I recently spent part of my weekend in my old stomping ground of Dalston in East London. A lot has changed – dingy cellar bars have been replaced with trendy celeb spotting joints, and Turkish furniture stores have been transformed into organic cafes. It’s still fun though – with some of the same bonkers characters, old and young, wondering around the place giving Dalston its charm.
Where better to go when you’re hungry in Dalston but out for a Turkish. Mangals 1 on Arcola street, which used to be my favourite, was rammed, so we headed to the other Mangals around the corner, Mangals 2.
Mangals 1 is famed for amazing meats (my dad couldn’t get enough when I took him there) and incredible dips. Where as Mangals 2, with its slightly different menu, is well known amongst arty types as the place to go to spot Gilbert and George, the 60s pop art duo who eat there every night. Yep, that’s right, when they are in London, they eat the same food, at the same table, in the same restaurant every night. And who said variety was the spice of life?
It turns out the owner of Managls 2 helped open the original Managls 1, but “later ended his involvement” with it. Both restaurants are quick to point out they are not the same establishment, particularly Mangals 1.
We opted for the mixed vegetarian mezze which included hummus; thick and creamy cacik; imam bayildi; halloumi; mixed pastries and some lovely bread that had been heated on the hot coals with a touch of spice. Since there were four of us, we also topped this up with dolmades, ezme salata (freshly chopped herbs and tomatoes with sumac), izgara sogan (grilled onions with pomegranate juice) and musga boregi (pastries filled with feta cheese and parsley).
It was all lovely, although the dolmades were looking a little sad. The ezme salata was great, if a little watery and the onion dish, as ever, was incredible. This is the second time I’ve had izgara sogan, and its truly lovely. It is a really simple dish that packs a punch in terms of flavour. I keep meaning to try and cook the onions in a similar way at home, but I’m fairly sure I won’t be able to recreate the smokiness the ocakabshi grill creates.
Mangals 2 isn’t exactly at the cutting edge of restaurant decor. Its glowing neon sign, bright red walls and crammed in tables don’t give way to any feelings of glamour, but who really cares? It has a great buzz about it with the usual lively Dalstonites, chatting away while waiters reach over them with huge platters of wonderful food.
The upstairs was smokey thanks to the open ocakbasi grills and the small restaurant was erupting with noise and the clinking of glasses. Mangals 2 isn’t a place to go for a quiet, romantic chat, but is turns out it is the perfect place to catch up with old friends. And as we sat down for our meal at 9:30, we were a little too late for Gilbert and George.
What is also great about Mangals 2 is the price – the vegetarian mezze selection came to £25, plus the extra dished we added, which were about £4 each. It is also a BYO establishment, which really does help drive the cost down further – and where better to get your wine from than my favourite wine shop, Cuckoo Wines, on Stoke Newington High Street, about a five minute walk away.
The two Mangals will forever be compared, and personally, I don’t think Mangals 2 is quite as good as Mangals 1, but it is still tasty, honest, great food that is cheap beyond reason.