NEEDOO GRILL: A "NEW" TAYYAB ON NEW ROAD
Comparisons are going to be inevitable, so we might as well get it over with. Needoo Grill was opened a little under three months ago by the former manager of New Tayyabs and sits just a few steps away from London’s busiest restaurant around the corner on New Road.
It is a relatively small operation compared with its illustrious and ever expanding neighbour. It has just eighty seats downstairs and a handful by the window near the open kitchen. However, it already seems to have gathered its own following and, on a quiet Thursday lunchtime, although my friend William and I were the only diners, there was a steady stream of punters queuing for tandoori rolls and other lunchtime take-aways.
The owner has obviously brought his fourteen years experience at Tayyabs with him and there is little on the menu that will come as a surprise to anyone who has emerged from Fieldgate Street smelling of smoke and grilled lamb. He has, however, brought in his own chef for the task of preparing the dishes, straight from Lahore’s famous Food Street in Gawal Mandi.
If you are going to make a proper comparison with Tayyabs then you have to check out the grills and so, we began with an order of Lamb Chops, Seekh Kebabs and Chicken Tikka, a sure test of any pretender. On this showing it is very clear that the chef knows exactly what he is doing. The Chiken Tikka was perfectly flavoured from the marinade and beautifully moist inside when we split them open for closer examination. The Sheekh Kebabs, it may be heretical to say, were better than my last few visits to Tayyabs, dribbling juices as we picked them up to eat and leaving a fiery trail across the tongue after the first bite. The lamb chops, if you will the gold standard, were bang up to snuff too and both of us asked for new napkins after we had spent five minutes making sure the bones were scraped clean of meat. A little intercourse, if you will, of Paneer Tikka, was perhaps one starter too much, but had a perfect char on the outside and was soft and creamy in the middle.
Main courses have always been a bit of an afterthought in the ten years or so I have been visiting Tayyabs, a shame as they can often be very good indeed. However many times I promise myself I will pay them more attention next time, the first sniff of grilling means they are forgotten in favour of the more primal desire to chew on dead animals. I suspect the same will happen when I revisit Needoo Grill because their starters are pretty close to being just as good. This will also be a shame because their main courses were smashing too.
A special of Lamb Kofta Masala, came with little balls of lamb mince and boiled eggs in a rich, deeply savoury sauce and the Dal Baigun presented aubergines which had been roasted over an open flame before being cooked with a split chick pea dal leaving a smokiness to permeate the dish. Both choices got firm nods of approval from William, particularly when he was mopping them up with superb breads in the form of a perfectly puffed up naan and a flaky paratha.
There were some deserts on offer, but there was no way we were ever going to take up the offer to try them. We had pushed our plates away from us with nearly half of what we ordered on the table, a testament to the portion size. They took it away to be wrapped up so William could have it for lunch the next day, while we finished our meal with a cup of clove rich chai.
We came out laden down with take-away bags, which makes the cost of the meal of about £12 each bordering on the silly. As I said, it is almost inevitable that Needoo Grill is going to be compared to New Tayyabs and, on that basis it does well and I can really recommend it as an alternative venue when the whole baggage of the queues and noise at Wasim’s place gets a little bit too much.
But, that is doing Needoo Grill a disservice. It is a very good place in its own right and I am sure I shall be returning for supper in New Road very soon, whatever might be going on around the corner.