Friday, 3 September 2010
Mangal Ocakbaşı - Grilled Lamb Dreams Do Come True!
My visit to Istanbul was all about the consumption of lamb .... all the delicious dripping goodness of the revered baby sheep. But by the time our 5 day stay was over, lamb ... and mutton was definitely off my menu for awhile. Ok... so Istanbul was months ago (end of April ... and still no posts from that trip up yet) and even then I surprised myself when I suggested trudging up to Dalston/Stoke Newington over the weekend for some grilled meat ... some Turkish grilled meat to be precise. It is a long way to trudge, something of which SM constantly reminded me of as we made our way there through Saturday evening traffic, but what's a few miles and a bit of light London traffic when there's such promise of good food? I think some true Malaysian colours are shinning bright from me :) Anything for a bit of delicious chow.
I had done my bit of research and was set on Mangal Ocakbaşı with its very decent online reviews. Not even a Saturday evening with queues of diners and rumbling tummies was going to deter me from this restaurant. Thank heavens the queue was short and we got a table within 10 minutes of arriving. As we waited we watched the man behind the grill work his magic - meat on, wait, turn meat, wait, turn meat, wait, meat off the grill - all this behind a huge plume of smoke. I take my hat off to him. He must go home stinking of grilled meat at the end of the night.
As soon as we sat down, a basket of bread was set down on the table. Judging from the other tables, this was the bread we were going to have to work with throughout the meal. Soft yet chewy at the same time it .... brilliant on an empty stomach and even more delicious with our order of ezme salata - finely chopped tomatoes, onions, parsley, chili and lemon juice. I absolutely adored this (remember my love for tomatoes?) ... tangy, refreshing .... what's not to like? Oooh .. maybe the the raw onions. What a strong lingering after taste.
I was pretty insistent on getting the lahmacun, which came thin,crip and topped with a right amount of minced lamb, onion and peppers. Very nice indeed but (shake your head if you must) even better with a nice big dollop of ezme salata. Perfect portions for a starter but not enough for me. I wanted more!
For a bit of everything, the mixed grill is a pretty good choice. For £13 there's a minced lamb kebab,a piece of lamb chop on the bone,a piece of lamb chop off the bone, cubed lamb and a chicken wing (fortunately/unfortunately you don't get the other boring chicken bits like chicken breast kebab). Served with a grilled tomato, grilled green chili and a mixed salad. For a couple of extra quid, the quail could be added to the mix. he lamb chops on the bone was probably the best of the mix, tender with just the right amount of fat and of course that bone to gnaw on. I found the chop off the bone had a little too much fat and the lamb cubes were cut just too small. The chicken wing was tender and juicy and oh so good. I sometimes forget how much I enjoy barbecued chicken on the bone.
Adding to our lamb fest, I ordered a portion of lamb chops on the bone (£9). The three large juicy pieces of lamb were served with the usual grilled tomato, grilled green chili and a mixed salad.
Mangal Ocakbaşı is not the sort of place that seduces you into staying too long. Space is tight, noise levels are high and there's almost always a group waiting eagerly for a table by the entrance. Here you eat, you drink (it's BYO if you want anything alcoholic) and then you make way for the next lot of diners. The service was brisk but not unfriendly. Some old timers have complained that Mangal Ocakbaşı has lost some of its charm since its popularity has soared over the last few years - heaven forbid,they have even introduced a menu! :) The food is wonderful and so worth the visit.
10 Arcola Street, London E8 2DJ