London - Whitechapel Pakistani Face-off: Tayyabs vs Needoo Grill
Despite the existence of other good Pakistani/Indian-Muslim dining options in Whitechapel, e.g. Maeda Grill, Lahore Kebab House, etc. - attention invariably turned to rival Pakistani duo: the older, more established Tayyabs, and its younger clone, Needoo Grill - rated by many as a serious contender and viable alternative to Tayyabs.
Anyhoo, I'd never had Pakistani in London before (my only acquaintance with the cuisine was over 10 years ago when I visited Karachi and Islamabad on business).
First stop this evening: Tayyabs (Est. 1972). Service was ultra-efficient, even if the waiters looked indifferent & unsmiling. What I tried:
- Mutton samosa: crisp-fried and quite tasty, though I’d tried much better-tasting ones elsewhere.
- Vegetable samosa: very tasty – the mashed curried potato & onion filling providing a pleasant textural contrast to the crisp shell of the samosa. Again, not exactly the best-tasting samosas I’d had.
- The day's special: Nihari, a slow-cooked spicy leg of lamb stew, with matchstick-sized strips of ginger and lots of golden-brown shallots to give the gravy a killer punch. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. The gravy went deliciously with my bread order:
- Peshwari naan. I’m not sure here – but aren’t Peshwari naans supposed to contain nuts & dried fruits? The one served here was sweetish in flavour but did *not* contain anything inside the ‘roti’.
- Sweet lassi was very well-made.
Second stop: Needoo Grill, only 3-years-old this year. It’s a rip-off of Tayyabs but, hey, if the concept ain’t broke, why fix it? It’s brighter, more cheerful, and the waiters were warm & friendly. Food-wise, what I had:
- Mutton samosa: it’s *microwaved*!! The samosa’s pastry skin was actually soggy, whilst the minced mutton filling was dry, so much so that the minced meat & pea filling simply scattered out once you cut the samosa open. Am shocked by such lackadaisical approach to cooking!
- Vegetable samosa: same treatment given here: microwaved. Worst, the pastry shell was greasy and soggy, with hard edges.
- Main course: Karahi lamb chops masala, which were 3 small chops cooked in spicy masala gravy. The lamb chops were tough and not that meaty. But the masala gravy was spicy and delicious.
- Peshwari naan – exactly the same as the one at Tayyabs, i.e. no fruit-and-nut filling. But the one here - pillowy-soft, sweetly delicious & with just the right amount of ghee on top - tasted better than Tayyabs'.
- Mango lassi here was simply superb. Pity about the food.
How do the two places compare? In my opinion, no contest really – Tayyabs by a mile!
83-89 Fieldgate Street
London E1 1JU
Tel: 020 7247 6400
87 New Road
London E1 1HH
Tel: 020 7247 0648
As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery - in Needoo Grill's case, it even extends to the after-dinner mint given with the bill!
On the China/SE-Asia board, I once delved into the (in)famous Singapore laksa wars:
As well as my search for the best wanton noodles in Singapore:
Tayabs wins but it seems that he bar is set a a very low level. I ate a Tayabs a few years ago and it was OK but not somewhere I would rush back to. The famed lamb chops are tasty but the meat isn't great quality. Does its fame say more about the standard general of Indian/Pakistani in London or more about the overall level of expectations of diners in London?
"Does its fame say more about the standard general of Indian/Pakistani in London or more about the overall level of expectations of diners in London?"
I'd say a bit of both actually.
Anyhoo - Howler & Limster have organized a Parsi dinner for London-based CHs tomorrow, so I'm hoping for some fab Indian food!
I would have definitely ordered other things at Needoo. I used to eat there quite often when I lived down the road and my go to dishes were more towards the karahi, the palak paneer and some other similar stuff. It was generally pretty solid, but I haven't bothered getting anything from there since I discovered Lahori Nihari (down the road from where I now live interestingly enough.) It's vastly superior to both. I always found Tayyabs to be distinctly mediocre with seriously restrained spice levels. I gave it quite a few tries before Needoo opened during my year in Whitechapel.
Tayyabs might be the most fun east end option and I like it for visitors who like food but aren't serious hounds.
In my view Lahore Kebab House is significantly superior to both Tayyabs and Needoo for food.