Review: Tayyabs (London)

We recently spent a long weekend in London. Now I quite like London & have been quite a few times & on this trip, my plan was to go to a lot of the foodie places I’ve heard of but never been to. Needless to say, it didn’t quite happen that way! However, I did get to go to a few amazing restaurants that naturally I want to share with you all. This was meant to be a post summarising those places but I have too much to say so I’m splitting it into 3 posts – enjoy!

My previous trip to London last year, I was introduced to the indian restaurant Tayyabs in Whitechapel. Tayyabs is a bit of an institution when it comes to Indian restaurants & I’ve seen Gizzi Erskine rave about their takeaway on instagram. When you enter the restaurant, there’s people everywhere. Literally, there’s queues of people – one queue for people who have a reservation & another for people who have turned up trying to get a table. We had a reservation as I remembered my previous visit at 8pm on a Friday night & the place was rammed full despite having 3 floors!

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The menu itself isn’t fancy or containing numerous dishes, just a select number of starters & mains. No matter where you sit, you will always be passed by waiters carrying dishes of sizzling grills or curry that smell amazing. As soon as you are seated, a selection of dips, salad & poppadoms are placed for you to munch on whilst picking from the menu. One point I should also mention is that it’s BYOB here, with no corkage charge. Yes that’s right, no extra £5 a bottle for the priviledge of drinking what you want. Bet you don’t find that in many places in London!

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We opted for 2 starters to share: masala fish & chicken tikka. Both dishes are shown on the menu as 2 pieces but are 2 pieces for a reason as they are quite large! The chicken tikka was on the bone thigh & leg which meant getting your hands dirty! The meat itself was so tender as it seemed like it had just been cooked & no more. The masala fish was just as soft, flaking away as we tried to take a piece each from the griddle. The masala fish went really well with the mango chutney that was on the table, the sweetness mixing well with the masala spices.

As Tayyabs is such a busy restaurant, the dishes arrive as soon as they are ready. This meant that whilst we were still eating our starters, our mains arrived. I don’t have an issue with this but it does mean that towards the end of the meal, the mains can be a bit cold.

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We again shared our mains: keema curry (spicy lamb mince) & dry meat. The only way to describe dry meat is tandoori beef with light marinade/sauce covering it with peppers & onions. It doesn’t sound like much I know but it is so moreish! The beef is lean, fragrant & not heavy like regular indian dishes. I also prefered the keema here to other places I have had it as it was not overpowered with any additions like lemon juice. It was just straight up spicy lamb mince. Although I was edging on full, I was determined to finish my meal as the dry meat was that tasty!

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Despite how busy Tayyabs is, we didn’t feel rushed at all during our meal, even when the mains were brought out whilst still munching our starters. I should probably mention the price – for our meal, along with a roti & a portion of pilau rice, it came to just over £30 for the lot!! If you love Indian food & are paying London a visit, not popping into Tayyabs for some food would just be wrong!

Review: Opium

When it comes to going out for dinner or getting a takeaway, Chinese or Oriental food is not my first choice. This is mainly because I’m always so underwhelmed by the food & feel I could make it just as well at home. It’s surprising given where we stay in the West End of Glasgow which has so many different Chinese/Oriental places on hand.

On my husband’s actual birthday, my parent’s present for him was a meal & all he had to do was pick a restaurant. He narrowed it down to Opium & an Italian restaurant & he gave me the task of choosing one. I opted for Opium since it had been on my list of places to go from recommendations from work colleagues.

When we arrived at Opium, it was relatively quiet for a Thursday evening but it worked in our favour as we had the choice of where we wanted to sit. We opted for a table near the back of the restaurant which gave me the perfect view of seeing what other diners were having!

On the table I was delighted to see the cutlery was a spoon & a pair of chopsticks with no fork in sight. This instantly reminded me of restaurants on our holiday last year in Hong Kong & Thailand. The menu in Opium is not Chinese but of Oriental fusion, which as you can imagine, leads to an extensive menu! It also boasts a large dim sum offering which got a big thumbs up from me!

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As we’d only really eaten breakfast that day, we decided to order 3 dim sum to share for our starter . The crab & chive dumplings were presented in a traditional Chinese steamer & accompanied by a vinegar dipping sauce. The dumplings were melt in the mouth, with the lovely tang of the vinegar accompanying it perfectly. Our second dim sum was chilli salt squid, which I was apprehensive about. This was partly due to having made squid at home a couple of weeks before & it put me off a bit as it didn’t turn out well at all. I had nothing to worry about with this beautiful pile of squid as it was tender & had such a moreish chilli & salt coating to it. I could have honestly eaten a big plate of this on its own! Our final dim sum was satay won ton – chicken & king prawn won ton dumpling covered in a satay sauce. This was probably my least favourite as the texture, for me, was a bit slimy. I’m not sure if this was maybe the different in wrapping compared with the dumplings as I’ve never had won ton before.

With the starters being so good, the mains had a hard act to follow! We shared a portion of thai chilli beef & malay spicy tiger prawn. The beef came with okra (my new favourite vegetable), pepper in a chilli & basil sauce. The meat was lovely & tender but the sauce was a bit disappointing as it lacked a strong chilli flavour. I was expecting more heat like the chilli & basil sauces I’ve eaten in Thai restaurants in both Thailand & here in the UK.

