By Koray Hussein
If there’s one thing that Turkish kebab houses love to claim, it’s that they’re the “Best”. You have Best Turkish Kebab in Stoke Newington (review coming shortly), then there’s Best Turkish Kebab House on Barking Road, Best Turkish Kebab House 2 in Dagenham, Best Mangal I, II, & III in Kensington and… well you get the idea. They all think they’re the best… or they’re the laziest restaurant owners in the world and just go with the crowd when it comes to names.
Still, this ridiculous naming system works and I embarrassingly find myself thinking “Ooooh! This place says it’s the best too! I have to try them out!” whenever I pass yet another kebab house with the oh so predictable “Best” tag in their name. Maybe it’s the stupid naming system or maybe it’s the Turkish Cypriot blood coursing through my veins (note to self: don’t say “blood” and “veins” during a food review) but it gets me. Every. Single.Time.
With that said, I managed to hold off the urge to throw myself at the Shoreditch based Best Mangal for a couple of months but finally succumbed earlier this week.
I’d been wandering through the Shoreditch streets for a little while and managed to find myself in the Hoxton area, right where my cousin works. I dropped him a message to see if he was free for lunch and within thirty minutes we found ourselves in an empty kebab house.
It was slightly strange being the only guys in the entire place as I’d never seen Best Mangal less than packed since I first spotted it. Still, this was 11am and I usually found myself passing by in the later hours, where kebab is the natural progression of a night.
We both went for the lunch menu, with my cousin and I going for a mix shish and a mix doner (both with rice) respectively and in the middle we had a small plate of cacik (tzatziki) and humus.
The starters came within a few minutes of our order and were of a decent quality. Nothing to shout about and not as nice as the dips you’ll find at Umut 2000 but this is Shoreditch, not Stoke Newington where the quality kebab shops roam free so maybe this isn’t too surprising. The bread too was pretty nice but lacked the quality that the North Londoners get to enjoy.
What did surprise me though was the amount of food that arrived after we’d had our fill of starters. When you’re ordering an entire meal with sides and starters for just shy of £7 you’d be right in expecting a little… skimping when it came to the portions but not at Best Mangal.
Both the chicken and lamb doner were piled up on the plate, with a healthy sized salad and two types of rice. Not bad Best Mangal, not bad at all.
The rice was nice and worked really well with a bit of cacik and chilli sauce mixed in (am I the only one who does that?). The salad came with a few slices of chilli pepper which certainly gave it a pleasantly surprising bite and left me wondering why other restaurants don’t do the same. It’s definitely something I’ll be doing when preparing salads at home from now on.
But enough about the sides. Let’s move on to the meat. The lamb doner was… nice… ish. I mean, it wasn’t bad at all and seeing as the guys at Best Mangal use actual slices of meat, instead of minced meat, you can trust that it is in fact meat you’re eating and not something that was cobbled together in a warehouse. Still, it didn’t hold a candle to Bosphorus Kebabs and was actually kind of greasy. The same can be said about the chicken doner which, while nice, did leave a slightly unpleasant taste in the mouth after. Never a good sign.
I don’t want to sound like I didn’t enjoy my meal at Best Mangal because I did. The starters were nice, the salad was a surprising highlight and the rice was really enjoyable… But having visited some of the very best kebab houses in London, it was hard not to feel a little let down by the meat.