I've never been much good at Turkish food. Every single time I've been to an ocakbasi, without fail, I've stuffed myself silly on mezze, filling up on hummous and taramasalta, those grilled breads shovelling various dips and paste until I'm too full for my main course. The grilled meats take a back seat while I forlornly pick at them, willing my digestive system to hurry up and do it's thing.
The same was almost true of when I visited FM Mangal, in Camberwell. A favourite of the critics, I'd heard much of the grilled onions in magic sauce (top photo). We managed to refrain from over-ordering, probably much down to Cherry who had been before. She carefully guided me towards one shared starter and a shared main. I was doubtful - are we sure we don't want more? - she was confident, and I am pleased I took heed.
Those grilled onions, complimentary at the beginning of the meal, were indeed magic. Charred and slightly bitter, they bathed in a sweet and sour sauce that was pink from pomegranate. Thin breads dusted with spice and glistening with fat were excellent dunkers.
Grilled aubergines were slathered with a spicy tomato sauce. Falling apart with tenderness, they were a good example of a well-treated aubergine. Our mixed grill main had tiny little lamb ribs, succulent chicken wings, a chop and a kofte or two. The rice, plump with butter finished us off.
We both walked away with change from a £20, after a couple shots of Amaretto-like liqueur on the house; the straight-forward but smiling waitresses waved us off into the night. It's not going to win any Michelin stars, but I'm pretty damn pleased to have a local that serves me a magic sauce - and no, they won't give you the recipe.
54 Camberwell Church Street
London SE5 8QZ
020 7701 6677