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.

curry

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!

sides

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!

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Thai Treats in Bangkok

On our recent holiday, we also visited Bangkok & Koh Samui. I’ll be honest in that I’m not the biggest fan of Thai food with any I’ve had in the UK being either too lemony or having too much coconut. Given that, I was a big apprehensive going to Thailand as I thought the food would be of a similar taste. How wrong was I?! The food in Thailand is much much better, with lots of different flavours & nowhere near as much overpowering flavours as what is passed as Thai food in the UK.

We only really had 2 nights in Bangkok as we arrived after midnight on our first time. We were unfortunately caught up in the Thai Coup which meant we could only stay out til 10pm at night so it was a bit restrictive as to where we could go at night. The first night, we went to Issaya Siamese Club which had been recommended to me. The menu takes a twist on Thai food but with keeping traditional Thai flavours & cooking methods at heart. We picked a selection of dishes including tender beef, papaya salad, soft shell crab yellow curry & soft spicy chicken summer roll. The food was fabulous, full of flavour & also really well presented. My favourites were the tender beef which was served cold but was quite spicy & the soft shell crab yellow curry. There was so much crab on the plate & the yellow curry was a more creamier curry than the red or green but not too creamy that it was a heavy curry.

Tender BeefSoft Shell Crab Yellow CurrySoft Spicy Chicken Soft Roll

Whilst in Bangkok, we also sampled some tropical fruits & street food. On a riverboat cruise we were on, there was a fresh fruit platter with loads of fruits I hadn’t come across such as sour fruit, queen fruit, lychee, guava & pomello. There was also mango & sticky rice which is a popular traditional Thai dessert. The rice is cooked with coconut milk to make it sticky but not too coconutty & it just so moreish!! Some of the fruit, such as dragon fruit & guava, I found to be quite tasteless but others such as the sour fruit, were delicious!

Fruit BuffetSour Fruit

The next day, we went to Bangkok’s biggest market & I had hoped to try some weird street food (including insects). I was a bit disappointed to find that the food area didn’t offer anything from the norm. We decided to sit down & have some food & opted for pad thai (when in Rome & that) & a shrimp fried rice. Both dishes were full of flavour & the one thing I like about the Pad Thai was that the peanuts & chillies with it are optional, you have to mix it in. Another thing I love about Thai restaurants/eateries, is the condiments. As standard, you get 4 pots, 1 with dried chillies, 1 with chilli fish sauce & 1 with chilli vinegar (my favourite). The fourth is either empty or filled with a soy/fish sauce.

Pad ThaiShrimp Fried Rice

On our last night, we opted to dine at the street food stalls we had seen at the end of the street where our hotel was. There were a couple of stands with some tables & chairs along with a couple of mini kitchens. We ordered a few different dishes including sweetened grilled pork, spicy hot beef curry & spicy hot pork soup. I honestly do not think I’ll taste pork nicer than the sweetened grilled pork! It was so tender, sweet but not sickly sweet & just so moreish. There was a mixup with the order as both the pork & the beef tasted the same so I think they gave us the hot & spicy soup for both. The soup was the type of food I had been dreading. Yes it was spicy but it was also full of lemongrass. So much so, that’s all I could taste  & I couldn’t really eat any of it.

Sweetened Grilled PorkHot & Spicy Pork Soup

Bangkok was a good starter for an indication of what authentic Thai food is but when we went to Koh Samui, that’s when we tasted some really good dishes. Blog to follow shortly!!

Hong Kong Delights

We recently visited Hong Kong & Thailand on our (very belated) Honeymoon & Asia was the foodie delight I’d hoped for! Our first stop was Hong Kong where we spent 3 nights & 4 days, staying on Hong Kong Island. When I stayed in America, I totally fell in love with Dim Sum so knew I had to seek some out when we arrived.

