TESTI: THE THINGS I MISS THE MOST
I can't deny that coming back to the UK after two and a bit months spent tramping around the developing world on my latest leg of the trip has been hard and a tad depressing
Things seem just that little bit unreal, the conspicuous consumerism, just getting a stranglehold in SE Asia and India, seems inappropriate and, quite frankly, everything seems a bit dull and grey.
A natural level of displacement, I suppose, given that I have spent a few sparse weeks in the country in the last twelve months. But, I am already itching to get back out on the road a feeling, I suspect, that will now never leave me. I don’t think my relationship with London and the UK will ever be quite the same again.
Despite the feeling of disassociation with the place and the people, there are some things that I have been looking forward to on my return.
I have been craving a decent glass of wine, hard to get at any price on my recent travels. That was soon sorted out when HP plopped the cork of a splendid bottle of Gigondas the moment he heard my key in the door.
I have been craving a Pork Pie and plan to go down to Borough Market on Friday and give Ian from Mrs King’s a hug he may consider altogether inappropriate.
I have been craving a pint of beer that consists of more than cold bubbles and sorted that out with a pint of London Pride and a bag of scratchings last night on the way to supper.
Ah supper. Most of all, I have been craving large chunks of protein, in short supply (The Philippines excepted) in most of South East Asia and India where carbs rule and expensive dead animals are padded out with clever cooking, spices and, damn them, vegetables.
On my return, HP presented a large Onglet from new favourite butcher Jack O Shea. It more than did the job, but I was still craving huge chunks of flesh yesterday evening. HP, offered up the suggestion that we should continue our search to find a replacement for the much missed Angel Mangal, our favourite Turkish Okabasi.
So despite last night’s grim weather, we found ourselves traipsing up The Kingsland Road to Dalston and beyond, past the myriad Turkish and Kurdish restaurants until we came to Testi on the borders Stoke Newington. It had been recommended to us primarily because it specialises in offal, not least testicles, which are on prominent display in an impressive meat cabinet.
It certainly looked the part and we fell right back into our old ordering habits as if we were sitting in The Angel Mangal and Mustapha was still complaining about the latest performance of Beshiktas, hi beloved hometown team. “Mixed grill for two, a side order of quail and some bollocks too, if you please”
Starters were better than we have tried for a while with Ispanak spiked with plenty of fiery garlic and Patlika Soslu giving up sufficient oil to be mopped up with mounds of warm Turkish bread. But, as ever, they are just distractions while the main event is being prepared on the grill.
The grill looked the part too. Grey coals offering up sufficient heat to sear your eyebrows if you get too close, meat being rubbed with butter and spices before placing them over the heat and breads being used to soak up excess oils.
Before long, we were presented with a huge platter of meat, rarely a bad thing. HP insisted I take a picture with his hand to show scale. It was certainly impressive to look at and not bad to eat. Certainly the best since The Angel Mangal closed. But, it wasn’t quite up to those heady, fondly remembered and seemingly never to be found again standards.
The key to The Angel Mangal was the lack of fear of salt and fat. They kept the meat moist and made the flavours sparkle fresh from the grill. Here, although some elements shone like the liver, kidneys and testicles, there was an element of dryness that meant we had to use a large plate of lemons to wake the tastes up.
Chunks of chicken were well spiced but overcooked, lamb chops had good flavour but had been shorn of fat, a cardinal sin. The quail, however, was spot on and we were able to chomp two plump specimens down to the sawdust of much chewed bones.
The portions are Brobdingnagian and we were able to pack enough away for lunch today alongside excellent salads of grilled onions in pomegranate, shredded onions in zatak and tomatoes.
With a bottle of Yakut which was Proustian rather than pleasant and some coffee and tea, the bill came to £59 ex tip which is not bad considering our ordering capacity and the fact that it will also provide another meal to be accompanied by some of the splendid baklava we purchased on our necessary walk home.
So, while I suspect the time I call London home may well becoming to its natural conclusion, there is still plenty about the city to bring me back to the things I miss the most.
Beer and meat, mainly.