Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Mirch Masala, Whitechapel


Well, you could have knocked me down with a poppadum. For weeks, if not months, a friend of mine had been trying to persuade me to try Mirch Masala on Commercial Street, and of course I thought the very idea was insane. "Why on earth," I would say, "if I was going to eat anywhere in Whitechapel, would I go anywhere other than Tayyabs?". And given the sheer consistency and quality of the food there, I think you would agree I had a point. But more recently the buzz of recommendations for Mirch Masala had reached a even more deafening level as I learned a couple of colleagues at work at been and declared it (brace yourselves) "possibly" even better than Tayyabs. So that was that - on Friday evening I wandered down.


The menu was reassuringly Tayyabs-like in style, though perhaps slightly more extensive with a much larger vegetarian selection and some interesting Karahi options. We ordered a plate of sizzling lamb and chicken wing tikka, and on arrival you could immediately tell this was a kitchen with a supreme command of the grill. They were - and it almost pains me to say it - every bit as good as the grill from Tayyabs, succulent and salty and dripping with fantastic tandoori spicing.


The chilli naan was decent enough (nothing has yet beaten the garlic naan from Lahore over the road in my book, it's just a shame everything else there doesn't live up to it) but the Masala Bhindi was amazingly rich and meaty for a dish containing no meat, and the Karahi Chilli Chicken, despite containing slightly dry pieces of chicken, had such a wonderful tomatoey, herby sauce that I almost licked the bowl clean. Great stuff.

So, and here comes something I never thought I'd say, Mirch Masala may have done enough to replace Tayyabs as my curry house of choice in the East End. It's not just because of the food, either - although Mirch will certainly give them a run for their money. The problem is, thanks to people like me going on about how good Tayyabs is, it's more or less impossible to get in these days unless you turn up at 5:30pm or are willing to wait for two hours. And once you're in, securing a spot with enough room to use your elbows and not have people knocking you on the back of the head on the way to the toilets is yet another challenge. Mirch Masala serves tasty, cheap food (our feast for two came to £19 in total) in infinitely more relaxed (if rather canteen-y) surroundings and is a big enough restaurant that you don't have to sprint there after work to get a table. It has everything going for it. Let's just see how long it takes for the rest of the city to catch on... can you keep a secret?

8/10

Mirch Masala on Urbanspoon

11 comments:

Burak said...

Variety is the spice of life! The food at MM is great, but I agree that the clincher is the far more relaxed atmosphere compared with Tayyabs or Lahore. That's not to say that I haven't had to wait for a table at Mirch from time to time, but at worst it's usually only a matter of waiting a couple of minutes if at all.

Matt said...

Tayyabbs has won London Indian Restaurant of the year, which is only going to make it more popular.
http://blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/2008/09/eat-the-london.html

Chris said...

Thanks for the link, Matt - it's about time Tayyabs got something, although from what I understand it's been this good since 1978 so God knows why it's taken so long.

Jess said...

You have sold MM too me - shall be going there for my last supper in London. Good news for Tayyabs for the award but bad news for its regular customers...

Helen said...

Well I will try to keep the secret for as long as humanly possible. I want to eat there and now. The food looks SO good, that grilled meat especially and when you said, 'dripping with tandoori spices', I was practically drooling...

Lizzie said...

Argh - I must go! Especially as Tayabbs is closed throughout Ramadan.

Do you know if it's also BYOB?

Chris said...

Oh yes - we took a couple of bottles of wine from Tescos just down the road, and they didn't raise an eyebrow (or charge corkage).

Lizzie said...

Thanks Chris. I've booked in a table of 9 (!) on the strength of your review and am really looking forward to it.

Chris said...

Oh no! The pressure.

Give them a ring ahead and see if they can sort you out with a roast leg of tandoori lamb or something special to share. It's a bit hard to tell from my crappy iPhone picture, but they do special dishes for groups.

Krista said...

You've sold me too...thanks for the heads up.

madhutter said...

Tayyabs has been a staple for many years - even with the queues it still buzzingly good - BUT....they have changed the chops! What has happened to those delicious thin pices of tender meat covered with red spicy garam masala paste? Last time I was there they were fatter, and tougher, less pasty less tasty and even burnt....

What is going on? How can such a success change the signature dish?