South East London has its good points; lots of green, open spaces such as Greenwich Park and Blackheath means that frolicking in the park is easily done on the rare weekends that we have some sun. Travel is also cheaper on the overground, and I don't have to get the dreaded tube every day. However, there was a lack of decent restaurants in both Lee and Charlton. So when I had a little dig around about restaurants in and around New Cross, I was surprised when I had three mentioned to me with a few more in the surrounding area.
Meze Mangal is situated on a run-down and crappy part of Lewisham Way, near New Cross station. The frontage doesn't reveal what lies within; peeling paint and random car tyres strewn around give it a slightly menacing air. A friend and I visited on a Monday night and the waiter looked doubtful about whether we could have a table; I was surprised to hear that they're fully booked most nights but eventually we were seat by the long charcoal grill pit. The restaurant's card with contact details was pressed into my hand: "next time you won't be so lucky - you must book!"
We decided on sharing three starters. I'm a sucker for aubergines, and this aubergine with spicy tomato sauce was suitably delicious. Smoky, oily and with a decent kick, we mopped this up greedily. Calamari was well cooked and grease-free with a decent hazelnut sauce on the side to liven things up. Houmous was rough in texture, garlicky and moreish. A recent meal at Yalla Yalla, a Lebanese place in Soho yielded a silky smooth houmous; both were equally as good.
All this was scooped up with excellent warm bread. I find it difficult to hold back during starters, and I was almost full by the time we'd finished.
For the mains, I chose a pide with cheese and Turkish sausage. This is a boat-shaped pizza and whilst it was good, it was exactly as you see and I was a bit breaded out. My friend chose a lamb shish kebab (top picture) which is what I'll be having next time. The meat took on the flavour of the charcoal grill and was tender and pink inside. Salad dressed with sumac and some red cabbage provided the vital vegetable element to lighten the dish up.
Service was friendly and you could tell there were many regulars, as it seemed the waiters knew a lot of the diners. it was bargainous too; for £20 we got ourselves a good spread and a beer. At last - a decent local restaurant!
Avoid going to the Rosemary Branch, on Lewisham Way for a digestif; it may be £2 a pint on Monday - Wednesdays, but you have to endure Sean Paul blasting out of the stereo, the stange smell of not-so-legal cigarette fillers lingering, and 10 year old kids being drunkenly sick in bins outside. I love South East London.
245 Lewisham Way
London SE4 1XF
Tel: 020 8694 8099
*I've edited the title to include St John's and Brockley. There seems to be some discussion over which area the restaurant is in, and rather than get into a turf war, hopefully this will resolve it. To be honest, as long as I can walk there in half an hour and the food is good, that's all that matters.