The word is well and truly out with Tayyabs now. Scarlett Johansson has been spotted there, it’s on every London foodie’s blog and the Friday night queue snakes through the entire restaurant.
The last time I went on a Friday night I was lurking in such a queue for a good thirty minutes. My friends had wised up and arrived later. It was pure torture, standing there and watching a huge group of diners work their way through sizzling lamb chops and curries and a few bottles of Jack Daniels (despite not serving alcohol, Tayyabs will allow you to bring your own, although, sited as it is in the shadow of the East London mosque, some would argue that mixing up your own JD & Cokes at the table is possibly stretching the privilege).
Anyway, my dining companion arrived and immediately dismissed the prospect of standing in the queue for any longer. It’s a two-hour queue, he said, we’ll have to go somewhere else. I stood my ground, praying for a mass exodus before his blood sugar hit rock bottom and we had to make a swift exit. A table was vacated, but strangely, the waiters were so frantic they didn’t get around to seating anyone. Old beady eyes spotted it straight away. ‘I’m just going to sit over there and rest my legs until the others get here,’ he announced. ‘And then we’ll get going.’
But then a waiter brought him poppadoms. He took a cautious bite as I watched in disbelief and other people in the queue stared daggers at him (or so I imagined). He told me to come and sit down. I refused. And then the prospect of lamb chops got the better of me. Staging a re-entry seemed to be the best solution. So I went outside, took my hair out and removed my coat and glasses, then walked back in. At least if anyone from the queue recognised me I wouldn’t be able to see them.
And then I sat down and started ordering. I felt bad about it, briefly, and I know it goes against all the rules of British queuing culture, but if a waiter brings you poppadoms you accept them, right?
Anyway, that was a Friday night at about 7pm. The trick, as I discovered last Saturday is to get there at 5pm. There are empty tables, calm families, smiling babies, no one is necking Jack Daniels, no one is queuing, the waiters are relaxed, the music is low. My top dishes include the seekh kebabs (although they are extremely unphotogenic), the lamb chops, the fish and lamb curries, the garlic naan and the mango lassi, which is apparently good for settling the stomach after all those spices – the chefs here like to push a flavour to its absolute limit.
The only issue with eating at five is that it gives rise to the question: was that a late lunch or an early dinner and, in either case, will there be another meal today? The solution is to buy some sweet Alphonso mangos on the way home from one of the shops on Whitechapel High Street for a late-night snack.