Sunday, 13 December 2009

Restaurant Review: The Lahore Kebab House vs Tayyabs

Its a well loved restaurant, serving authentic Punjabi Pakistani cuisine, about ten minutes walk away from Brick Lane you have, to BYOB, its an amazing feed for about £12 and their lamb chops are justifiably famous.  Well that could refer to a few places depending on who you are  - Tayyabs or The Lahore Kebab House being the most famous.  Since they are so close together and there is a debate surrounding them as to which is better I thought I should wade in.  (A third option also appears to be Needoo, which I shall endeavour to get to soon).

So lets put this in some context.  The Michelin Starred Indian chef Atul Kochhar rates the Lahore as his top curry place in London, Time Out rates underrates Tayyabs at 4 stars compared to the Lahore's 3 and Jay Rayner backs Tayyabs as the best lamb chop around, threatening to punch anyone who disagrees.  Well risking the wrath of Rayner (on the off chance he ever come across this), I am going to say something controversial.  The lamb chops at the Lahore are better!
Ok that said I'd better justify it. They are more intensely spiced without losing the taste of the lamb, something that goes for all their dishes, beautifully crispy with tender melting fat and juicy meat that hasn't been over cooked. The same goes for the Tayyab chop, just less so. Well now that's out of the way I can start a proper review. First for Tayyabs never, ever turn up without a reservation if you're going at dinner time, never, never and bear in mind you can't book on the day. We made this mistake after being assured on the phone that although we couldn't book for that evening a 7 o'clock dinner would be fine. We turned up at 6.30 and queued for nearly an hour and a half. My girlfriend wanted to cry (see photo). This does go for the Lahore as well but not to the same extent, especially as it is a lot larger, probably the only time I will put this down as a major benefit of anywhere. Also I know that the queues at Tayyabs are famous, I'm an idiot, no need to reiterate. Anyway enough of that, I'm starting to feel stressed just remembering it. Tayyabs is a lot smarter looking that the Lahore, this isn't saying a lot admittedly. Having said that I like the Lahore's stripped down feeling, it makes it seem like a bit of a secret, though of course it isn't really. I also appreciate the fact that unlike Tayyabs your not so close to other diners that you can't hear youself speak.

Ok time to get on to non-chop shaped food.  Well the quick review is that its all good and I would love to be eating at either right now, even though its breakfast time.  I'm going to throw out a quick caveat at this point: if you don't eat meat go to Tayyabs, they have far more veg dishes and they are really very good.  The pumpkin curry is delicious, as is the baby aubergine with lentils, both were truly excellent as was the paneer tikka, which had wonderfully blackened cripsy edges and a slightly sweet note from the marinade.  The meat dishes tend to be what people come here for.  Both do wonderful seekh kebabs, Tayyabs are juicier and softer.  Tayyabs dry meat curry is also an extraordinary dish, a slow cooked lamb curry cooked for so long all the sauce cooks off leaving a sauce that's like the beautifully caramelised bits that get left at the bottom of a pan, remarkably the meat remains meltingly soft and moist.  Its incredible.  So is the Karahi lamb but here I think that the Lahore has the edge.  There's is a near perfect example of how to stew lamb, the spicing enhances rather than drowns a deliciously rich deep lamb flavour that completely pervades the gravy.  The Lahore also does a really mean, rich chicken korma.  Tayyabs do far better naans but I like the tandoori rotis at the Lahore that I don't even mind.

Well, its difficult.  I went to the Lahore first and consequently have a real affection for it because its the place that showed me quite how good curry in London can be.  So I'm slightly biased.  But I really can't find day light between them.  If your going for the lamb chops go the Lahore, but both are good.  They also have slightly different strengths though neither really have weaknesses.  The only answer seems to be to eat in both, all the time.  Not too much of a hardship I suppose.


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