Few places are as revered as Mangal. Red and green-starred by Time Out, lauded by blogs and tripping off the tongue of every self-satisfied in-the-know from Bethnal Green to Turnham Green, the ocakbasi (or charcoal grill restaurant) is the undisputed champion of the Turkish supper.
So what is this mecca of diced meat really life? Nestled down a side street between (on our visit at least) a stabbing and some other undisclosed gang dispute, it can safely call itself tucked away.
Inside and the impressive fire pit belched smoke and sizzled with spittle, charring spice-filled chicken and slowly shrinking peppers to perfection for a shared Tavukbeyti. While our kofte lamb had curled into perfect crunchy swirls over the embers, pairing it with a murky pool of tangy yoghurt and butter (Yoghurtlu Adana) was a bit like matching Vinnie Jones with Lady Sovereign – a bit weird to our unaccustomed palates.
We started with mixed meze, great pools of hummus, tsatziki, diced tomato and aubergine – which came with a huge backet of warm leavened bread for dipping and dunking – and the Lahmacun (Turkish pizza with minced meat) which is great if you eat it fast while its hot.
Bring your own booze (no corkage) or go for mint tea (a bag dunked in a WI teacup and slopped on the table), skip dessert (they bring a handful of baclava cubes which is plenty for an already bulging belly), and don’t try ordering a coffee before the meal – these guys are purists and they’ll laugh you out of the restaurant (as they did me).
Ate with: Dave from the foreign office
Price per head including tip: £15
(Update 27.01.10: Mangal has a challenger, Dalston’s Ozlem, as recommended by Will Eat For Money)