Ahead of eating here, I know nothing of Mangal Ocakbasi, but it is I have subsequently learned, a London legend; but there again, so according to Google is Spring-heeled Jack and I know nothing of him either. To recap then, the restaurant dates back 20 years or so, Matthew Fort reviewed the restaurant for The Guardian back in 2003 and described it as a place that is 'worth searching out'. Jamie Oliver named it in Hot Dinners as one of his three favourite restaurants in London (so no turkey twizzlers here then), and even Rick Stein is reported to have done a turn behind the grill.
For those in the know, Mangal is the Middle Eastern name for a barbecue and here, the menu is principally lamb, chicken and quail in various kebab forms. Our own choice, the mixed kebab, had a bit of everything on and, I have to say, was pretty damned good. Impressively, everything seemed to be cooked pretty much spot on, nothing over or under done, a fence that many a have-a-go hero of the home BBQ will surely have fallen at. Hats off to anyone who can perfectly cook through a spatchcocked quail on such a grill, especially when the lamb chops arrive on the plate similarly faultlessly cooked. With a queue extending out the door and the grill unable to physically accommodate more meat, clearly, I'm one of the few who do not know of this place's legendary status.
The breads are excellent too though the side salad, while plentiful, fails to excite, but then who really cares, that's just a little relief from the meat onslaught which is the reason to come here and is what sold me on the idea from the start, for who, when Spring comes, can resist meat on fire?
We're seldom to be found in Dalston without a SatNav malfunction, but with a good reason to be there on this occasion, it was only right that we should try a London legend. I'm glad we did, for after a low ball build up by our friend, it nicely exceeded expectations, and genuinely, if such a place were local to us, I think we'd be there often enough.