to a reasonable 112 quid plus a generous and well earned tip. BYOB. Bargain.

Go. Go now. Just don't let someone like Jay Raynor or Charles Campion review it or they will spoil it.

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  1. Can't wait to try this out - the selfish side of me is hoping it will keep under the radar but think this might be wishful thinking!

    1 Reply
    1. re: pj26

      yea we went to this place last wkend + i dont really have anything to add - it's great, will definitely be returning.

    2. Finally made it here last night and wasn't disappointed - I would say it's even better than Tayaabs (at least every dish I had, which I have also had at Tayaabs was superior). Starters of shami kebabs, lamb chops and chicken tikka were excellent - juicy, tasty and so tender. The dry meat curry was amazing, as was the side or tarka dahl and peshwari naan. Service was good - if slightly over attentive (they asked how our meal was three times...) and £23 for two, very good value. Can't really praise this place enough - think it will become a regular fixture for dinner.

      11 Replies
      1. re: pj26

        deffo. i've been again since i posted the above and it was equally good the second time. in addition to what i've had before the okra side dish was very, very good, as is (as pj26 says) the tarka dahl.

        i didnt like the lamb pilaf special though. it's very dry and basically your bog standard rice with a few chunks of lamb thrown in and left on the side to dry out for too long. give that a miss and go for the mixed grill and meat/veg side dishes instead.

        1. re: alexdz

          Just stumbled across this so have to say: sorry chaps. Review Sunday week.

          Though I can't quite see how my writing positive things can damage it, given it was mostly empty when I went two weeks back. Also, I have no time for people who think restaurant secrets should be kept.

            1. re: jayrayner

              It's reviewed in today's Metro anyhow so bang goes the secret!

              1. re: Paprikaboy

                For their sake, I really hope they do well as the food is excellent, service great, good value etc - I'd just be loathe for it to turn in to another Tayaabs - i.e. queuing for ages for a table, when all I want is a quick curry. Of course I'm assuming the review will be good...!

              2. re: jayrayner

                fair enough. i shouldnt complain. as a business i'd resent the fact that ppl tried not to publicise my hard work and success, and if somewhere deserves success then it's needoo.

                but as a customer, i'm sorry to say, oversubscription is a complete and utter nightmare. it encourages complacency, bad service, and high prices. i'm probably a pessimist though...

                1. re: alexdz

                  I went yesterday and there was already a Tayaabs style queue snaking out of the door! Looks like that metro review had an effect.

                  Food was still excellent though. Grills were Tayaabs quality (which is saying something) but the curries and side dishes I thought were superior. The dry meat curry was amazing - soft, rich and mellow meat flavour leading to a chilli kick. We also had a Karahi Chicken Keema which again had a great layered flavour that ended in a perfectly balanced heat. Daal was extremely good too and the paratha was steaming hot inside a flaky and crispy exterior. Mmmm. Only thing is I wish they wouldn't cover the breads in that much butter but with food this good, I'll get over it.

                2. re: jayrayner

                  Not to worry friends. That is just someone else using Jay Rayner's name. This imposter 'stumbles,' so it can't be Rayner. And besides, Rayner is too busy judging the chefs on Masterchef, the Professionals.

              3. re: pj26

                chicken tikkas/reshmi kebabs/malai kebabs etc are all made in a tandoor in india. perhaps its a pakistani preference to grill instead of using the tandoor for the chicken, but it's not chicken tikka as i know it.

                as a matter of fact, the tandoor helps retain moisture, and chicken breast tends to dry out, so why grill when you can use the tandoor?

                1. re: howler

                  I don't really care what method they use as long as they are delicious and tender - which they certainly are.
                  Just seems curious to me not to even try them because of the cooking method - particularly since their specialty is grilled meats, which they do very, very well. I would say if they didn't - neither Needoo nor Tayaabs would have the fans they do.

                  1. re: pj26

                    beautifully said, how very chowhoundish of you.

              4. Thanks for the tip

                I went last night around 10pm and there was a queue - heaps of Pakistanis though, a good sign for an ethnic restaurant

                I got talking to a guy in the queue who reminded me (1) the chef was the original Tayyabs chef and they are still on good terms which is why everything is so similar (2) Pakistanis love meat

                I ordered palak alloo and the aubergine curry. Both were good but no better or worse than Tayyabs (perhaps that was my mind controlling my taste buds after receiving the chef information). Look it was a great meal but I did spend some of my time reflecting on chowhound and wanted to put this out to the group...

                Why is it that we need to find places like Needoo. Is it that popular places like Tayyabs eventually sacrifice some of the essentials of chowish dining to feed the massees, or is it that a place can't be chowish unless it is undiscovered. I started reminiscing on my favourite food experiences which all involve repeated adventures to an eatery that holds a special place in my heart. Some are busy and some will never be discovered. Some most people would describe as mediocre, but they have a je ne sais quoi that I love.... it feels at times like hounds become treasure hunters caught in the paradox that to reveal the source of the treasure is to lose it, but to not reveal it is to not have the treasure at all

                maybe i've lost my marbles, but thanks for this great board, it's the people here who discover the places like Needoo which turn them into places like Tayyabs which make more Needoo's possible, and that can only be a good thing, right?

                10 Replies
                1. re: feelinfoodie

                  To be honest the food here is vastly better than Tayyabs. Tayyabs has never impressed me. Kebabish on Green St always impressed me. I personally think Needoo eats Kebabish on Green St. The regular naan are better, the sides have almost all been better (the keema at Gymkhana in Ilford is world's better and still the best I've ever had) and the grilled items are more than adequate.

