It’s cold. It’s Thursday night. And it’s time for some good Pakistani comfort food.
Mmmm aloo ke parathay, pan-fried flatbread stuffed with potatoes, and chutney. The minute my friend and I pictured the crispy, flaky and ghee-splattered parathas, our mouths started to salivate.
But the question was where to go. The place had to be affordable and have authentic Pakistani food. An extensive Google search had a three-worded answer to all our prayers – Lahore Kebab House.
It looked clean, was reasonably priced, had quick service a four-star Zagat rating – plus Umberston Street is only ten minutes from Whitechapel Station.
A viewing of the menu told us that we could get a good meal for under a tenner. A rice dish was around £8 while curries ranged from £5 to £9.
In less than five minutes we were sitting at a big table in front of the television set and placing our order: two aloo parhatas and a chicken tikka.
The food arrived in the next ten minutes. As the waiter placed the food in front of me, I disregarded the “plate is hot warning” and tucked in.
The first bite tasted like heaven. Potatoes, red chillies, coriander, onion, a dollop of butter and minty cool yoghurt. I felt like I was back home and having dinner with the family and it only cost us a fiver each.
It took us 20 minutes to clean our plates and another 20 to wake up from the self-induced food coma. As we sat there debating dessert, a gentleman who must have been in his late fifties, was doing rounds and asking customers if they had a good meal. He was Mohammad Siddique, one of the owners.
His family has owned the restaurant for over 40 years now. Siddique’s older brother bought it off a café owner in the early 1970s: “At that time there was only space to seat 14 customers and many people had to wait for three hours or more,” he said.
“We used to ask people to leave once they were done with their meals. Now, we have two spacious floors and we just let them sit and chat after a meal. They order their tea and talk about their day and what’s wrong at work.”
Siddique’s eyes twinkled with pride as he explained how they make their fresh food every day. “One of our most popular dishes is the lamb chops. There are people who walk in and before they sit down, they tell one of the boys to get lamp chops, chop chop,” he said.
When asked about any celebrity A-listers who frequent the place, Siddique said that he had met a lot of cricketers, politicians and celebrities, but always treated everyone as a regular customer.
“I got a call from an MP the other day” he told us, “and he said that they wanted to give me some sort of award. I was a little shocked and I asked, ‘why me?’ He said that a lot of Parliament members loved the food and wanted to give an award as a sign of goodwill.”
“We are very down-to-earth people, we don’t know who comes or goes. Many Pakistani politicians and former Presidents and Prime Ministers, including Nawaz Sharif, Pervez Musharraf and Imran Khan, have come here for dinner meetings.”
Siddique looks after the family business with his two sons, Emran and Asif, and hopes the restaurant keeps going strong for future generation. “Our food is very good. People seem to love it and will hopefully keep on loving it,” he said.