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Whitechapel Market

March 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Another visit to Tayyabs in East London today and though the meat was a little chewy this time, it was really interesting to walk around Whitechapel area. It really comes alive at the weekends. Stalls of clothing and nick-nacks are set up along the road, and with half of the pavement closed off for road-works, the people were extra squashed in today. It took a log time to reach the station at tortoise pace behind families with little ones in tow.

What struck me was not how multi-cultural Whitechapel is but how almost 90% of women wore a hijab. Is it possible that the area now is more exclusively Muslim than it was previously?

Tower Hamlets, which is the borough Whitechapel falls in is home to the largest Bangladeshi community in the UK. Wikipedia states that approximately 52% population of Whitechapel is Bangladeshi. That’s more than one in three but that still does not make up the numbers of hijabs I saw today. And last time I looked, I didn’t think that most Bangladeshi women covered their heads and faces. Their heads but not often faces too. I did see a number of stalls selling hijabs in various colours and styles. Perhaps weekends attract other populations of Muslims to Whitechapel too.

There was certainly no tension and it was great to see so many women out shopping as opposed to a largely male population which is what you see in the nearby Brick Lane.

At the heart of Whitechapel and not far from the Royal London Hospital is the East London Mosque which serves the Bangladeshi as well as other Muslim communities of East London. Next door from it is the London Muslim Centre and their combined accommodation can hold 5,000 people, making it the largest mosque in the UK. I looked on the mosque’s website and found that it is involved in all sorts of activities to encourage tolerance in the community and attract young people to its doors to ensure religious learnings but also give them a safe place to spend time.

It was at the mosque’s website that I found a whole lot of information and activities list for Somali community. So perhaps it was the Somali women who had increased the numbers of covered heads I saw this afternoon?

I also read on a website somewhere that the council wants to ‘regenerate’ Whitechapel Road to restore the historic buildings but also rejuvenate business and have shopping districts. The problem is that when there is such regeneration, it pushes out the local businesses to make room for chains and superstores. Wouldn’t this totally change the face of Whitechapel as it is now – a bustling and multi-cultural local bazaar where people come together to buy specific ethnic items?

Tayyabs – a London institution!

February 26, 2012 3 comments

Tayyabs in Whitechapel, London has a similar reputation to Chacha’s Kebabs in Khan Market, Delhi (see last post). Unlike Chacha’s though, Tayyabs has consistently churned out the best kebabs in London and I’d rank them in the Top 5 in the world of the places I’ve been to specifically for kebabs. Note, here I’m only talking about Indian/Pakistani style kebabs and not the doners and shawarmas of the middle east.

Having had mixed success in Delhi last week, I decided to suggest a Sunday lunch trip to Tayyabs to compare whilst the memory of the kebabs in Delhi was still fresh in my mind. So this lunch time we headed off to East London.

Tayyabs occupies two adjacent plots in a side street not far from Whitechapel station. You would never just walk past it as it’s in a predominantly residential street. However once you do reach it, and especially in the evenings, you will know you’ve reached the best kebab place because there will be a queue of people waiting for tables just outside the restaurant and on Friday and Saturday nights, halfway down the street. Tayyabs don’t take reservations. They don’t need to. People come from far and wide to dine here.

Today, having arrived for an early lunch, there was no queue and we were seated quickly. This is not to say that the place was empty. There were only 2-3 tables vacant and we occupied one gratefully. Original Tayyabs started out as a smaller restaurant but the phenominal success of the food encouraged the owner to extend to the next plot which at one point must have been a pub, judging from the Saloon Bar door inside and Truman Breweries sign outside. Although you can’t get a pint at Tayyabs, it’s a ‘Bring Your Own Bottle’ restaurant.

Today I noticed a new menu. Well, it looked new but thankfully the contents were the same. The only thing that had changed was the prices. To be honest I’m not surprised they’ve put their prices up. Tayyabs is incredibly popular and successful and was always known for being tremendously cheap and cheerful. Not serving alcohol, I often wondered how they made any money!

Today, we ordered exactly the same as we always have. A portion of tandoori lamb chops, a pair of seekh kebabs and half a tandoori chicken along with a garlic naan. My only small gripe with Tayyabs menu is the absence of Roomali Roti (see last post on Delhi Kebabs) which would be a perfect accompaniment to the seekh kebabs.

The perfect lamb chops

The portion of lamb chops arrives on a sizzling hot plate. You can hear the order coming your way even before it leaves the kitchen. Often, however, I am disappointed as the waiter walks straight past my table to serve it to another table. That’s because the lamb chops is the most popular order at Tayyabs. There is no point in dining at this restaurant if you don’t intend to order this dish. The chops are thinner than the ones you would get at Sainsburys, but my god are they long. The bone is left on long and has plenty of meat on it to chew before you’re finished. The meat is sparingly spiced and the chop is cooked for a very short time in the tandoor so it’s nicely charred from the outside and very slightly pink near the bone.

The Tandoori Chicken is also on the bone and is perhaps the best anywhere in the world. The meat is beautifully marinaded in cardamom and other spices and cooked to perfection. The flesh falls off the bone and melts in the mouth.

The chutneys – yoghurt and mint, mango and spicy tomato – perfectly balance each morsel of food. All in all, I am happy to report that nothing has changed at Tayyabs and it remains, in my humble opinion, the best kebab house in the country!

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