It's not every day you take a Bangladeshi Bengali restaurant owner out for lunch to a Pakistani Punjabi restaurant. Today was my opportunity to drag Jafoor "Ali" Ahmed away from Joy in Broadway Market for a couple of hours to dine in New Tayyabs - one of East London's most talked-about eating houses. Ali was the first restauranteur to allow me to train in his kitchens and I've never looked back since.
The first thing you notice about Tayyabs is that, by Indian restaurant standards, the place is light and modern.
A glance at the unusually simplified menu is enough to make you wonder whether Gordon Ramsay has paid a recent "Kitchen Nightmares" visit. A taste of the food, however, is enough to convince you that Mohammed Tayyab and his staff possess skills that were not learnt from any British chef.
For someone like me, reasonably used to the differences between the cuisines of north, south, west and east India, this food comes as a surprise. It's not like Mughal or Bengali northern cooking, characterised by sweet and fragrant ground spice meat and fish dishes.
Nor is it reminiscent of Tamil cuisine with its bold use of whole spices with vegetables and pulses, or the more delicate sweet/citrus flavours of Gujarati cooking.
Instead, this food combines produce that is intrinsically bitter and sour, using spices to adjust the balance of flavours without bluring them. Tayyab's website home flash page contains a graphic explosion - and that's exactly what this food does in your mouth.
We ate too much, too fast, piling flavour onto flavour until none of us could take any more. And we didn't miss the alcohol. But with Tayyabs serving the best mango lassi I've ever tasted, who would?
The stomach may have been defeated by the karahi gosht, the masala fish and the dhal karela, but the eyes could still feast on the sweets. Some while back the owners of Tayyab bought the shop next door and knocked it through to create a dessert counter to rival the great Ambala (well, maybe not quite).
This strange white substance caught the eye. None of us had ever seen it before so we took the opportunity of sampling the sweets for a take-away box in order to try some samples.
It turned out to be a type of crystalised pumpkin, combining the firm fruit texture with the gentle, sweet flavour to create an extraordinary result. I took home a box of it.
It will go down very nicely with the champagne later on tonight. Which reminds me. May my family and I wish you all a very happy New Year and all the very best cooking and eating in 2007!
Minha refeição final do restaurante de 2006 estava em "Tayyabs" em Whitechapel, Londres do leste. A todos meus amigos em Portugal - tenha um ano novo feliz!