For those familiar with London’s many traditional Turkish ocakbasi restaurants, Mangal 2 will feel like a significant departure. Dishes will be familiar – kebabs, kofte and pide all feature – but it’s the execution that catches you off guard.
Mangal 2 launched in the heart of London’s Dalston back in the mid-90s. Founded by local restaurateur Ali Dirik, it spent years operating as a traditional Turkish grill, albeit a highly-distinguished one – Turner Prize-winning artists Gilbert and George were regulars there for more than a decade. These days, though, it is led by Ali’s sons Ferhat and Sertaç (the former as restaurant manager and the latter as head chef), who between them have developed a far more gastronomically ambitious, ingredient-led approach to Turkish cuisine that plays with flavours and expectations and is arguably unlike anything else available in the capital.
Sertaç previously spent a year cooking his way around Copenhagen, home to some of the world’s best restaurants, and the influence of his time there is discernible across the menu. Respecting the traditions of the restaurant’s past, the menu reflects a modern palate that’s receptive to London’s position in the global culinary scene. Sourcing is key, with Sertaç making a point of using ‘cull yaw’ - the revolutionary à la mode mutton product produced by Matt Chatfield at The Cornwall Project – as a basis for a number of the restaurant’s signature plates.
Further augmenting the restaurant’s contemporary attitude is the drinks menu, which focuses on natural wines and locally-brewed beers. Then there’s the dining room itself, which is simple in appearance, somewhat belying the uniqueness of the cooking on offer.
This is a restaurant trying to redefine what Turkish cuisine is, proving it to be a far more nuanced and demanding of much greater respect.