Whenever you see crossed chives you are in trouble
Cookery Quote
We should all be eating less meat and better meat
Never eat anything bigger than your head

What price loyalty?

There is an implausible fascination about chops – specifically tandoori lamb chops, a classic dish that has pride of place in many of London's Punjabi grill houses – and for many years the standard was set by Geetanjali in far off Wembley. Sadly, this the "best ever" chop house is no more, felled by the recession. The chops at Geetanjali were from the "thick cut" school – you cut a two bone chop, (like a mini rack of lamb) and then discard one bone leaving a single bone attached to a double sized cushion of meat.
The "thin cut" arena of chop cookery has always been dominated by Tayyabs of Fieldgate Street. In common with most grill houses their chops are cut on a bandsaw and end up about 1cm thick – this means more crispy, marinady bits, but inevitably the meat is cooked through and through and can be chewy.
When you've seen a restaurant quadruple in size over a twenty year span and also watched the family business pass from one generation to the next you cannot help but think fondly of it. And that's when the "loyalty" factor comes into play. The dozens of good meals, the riotous celebrations, the happy memories have a cumulative effect that makes every meal at Tayyabs a good one.
But this surge of restaurant loyalty can have unforeseen effects. In 2009 one of the key men from Tayyabs moved to premises a couple of hundred yards away and opened the Needoo Grill. The menu is cut from the same cloth as at Tayyabs. The service is equally slick and the prices are much of a muchness.... which just leaves the food. At Needoo the chicken tikka is good, a generous portion, plump breast meat. The "Lahori tandoori paratha" is magnificent – buttery, flaky, self-indulgent. The tarka dall is rich and almost sticky – holding its own against the Bukhara Dall served in way more pretentious establishments. And the chops? Pretty good, well spiced, not too frazzled, decent portion.
If you had never been to Tayyabs you would be delighted to discover Needoo and in a decade or so this newcomer may well achieve iconic status of its own ... but for now the loyalty factor means that its main role will be as a place to go on the many occasions when the queue to get seated at Tayyabs is unbearably long.

Tayyabs, 89 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1JU (020 7247 6400 www.tayyabs.co.uk)
Needoo Grill, 87 New Road, London E1 1HH (020 7247 0648 www.needoogrill.co.uk)

Charles Campion - Tuesday 23rd March 2010

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