There is a good reason why one would travel as far north as Dalston to Mangal II. I came across a drunk man unleashing his pole-dancing talent on a busy street; I saw fresh seabass and king prawns being sold on that same street; but these were not the reason. Was it the ocakbasi-style restaurant itself? Yes, but no. Anyway, let’s talk about food first.
The cuisine at Mangal II was more Turkish Kurdish than Iraqi Kurdish while the restaurant boast a massive ocak grill at the back of the dining room. This open fire grill was instrumental in their cooking and marked the difference between Mangal II and other Middle Eastern restaurants.
But that was not my “reason” to pay my £ for the overground ticket for the meal of a lifetime at Mangal II.
Waiting for my raison d’etre of the evening, I asked for Tarama – a paste of pink whipped cod roe – and Yogurtlu Patlican Ezme – aubergine puree with yoghurt and lemon juice. Both dishes were served with warm flat but quite soft bread. The cod roe paste was very fishy and a bit too salty for my liking, while the aubergine puree, not described on the menu as a yoghurt-y dip, was, as said, yoghurt-y. The taste of aubergine was missing. Yoghurt, I should recap, and a few other diary produce are big in Kurdish cuisine. In the two dishes I ordered it was a dominant flavour making both taste not much different from each other.
More substantial Kurdish dishes are not far off from Turkish, Iraqi or Iranian and can be generally divided into the grill and the stew. To my understanding, Kurdish cuisine owes much to the long history of the Kurds’ nomadic life. Accordingly, dishes become less complicated than that of Turkish or Iraqi. My skewer of grilled lamb sweetbread was decent but could do with some sauce or more aggressive marinate. Interestingly, the dish was also let down by the domineering scent of the charcoal. Lamb, in my book, should smell like lamb. Mangal II’s ocak grill worked very oddly against the dish. My other bib’s Yogurtlu Pilic Sis – if I didn’t get the name wrong – was a dish of grilled chicken breasts submerged in yoghurt and toppled with tomato sauce. Despite the moisture from the yoghurt and the sauce, the chunks of chicken were dry. Overall, the dish suffered from a distinct lack in flavour dimension. I feel there is always a fine line between recreating an authentic dish and making the dish taste complete. Mangal II hasn’t quite achieved that yet in the dishes we ordered.
While my taste bud was being numbed by the flavour of the charcoal, my “reason” entered the restaurant in a green suit.
And took his seat.
His name was Gilbert..
The uno of the infamous British artist duo Gilbert & George. Think Ant & Dec but artsy and classy. Google if you seriously have no clue who they – Gilbert & George or Ant & Dec are. Rumours had it that this artist duo frequented Mangall II every night for god know how many years.. I was there to verify this urban legend; and he was there; and my heart leapt in joy.
A moment later George walked in.. and it was such a highlight for the day.
It took me quite a moment for my adrenaline to subside and my gastronomic interest to settle once again. Then, looking down at my sweetbread, I was not sure why G&G were there every single night..
We did not ask for desserts.
My head rating says, “6 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “6 out of 10″.
4 Stoke Newington Road
Tel. 020 7254 7888