MEZE MANGAL: NO MEZZIN'
One of the continuing quests of Dos Hermanos is to find a replacement ocakbaşi restaurant for the late, much missed Angel Mangal which quite simply did the best Turkish style mixed grill in London.
Some have come close: Testi was enjoyable with its smoky-flavoured meats and an interesting selection of lambs bits. Anatolia was even better with good fatty meat and generous portions. Some were poor or merely disappointing like the popular Mangals 1 and 2 in Stoke Newington which have always seemed a bit whitebread to us.
Meze Mangal has been on our radar for a while but its location (I mean, South of the river AND New Cross/Brockley borders??? It just ain’t gonna happen) mitigated against a visit, however the opening of the shiny new East London line meant journeying between the wilds of South East London and fashionable Shoreditch is now a doddle.
So it was that I found myself sitting outside The Talbot pub drinking a well-kept pint of Rudgate Ruby Mild with buddies Scott and Gavin – the latter who has now forsaken his preacher look for that of Mob accountant. He was very reluctant to remove his tie.
Meze Mangal is one of an anonymous strip of shops on the main drag and as we approached I did begin to wonder how well I’d chosen. Once inside though I felt immediately at home. The place was packed and buzzing: a good sign. There, the ocakbaşi master at his grill, concentrating intently whilst tending skewers of lamb sis and adana threaded on flat blades; a metal dome for cooking the flatbreads; over there, the oven for cooking Pide and Lahmacun.
Laminated menus were dispensed but my dining chums deferred to me for the ordering. A quick scan and I located the special mixed kebab, pleasingly appended “with quail".
To begin with some starters to keep us distracted while our meats were grilled. A cold salad, Patlican Soslu, chunky and oily (in a good way) and a plate of alarmingly coloured tarama with two sorts of their hot bread and lashings of the Buzbag (believe me Turkish wine while not the best goes perfectly with this sort of food).
Eventually, the main event arrived, a large platter, piled high with meats interspersed with peppers and a large plate of salad. We ate Dos Hermanos style which meant that each person in turn got to nominate a piece of meat and the others have to follow suit. This ensures a fair distribution of said meats but still allowing for the element of surprise wherein a chosen piece might be quite small. This usually leads to much joshing and merriment amongst those who have chosen larger bits. All great fun.
In the taste stakes vying for first place were the Adana - perfect texture with spicing just so - and the freshly grilled quail halves which were hot, sticky and salty. I could have done with a little more of the other lamb components but ribs and chops were done well with crisp fat and properly seasoned. Kidneys were a little over pink but fresh tasting and not at all rubbery.
Cop Sis was good too although it's always at the bottom of the pile and by the time you get to it you're usually stuffed. Too full as well to try the base layer of bread which had soaked up all the meaty juices although it didn't go to waste as they kindly bagged that and the little of the meat that was left.
Grilled Peppers had a good char giving them a beautifully smoky taste followed by a surprisingly big heat kick. Salad was a bit style over substance, majored in cucumber and remained mostly untouched: not a patch on the composed salads at AM although I’m always pleased to see a little sprinkling of sumac.
We finished with three good medium Turkish coffees, some lokum and a bill that we vastly overestimated. Most of the difference went into the tip that was well deserved as the service had been so friendly, willing and attentive.
So there we have it – what started out as tentative foray into regions unknown ended up as a classic DH night out of old: a few pints of mild and a trip to a Mangal which if not perfect got all the important things right. Not quite up there with our best ever but bloody close. That’ll do for me.