Throughout my travels, one thing that I have noticed is the number of people who choose to eat at sub-par establishments. All over the world, there are countless cafes and restaurants located in prime tourist areas. While you can, indeed, find some gems in these areas, more often than not the places that you’ll find in these areas serve food that is passable at best, and most certainly overpriced for what it is – a typical tourist trap restaurant.
Why do people continue to eat at these places then? The answer is simple – location. Foreign city, hungry, there’s food, done. Even the most seasoned of travellers, and those who know all the best places to eat in their home towns can fall into this trap – it’s very easy to do. The thing is, with just the smallest amount of research, you’ll find that there will always almost be something amazing very nearby – something that isn’t aimed at tourists and isn’t overpriced.
A false assumption that a lot of people make in relation to food, not just when they travel but in general, is that anywhere good must be expensive, and that the better the food is, the more expensive it must be. The reality, in fact, could not be further from the truth. More often than not, the good stuff will actually cost you less than the tourist traps! Let me give you one example to illustrate this point.
In London, all the tourist guides talk about having a curry in Brick Lane. Brick Lane is a great area to walk through, full of character and life, and there are some great markets, Rough Trade East (one of my favourite record stores), and some great bars and food places. Brick Lane, however, is not the place to get a curry in London. You’ll arrive there and be greeted with the sight and sounds of individuals standing at the front of restaurants, inviting you to come in and have a feed. The windows of these establishments are stickered with claims of the numerous awards and accolades that their food has received over the years. “Come in”, “have something to eat”, “very tasty” and the ubiquitous “I’ll give you a special price”. Everyone trying to encourage you to come in for a meal will make you offers – “30% off your meal”, ‘40% off”, “50% off and drinks are free!”
It all sounds great, and in you. Will you have a good time? Sure. No matter where you are, as long as the food isn’t absolutely terrible and the company is good, you’ll enjoy yourself. The fact of the matter is however, that you’ll walk out of the establishment having eaten a very ordinary curry and, despite the “deal” that you got; you will have still paid too much for what you ate.
Just around the corner from Brick Lane, not more than a 10 minute walk away, on the other side of Whitechapel Road, are 3 of the best curry houses in London. Tayyabs, Lahore Kebab House, and Needoo Grill. They are separated from their Brick Lane counterparts by a few key things:
- There is nobody standing out the front trying to entice you to enter – they know their food is great and have a steady stream of customers every night.
- The price is fixed – despite the lack of “special prices for you”, a full price meal at any one of these three establishments will cost you less than a “special discount” meal anywhere on Brick Lane.
- The menus are focused – These establishments don’t offer every combination of every sub-continental dish imaginable under the sun. They offer a great range of curries and grilled meats. Very authentic, and done to perfection.
- The clientele is local – These places aren’t full of tourists. There are some tourists who have discovered them yes, but mostly the clientele is local, including many Indians and Pakistanis. They know what’s good, and come here time and time again for the good stuff.
It is plain to see then, with just a little bit of research, you can get an amazing meal, of high quality, in a place aimed at locals, for cheaper than anything you’d find in a touristy area. Every single city that I have visited has had examples like this, and more often than not these places are only a short stroll from the tourist spots.
If you look at the “food” category in the sidebar of this website, you can find links to some of the places I’ve eaten at and written about. Over the coming months, I will be looking to supplement my travel photo updates with posts containing food recommendations. I believe in integrity and will only write about places that I have eaten at myself, or have heard good things about from trusted, reliable sources (I.e. friends who are as passionate about good food as I am). I will state which is the case each and every time.
In the current case, I have eaten at all 3 of the curry houses discussed, and my preference, in order, is:
Tayyabs: 83-89 Fieldgate St London E1 1JU, United Kingdom
Lahore Kebab House: 2-10 Umberston St London, Greater London E1 1PY, United Kingdom
Needoo Grill: 87 New Rd London E1 1HH, United Kingdom