Sometimes, 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.
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.
- 10 Arcola Street, Dalston, E8 2DJ
- Tel: 020 7275 8981
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.