                  Unfortunately this place went from being filled with primarily Pakistani and Bengali local crowd but with no wait at all to a 30 minute wait overnight adnfter the Metro review. This wouldn't be that annoying if it didn't cause them to decide they can't deliver to my house anymore until the crowds subside... (I'm two blocks away so they delivered previously)

                  All in all the dal bhegun is fantastic, the keema is slightly above average but not amazing, the lamb chops are quite good but Kebabish's are a bit better, the seekh kebabs are Kebabish level or better, the prices are lower than Tayyabs (plus they don't throw 2.50 on your bill for Tayyabs's horrendous service; instead it's 1 quid at Needoo but the staff are very nice) and there's actually spice in the food. The food at Tayyabs has NO SPICE WHATSOEVER. None. Not even the slightest hint of heat in any dish I've had there. It's genuinely disappointing.

                  Frankly I'd rather eat at Thattukada most times but I never have to worry about the Metro swarming it because most central Londoners would shudder at the idea of going to East Ham. Thank God.

                  P.S. The tilda/pumpkin translates more directly to gourd and it's also fantastic.

                  1. re: JFores

                    Sorry JFores, but your taste buds must be shot to pieces if you don't think there is any spice in the Tayyabs food. I'm aware from your other posts that you like food to be extremely hot spice-wise, but that doesn't mean that there is no heat in their food. I'm not someone who likes my food blisteringly hot, but I cook regularly with spices and I do like to feel the heat of some chilli. I've had the Karahi Chicken at Tayyabs, which was, for me, very hot, and the seekh kebabs also have a real kick to them. Others aren't so hot, but are still delicious. So I have to disagree with you - seeringly hot food does not necessarily make a good meal - in fact, extreme heat just makes it difficult to taste all the different ingredients in a dish.

                    1. re: Theresa

                      I think he's referring to stuff like coriander, cumin, etc when he says "no spice", rather than chilli heat.

                      1. re: limster

                        I meant spices in general. Their dishes are horribly bland. I had the nihari at both, Tayyabs last week and Needoo today. The gravy is flavorless at Tayyabs. The flavor of the seekh kebabs if OK at Tayyabs but they're larger, cheaper and have a better texture at Needoo. I also prefer their lamb chop marinade.

                        In terms of heat, Tayyabs is also super mild compared to Kebabish and more mild than Needoo.

                        1. re: JFores

                          'horribly bland' and 'flavourless' ........
                          Slight exaggeration and a bit unfair don't you think?

                          in a country crawling with run of the mill curry houses, i'd say Tayabbs still rates very well, despite it being a victim of it's own success in many ways

                          Sure there are some better places, but there are many more that are far far worse - truly bland and flavourless..

                          1. re: foreignmuck

                            The gravy of this particular nihari tasted like canned tomato,

                          2. re: JFores

                            Well, you did say: The food at Tayyabs has NO SPICE WHATSOEVER. None. Not even the slightest hint of heat in any dish I've had there. It's genuinely disappointing.

                            Which is why I disagreed with you. But, heat aside, even if you prefer dishes with more flavour, the dishes I have eaten at Tayyabs are in no way bland - the dry meat, the karahi chicken, the gourd and the lamb with spinach. I know that the place isn't perfect and that some people think they use too much ghee, but I think these dishes are all delicious, and certainly not bland.

                        1. re: limster

                          I went here on Friday night, and I was really really impressed. The queues were quite ridiculous so I was very glad I'd booked. For the first time in history, I managed not to over order on the grilled meats. Between two, we had the lamb chops, sheekh kebab, dry meat curry and dal baingun. I really enjoyed the lamb chops, and did think they were superior to Tayyabs (though I might be in the minority who thinks Tayyabs has definitely gone downhill a bit over the past two years). The sheekh kebab but nice but nothing out of the ordinary. However, for me, the dry meat was a revelation. A gorgeous smoky flavour, and wonderful spicing. The meat wasn't the tenderest but I would happily foresake that for flavour, and this really delivered. The dal baingun was also fantastic - I wish I could get my chana dal that soft. Ended up paying 11 each with a tip. Great value, and I would definitely be back.

                        2. re: JFores

                          Thanks JFores

                          Took a Sri Lankan friend to Thattukada on the weekend and she was blown away by the food... and I cannot get over how friendly they all are... and how much I love their Appams.

                      2. I've always eaten well at Tayyabs albeit that I tend to avoid the circus that is eat in and grab a couple of items to go, often a chicken tikka roll for £3. I rate a couple of less discussed items like katlama from their sweet counter and firni, one of their desserts.

                        I'm looking forward to trying Needoo, a friend who lives locally and knows the manager/owner mentioned that they have a garden which they plan to open and use for drinks/shisha which would be a nice way to round off a meal.

                        Great to hear people talking about Punjabi food for more than just the grilled meats. Vegetable, pulse and lentil dishes as well as a variety of breads are an essential part of Punjabi cuisine - along with items of chaat, they are what I crave more than anything else.

                        JF is right to say that only outer 'burb places like Thattukada will never get overrun. Another such place is a Pakistani Punjabi dhaba called Nauroz in Eastcote/Harrow which made a very good first impression on me a few weeks ago.

                        1. Had another great meal here tonight. Mixed grill, dry meat, aubergine daal, naan, roti, mango lassi. £30 for two, you know the score by now.

                          Wasn't that busy but we did eat quite early. Food was spot on again, the spicing more intense on the lamp chops this time. The dry meat was superlative and the aubergine daal was incredible.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

                            I ventured over to Needoo this afternoon and was impresed with my meal. I got there just after 1 pm and it was suitably empty. I had the lamb kebabs which were beautiful, the Okra Gosht and the Jeera rice. My bill came to £11. Good service as well. Lets enjoy it while it lasts!