Restaurant review

Mangal 2, London: “It’s brave and convincing and really delicious” – restaurant review | Food

Mangal 2, 4 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XN (020 7254 7888). Small plates £ 5- £ 12, large plates £ 14- £ 19, desserts £ 7.50-£ 8.50, wines from £ 28

If Mangal 2 were located almost anywhere else in London, that wouldn’t seem particularly noteworthy: just another urban bistro with an open kitchen, bare floors, and a short, low-intervention wine list that could do with a bit more. intervention. But context matters. Instead, it’s on the main drag in Dalston, surrounded by ocakbasi or Turkish grills. The air in the street is charged with the scent of the rendered lamb and in the brightly lit windows the capital’s best doner kebabs are slowly spinning on their skewers, flaunting their curves, as Mail Online might say. ‘they never wrote about food with the force they reserve for objectifying people.

Once upon a time Mangal 2 was like its neighbors. It was a Turkish steakhouse, renowned for being where Gilbert and George went almost every night for their tea, and most recently for its gloriously energetic Twitter presence. As the figure suggests, this was the second London restaurant of a chef called Ali Dirik, who moved to London from Istanbul in 1987. It is now run by his sons, restaurant manager Ferhat and chef Sertaç , who spent a year cooking around Copenhagen. , a jar of honey for chefs wishing to cut their open ambitions on the culinary avant-garde.

‘Turkish classic’: ezme salad. Photograph: Sophia Evans / The Observer

At some point during the uproar of the past 18 months, the brothers decided they no longer wanted to duplicate the menu served by their neighbors. They wanted to be something else. This other item was brought to my attention by Chris Pople, who writes the longtime restaurant blog Cheese and Biscuits. Pople’s account of his meal was almost out of breath. If there is an occasion to be breathless with my dinner, I am definitely here for it.

It was a great tip. Again, context is everything. It’s the story – what this restaurant used to be, what it is now – that really makes the experience. But even without that story, it’s still delicious food. He affectionately draws on the Turkish repertoire without fear of innovation. There is, of course, a lot that draws on tradition. There’s hummus, but it’s an unusually robust affair with a hint of cheesy funk. It comes with a deep well, filled with a seriously peppery olive oil the color of new leaf growth, which acts less as a lubricant than as a condiment. With it is a round of their lightly darkened, chewy and elastic flatbread, with a hot crust that begs to be torn.

“An exceptionally robust affair”: hummus.
“An exceptionally robust affair”: hummus. Photograph: Sophia Evans / The Observer

We have rolled vine leaves stuffed with rice, bound by the ocean of brown crab meat. It got faster scratches thanks to ribbons on top of a langoustine emulsion, a kind of mayonnaise sprinkled with spices and turbocharged. There’s also a cold salad of grilled onions – the petals of the onion layers have been charred and roasted until sweet and dizzy. They are dressed in dried herbs invigorated by a tangy and tangy vinaigrette. We end this series of small plates with a trio of mushroom dumplings, the silky white skins pulled into folds and filled with a mushroom duxelle of enormous depth and punch. Underneath is a puddle of yogurt sauce; on top of the fleshy pieces of tomatoes, candied to make them more intensely themselves. It is a plate of commitment and serious effort before the service. He taps to the table.

On the larger plates we have a bunch of expertly cooked lamb sweetbreads. They’re a textural joy, articulated between the soft, creamy inside and the crisp, taut outside, powered by a dark gravy built around the bittersweet kick of pomegranate molasses. Next to it are large shiso leaves, with their wafty aromas. They might have felt like intruders from another menu, but they fit in perfectly.

'Go faster with stripes': vine leaves stuffed with crab meat and scampi emulsion.
‘Go faster with stripes’: vine leaves stuffed with crab meat and scampi emulsion. Photograph: Sophia Evans / The Observer

A restaurant like this, drawing deeply on Anatolian traditions, must feature more sheep than just its thymus. Sertaç Dirik makes a point of using Cornish mutton. It comes from old sheep. Just as beef eaters have realized that dairy animals, over time, provide the best steaks, these sheep are where the flavor is. We only have one chop. It is fatty and powerful and rich meat and will not be to everyone’s taste. It’s mine. We also have a classic Turkish ezme salad, which consists of tomatoes, onions, garlic and green peppers. It is meant to be finely chopped. Often there is the suspicion that it has been blitzed in the processor. Here, however, these are the finest and most precise dice. It is an ezme salad raised to a state of blissful elegance.

There are only two items on the dessert menu, but both are real pieces of pastry. There is a thin-shelled tahini tart, filled with a velvety sesame caramel. On top are curls of hazelnut scented cream. A classic baba is not soaked in rum syrup, but reinforced by the aniseed joys of raki, which is more culturally relevant. In an attempt to find something to quibble about, I’ll pretend that I wish the baba had spent a little more time in his syrup bath until he was completely soaked, but my heart wasn’t there. There’s also a cream with a shiny sour edge courtesy of Mirabelle plums to combat the sweetness manifested in submissive. This is delicious.

“A classic baba is not soaked in rum syrup, but raki”: raki baba. Photograph: Sophia Evans / The Observer

There was plenty of wine to drink there, in a way. I’ve complained about it already, but I’ll do it again. It’s a list written by natural wine fans so ardent, so committed, that they’ve probably gone to every concert, bought the t-shirts, and then scribbled love letters for them with little hearts to sprinkle with. all “i”. A gewürztraminer, at £ 49, is a hefty 14% and smells like dirty barnyard. It’s cloudy at first and completely opaque at the bottom, as if Dyno-Rod had just come in to clear a blockage and wanted to show you what the problem was. It also means that the cheapest bottle costs £ 28 and much of the list is over £ 40. This is strange because the food prices, between £ 5 and £ 19 a dish, are quite reasonable. Yeah, I know. I clearly don’t like wines.

Consider that you are warned about this. What matters here is serious and inventive cuisine. The Dirik boys refused to be hidden by tradition at their very doorstep. It is courageous and convincing. And in this case, really delicious.

Chewing The Fat by Jay Rayner: Tasting Notes of a Gourmet Life, is now available. Buy it for £ 4.99 at

Email Jay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ jayrayner1

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