Tag Archives: kebabs

Arcola Street for Mangal lamb chops, theatre & Living Sculpture

mangal2Sometimes, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can smell the kebabs cooking throughout East London. It’s one of those special little moments in life. And it always makes my thoughts turn to Arcola Street, a grotty little street off Kingsland Road, towards Stoke Newington. 


As well as being home to the Arcola Theatre, this is where you’ll find Mangal, one of the best Turkish restaurants in the area. It’s recently been extended, so there’s much more space than there used to be, although it still has a crammed, slightly cave-like interior.

The artists Gilbert and George eat here every night, allegedly, although I’ve never seen them. They are said to be so dedicated to their art that their everyday life is not much more than its support system, and is kept ticking along with minimum effort and maximum efficiency. So they never cook or try new restaurants, and they buy enough toilet paper and instant coffee to last them an entire year. They exist only for their art, and refer to themselves as Living Sculptures. Anyway, the fact that Mangal is their chosen dinner every night of the year clearly says a lot for the place.

mangal meat

Recommended dishes include the mixed mezze, which comes with hommous, a tomatoey dip and smokey baba ganoush. Then the mixed grill is good, with chops, kebabs, chicken and other choice bits of meat, served in a sizzling pile alongside a plate of crisp salad, piled with fresh rocket and other veggies. It’s BYO, and the service is brisk in the way that really good restaurants generally are – I think of it as the We’re the ones doing you a favour here, buddy variety. And they are right. 

PS Have just had a look on the Arcola Theatre’s website, and they are offering two-for-one ticket deal for the first week of all of their summer shows to anyone who donates a plant. They have a new roof garden and want to green it up, you see. What a smart idea.


Filed under Somewhere to eat, Things to do

Cheeky kebabs at Anatolya in Hackney

anatolyaWhat Mare Street lacks in superficial charm it more than makes up for in variety. From Hackney Empire to the Green Papaya, to a candle factory and the picturesque town square, not to mention that rarest of East London beasts, a cash point that doesn’t charge you to access your own money… it’s a unique street, and not a Starbucks in sight, either.

But the main reason I go to Mare Street is for a Turkish dinner at Anatolya. This restaurant – like the nearby library – seems busier than ever since the British economy keeled over. You can get takeaway, but it’s worth hanging around and eating in, especially in winter when the huge ocakbasi barbecue warms up the room.

The service is reliably good – it’s one of those restaurants where they know people are going to leave happy so they don’t panic at the sight of customers – and it’s especially good on Friday nights when it seems half of Hackney decides to go out for a cheeky kebab. And unlike some other restaurants/pubs around here the prices are honest and there’s no fashion police, so you get all types, colours and ages, from fashion students and artists to local families celebrating birthdays. 

Anyway, enough about the ambience, what about the food? Well, start with the lahmacun, or Turkish pizza, which comes with salad. Then go onto a kebab or grilled fish – the mackerel is really good, and popular, too, so it’s always fresh. You can get yogurtli adana, which is a kebab cooked in yogurt with pita and caramelised butter (the kind of thing you get at Moro, but without the three-week waiting list) and everything comes with salad and rice.

All the meat is cooked by one chef, just pictured above, who mans the ocakbasi with skill – his kebabs are always perfectly cooked. To drink there’s a good range of Turkish wines and Efe beer by the glass, or ayran yogurt drink or apple tea. I’ve never tried the desserts as I’m always too stuffed but they look good. And the bill (which is around twelve quid a head, including drinks) always comes with a couple of cubes of Turkish delight. Well, apart from last Friday night when only the icing sugar remained – as I said, this place is getting popular.

 253 Mare Street, Hackney, E8 3NS, Tel: 020 8986 2223

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Filed under Somewhere to eat