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The tiger prawn dish had a lovely fragrant curry sauce, which again was not too hot but neither too sweet. The accompanying vegetables in the dish were cooked perfectly, with a good crunch to them. Our eyes were bigger than our bellies with our side dishes. We opted for steamed jasmine rice & also fried egg noodles as the waitress asked both of us if we wanted a side so we threw caution to the wind! The rice was so fluffy & light, while the noodles had an almost chow mein like taste to them. Needless to say, we didn’t finish all of the sides as we focussed more on the main dishes!

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I will take my hat off to Opium as they have opened my eyes to the fact that not all Oriental restaurants are a disappointment. The ferrero rocher given with the bill may have also helped sway me!! I will definitely be back as soon as I can, even if it is only to sample more of the extensive dim sum on offer!!

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Review: Porter & Rye

Steak has been taken to another level in Glasgow thanks to the introduction of Finnieston’s newest restaurant, Porter & Rye. It’s owned by the same people who own Finnieston favourites Lebowski’s & The Finnieston, with the aim of bringing together good quality aged beef & molecular cooking (how very Heston!).

Ever since Porter & Rye opened in December, I had been pining to visit & the perfect opportunity came up to go for dinner on Valentine’s day. The interior of the restaurant has a homely yet modern feel to it with stripped back brick walls & a sleek metallic style bar with open kitchen at the back of the restaurant. The seating is spread out with a few booths & bar types seats on the ground floor & a split mezzanine with booths to the back & table to the front. We were fortunate to be seated in the upper booth area which was cosy with dimmed lighting. It was also seated directly above the kitchen so I could sneak peeks at goings on downstairs.

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When I say steak has been taken to another level, this is evident when you’re seated. Our waitress had a blackboard with each type of steak, which cut of meat & the price. On the night, there was 30 day aged Galloway & 28 day aged Aberdeen Angus to choose from. I found out after our meal from John, the head chef of the group, that from pictures provided by their butcher, individual cows are picked by the restaurant for their meat to ensure they are getting the best quality!

We opted to order some drinks whilst deciding & I’ll admit that I hardly recognised any of the ingredients on the cocktail menu. That didn’t stop me & I ordered a tequila based cocktail that came with blue cheese stuffed olives that arrived with the biggest block of ice I’d ever seen! Normally that would put me off but on the first sip, it was evident that the focus here was on the alcohol & not masking the taste with fruity or sugary flavours! Not that I’m complaining!

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Our starters were chosen from the small plates section & we opted for beef carpaccio & smoked mackerel pate. I know, a beef starter when we’re about to have a steak but I couldn’t resist. This was the first evidence of the molecular cooking as the carpaccio arrived with a domed cover filled with smoke that evaporated once uncovered. Despite this, I could still taste the smokiness with each bite of the carpaccio. The smoked mackerel pate had a similar smokiness to it, hinting that it was smoked in-house to give it a subtle taste. The pate also came with 8 oatcakes which couldn’t be finished as we had to keep space for the main! We also received some of the oysters that were on special that weekend with compliments of the chef. These were covered with an apple foams with tiny bits of diced apples, seated in a crate on a bed of seaweed which our waitress made smoke with some liquid poured over it. These were divine – very fresh & tangy from the apple & a nice change from the usual oysters au natural.

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The main event was to die for! We opted for a chateaubriand medium rare which came with 2 sides & 2 sauces. It was difficult to choose only 2 sides but we narrowed it down to broccoli & marrow bone mac & cheese which I had heard good things about. Before your steak arrives, you are presented with a selection of steak knives & allowed to choose which one you prefer! The steak was beautiful – perfectly cooked, melt in the mouth & full of flavour. I honestly could have eaten the whole thing to myself it was that good! I’m normally a fast eater but I took my time with this as I wanted to savour every mouthful.

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Our sides were also fantastic. Although we had tenderstem broccoli as they had run out of purple sprouting, it was crunchy yet slightly buttery & salty – a far cry from my usual plain old boiled broccoli I make at home! And the mac & cheese, what can I say? I’d never been sure about trying bone marrow but the small cubes that were mixed with the mac & cheese were meaty & complimented the pasta perfectly. The mac & cheese was not overly cheesy which actually went quite well as it wasn’t too heavy & didn’t detract from the steak. Our sauces were porter & bacon & smoked garlic & pink peppercorn & although they were nice, I didn’t feel they were needed as the steak & sides provided enough flavour for the main course.

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With my main I had a particularly fabulous cocktail which had a spirit I had never heard or, nor can recall but had green apple sorbet in it with a large slice of a granny smith. I’d never had sorbet in a cocktail but it was really refreshing & helped soak up the (strong) alcohol that was in the cocktail.

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I have to take my hats off to Porter & Rye for providing a dessert I could not resist, which is rare for me. I opted to have the peanut butter ice cream with banana & toffee sauce to end my meal. The ice cream was creamy & a not so strong but just about right peanut butter flavour. The banana was in the form of chips & caramelised banana chunks which was perfect with the toffee sauce.

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Porter & Rye was the best dining experience I’ve had since we dined in a Aux Armes de Bruxelles on our mini-moon. Yes it was expensive (we were £98 in total) but the reflection of the amount of time, effort & money they have spent developing the concept & dishes is evident from the moment you are seated. With new starters due to be launched in the coming weeks, I’m excited to see what else they can offer on top of what I regard to be an already amazing restaurant. This will definitely be one of our go-to restaurants for special occasions!