On our first night, we got to know our surroundings & ended up a Times Square (not a patch on NY). We’d passed lots of restaurants on the way but at Time Square there is a massive shopping centre with 3 floors dedicated to food outlets. As it was our first night, and first time in Asia, we thought we would play it safe & eat there.

We ended up in a restaurant Shanghai Min which had a bustling but civilised tea room feel to it. Traditional tea rooms involve a fight for your food at trolleys whereas this restaurant had table service. The menu was extensive with dishes from shark fin soup to stir fry to dim sum (yay!). We ordered a selection of dishes between us – Dan Dan Noodles, two types of Pork dim sum, spicy chilli chicken & beef spare ribs.

Dim SumDim SumDan Dan Noodles

It was a bit hit & miss the dishes. The dan dan noodles & dim sum were fantastic! The noodles were really spicy yet full of flavour from the pork & sauce. The dim sum were not slimy, you could taste the pork & had really nice traditional style Chinese dipping sauces with them. The beef spare ribs appeared but it was more like deep fried bits of meat that didn’t have much flavour to them. I actually think it was pork we were given, not beef. And the chicken, well that was an experience. There were 2 types of chicken, what looked like breast then smaller bits. The “breast” was actually really fatty bits of chicken & the smaller bits were mainly bone. It was pretty much inedible.

Beef or Pork?Spicy Chicken

One thing that did disappoint me about Hong Kong was the lack of street food. I was expecting to see stalls lined up & down the streets bit this wasn’t the case. We did find one stall near the hotel & it served some weird items but the chicken & squid we got were pretty tasty. It turns out that street food in HK is in fact small restaurants dotted down lanes off the main drag. On our second night, we found such a place & it was so good we ate there both nights.

Street Food Menu

The staff only spoke minimal English so it was a case of pointing at the menu & using sign language. These places contained some of your traditional black bean & salt/pepper type sauces as well as some unusual cuts of meat (tongue & different types of fish we don’t get). Some of the dishes we tasted were prawns with cashew nuts & squid & cuttlefish black bean sauce. The food was cooked to order so was really fresh & there’s something quite cool about sitting amongst the locals at their normal eatery that most tourists wouldn’t know about.

Chicken black beanSquid & Cuttlefish Black Bean

In Hong Kong, breakfast isn’t usually served at hotels so we were staying room only. On our first morning, I had a quick Google for breakfast places & found an American style diner-esque place that was opened 24 hours. It was famed for its breakfast so we ventured there. I opted for an omlette filled with various green veg & you got to choose 2 sides (at breakfast?!) as well as toast & fruit juice. It was a lot of food for breakfast but definitely kept us going all day!

Omlette

The other breakfast we had, we went to a chain restaurant around the corner from the hotel & they have a self service option, serving more traditional Chinese dishes such as fish, noodles & chicken dishes. I opted for the haddock with scrambled eggs which cost around £2 and tasted really good!

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On our last day, we took the ferry to another island, Sok Kwu Wan, to go to the Rainbow Seafood Restaurant I had read about. The restaurant has many tanks filled with all different types of food from lobster to grippa to clams. As it’s on an island, if you book with them for an evening meal, they have a free ferry service from Hong Kong Island & Kowloon which saves a bit of money. As it was our last day & we had money to burn, we had a bit of a feast. We opted for garlic prawns, clams with glass noodles & garlic, special fried rice and salt & pepper shrippa (I think that’s what they’re called but I can’t find them on the internet). All of the food was exceptionally cooked & the portions were fantastic. We got 10 prawns, halved & filled with garlic for under a fiver. A dish like that would cost a fortune in the UK, especially for so many prawns! The shrippas (or whatever they’re called) were pretty tasteless though, especially as they were the priciest dish we received!

Garlic PrawnscClams Special Fried RiceShrippa

I wish we had had more time in Hong Kong as I’m sure there are 100 other restaurants that are worth trying but given our few days, I’m glad we experience the restaurants we did. I also doubt I’m going to find dim sum better anywhere else!!