- Food & Drink
The kebab shop. It’s a treasure, isn’t it? Open all hours dishing up food with levels of fat, salt and spice powerful enough to cut through all that befuddling alcohol and really let you enjoy your meal, no matter how much your brain has tried to disengage from your body.
A new kebab shop/Turkish restaurant has opened up in Camberwell and Sister Number 1 has become obsessed by it. Mostly by the bread and salad, and after weeks of hearing her talk about her Turkish bread problem I realised I was going to have to go down and try this crystal meth carb myself. So SN1, ViP and I went for kebabs and bread with high expectations.
The main thing you have to remember about eating in a kebab shop is that it is hot. The charcoal grill, revolving doners and giant griddle give FM Mangal the atmosphere of a well-marinated sauna. The restaurant area is up some steps, so you’re right in the fug and I’ve a feeling that, no matter what time of year you go, linen trousers and light cotton shirts will be required wearing. Our waiter, who I think was also the owner, tried to relieve the heat by turning on a fan for us, and we were cooled by the sweet waft of churned air for about 2 minutes, and then the fan was turned off, then turned on again and then pointed in a different direction and then removed entirely to fit in a large group of diners.
After taking our orders, the basket of complimentary bread was brought with half a chargrilled onion. The bread is good. Very good. A soft flatbead that has been cooked over coals until it’s good and crunchy with carbon, I dipped it in the sweet and sour sauce that the onion came with. I asked what was in it. “Pomegranate juice and spices – good for the health” Good for the tastebuds too.
Halfway through our second basket of bread and most of the way through a plate of sweet melon and creamy, melting feta, our main courses arrived. I’d ordered lamb beyti. Two thick slabs of minced lamb chunky with chilli peppers and parsley, it was absorbingly good to eat. The rice was properly cooked and the salad was crisp and refreshing but low on flavours. After a polite pause, a free plate of sherbertty watermelon arrived with three complimentary shots – an amaretto, a lemon liqueur and a mint liqueuer that, unsually, didn’t taste of mouth wash.
It wasn’t the best lamb beyti I have ever eaten, that honour belongs to a random Turkish restaurant near Bardens Boudoir on the Kingsland Road. It wasn’t the best rice I have eaten, that honour goes to Olives and Figs, who cunningly apply butter to the situation. It wasn’t the best salad. It was really good bread and surprisingly good mint liqueur, and it was excellent hospitality.
It isn’t often in London that you go to a restaurant where the staff actually want you to enjoy eating there. Not just the food, but the whole experience. The strange dance of the fan aside, the immediate offer of bread, the regularly filled jug of iced water, the cold watermelon, the digestifs, the happy willingness to wrap up another round of bread for SN1 to take home, it was a reminder that eating is not just about flavours that only you can experience, but the joy of sharing, caring and being cared for. If I wasn’t all warm and glowing from the furnace, I was certainly left pink-cheeked by the welcome.