Thursday, 20 August 2009

Meze Mangal, New Cross / St John's / Brockley - Eating Locally

Aside from a five month stint in Collier's Wood down the arse-end of the Northern line, for all of my life in London I've lived in the south east. Starting off in Brockley, I then moved to Charlton, then Lee which was actually just a road, and now New Cross. I prefer to stay south east, I find it has more character than places I've been to in North London. I feel safer here than in East London, and I (nor my bank account) won't entertain the idea of living in West London.

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.

Meze Mangal

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.

22 comments:

Chris said...

Is this a chain. Or do all Turkish restaurants just have the same name?

Ollie said...

Lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed my recent trip to Brockley - I know very little of SE London. Hazelnut with calamari is an interesting idea.

Ollie said...

Lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed my recent trip to Brockley - I know very little of SE London. Hazelnut with calamari is an interesting idea.

Ben said...

Still haven't been. Must get me there soon.

What are these other restaurants in the area?

Helen said...

I LOVE IT TOO! (as you know and are probably sick of hearing by now). I will come over one night and check out this place. I would probably be satisfied with lots of starters rather than a main.

neil said...

It sounds nice and I like eating Meze but I never find myself thinking 'what I really need now is a Meze'

Luckily we have friends we visit regularly in New cross and nowhere to eat so I will probably go.

fabhat said...

Agree with your review and Meze Mangal is one of my very favorite local restaurants - it's also just as good for takeaway. I wouldn't call it New Cross though - St Johns or Brockley really are the closest. You'll have the Brockley Central geographers after you...

Lizzie said...

Chris - I think many Turkish places have the same name.

Ben - Definitely, it's great. Meat feast! Other locals I've been told about are Thailand (on the same road) and dim sum at Hong Kong City, on New Cross Road towards the Old Kent Road.

Helen - Yes, I think lots of starters is preferable, or going in a big group.

Neil - That's a shame, maybe you haven't had good meze yet...?

Fabhat - Gulp... It seems pretty equidistant from New Cross, St Johns and Brockley! Seeing as I live in New Cross Gate perhaps I'm a big fat fraud. I shall prepare for the onslaught!

Patrick said...

I will def check this out.

I live in Blackheath, an area you would think would have a good local restaurant but I haven't encountered it yet. I really like Handmade Foods but that's more of a deli.

I went to the Buenos Aires Cafe after someone told me good things about it but had steak which was no where near Hawksmoor or even what I can do myself.

A place called Chapters has opened where I think Chapter 2 used to be (guessing it's the same people - never went to Chapter 2) but haven't heard anything about it.

The only place I consistently have something nice is Pizza Express :(

ginandcrumpets said...

Fantatsic, I'll have to go and check it out. South London is best for everything.

Brockley Kate said...

If you think Meze Mangal is good, try Le Querce or Babur (both down in Crofton Park). Absolutely stellar food, great value. But don't tell the rest of London - we like to keep our jewels to ourselves down here!

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Yum, I would have the lamb shish kebab (could eat it right now). And the hummous looks delicious too. I'll have to try making it at home soon...

Catherine said...

I spent 15 years living in South East London - Brockley, New Cross, Lewisham, Greenwich and finally Blackheath. I used to love the Thai Restaurant in the same stretch of Lewisham Way, opposite Goldsmiths (blink and you'll miss it, tiny frontage, tiny restaurant, usually excellent but you have to go when the owner is there, if indeed it is still still there). Chapter 2 used to be good in Blackheath, so did Khans (good Nepalese food), nothing really in Greenwich - the Spread Eagle was always just too unreliable.

Lizzie said...

Patrick - I've been to Chapters (it is the same people as Chapter 2) and while it was nice, it was just that; nice. Do try Chapter One, their sister restaurant in Locksbottom (ho ho!). The food has been consistently great and really good value too.

Gin & Crumpets - it certainly is!

Brockley Kate - I've heard really good things about Le Querce, and will add Babur to the list... and keep it schtum. Thanks!

Helen YLP - Good luck - hummus has never worked for me, I think you need a pretty hefty food processor!

Adam said...

Le Querce is awesome. Garlic ice cream. Can't beat it.

BiggestJim said...

I only went to Meze Mangal for the first time last October, despite living in the area for 30 odd years (my review is at http://tinyurl.com/nspqdx). I wasn't too sure about the hazelnut sauce with the Calamari but most of the other dishes are pretty good. It's very easy to get breaded out there, especially with the amount of bread they put on the table.

I'd agree that Babur is definitely worth a visit. Levant in Lewisham has food which is pretty much as good as Meze Mangal, but the plastic chairs & formica tables make the atmosphere less enjoyable.

Also agree with you general sentiments on SE London.

Monkey Gland said...

Shout out to the SE London posee! Forest Hill in the house!

Ahem. I spent much of my time at college in the Rosemary branch and it was a hole even then. Forest Hill really wants to be East Dulwich but doesn't have the disposable income. The Devonshire Arms is unreliable in the gastropub stakes but Cafe La is a decent Indian. Sapporo Ichiban in Catford is hilarious. Order "fashion sandwiches"

Lizzie said...

Monkey Gland - Thanks for your recommendations. Big up! ...I've been to Sapporo in Catford, I found it pretty amusing when I saw the 'fashion sandwich'. I wasn't brave enough to order it though.

I heart cupcakes said...

I'm also a New Cross girl and have been meaning to try this place since I saw it,but I agree the front is quite off-putting. Now I've read your review I shall give it a go though - maybe book a table first.
Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Excuse me!? Run down? I think not! Hmph, show some consideration. And fyi it has never had peeling paint or car tyres strewn around, sure the front could use sprucing up a little bit, but otherwaise its faar from run down! However you are right about there being regulars, i am one of them myself and we totally reap the benefits. Free food from Meze Mangal here we come! ;)

Anonymous said...

Excuse me!? Run down? I think not! Hmph, show some consideration. And fyi it has never had peeling paint or car tyres strewn around, sure the front could use sprucing up a little bit, but otherwaise its faar from run down! However you are right about there being regulars, i am one of them myself and we totally reap the benefits. Free food from Meze Mangal here we come! ;)

Lizzie said...

Anon - I have lots of consideration. That part of Lewisham Way looks like a bit of a dump, let's be honest.