BAM! London Food Culture


Black Axe Mangal: London’s kaleidoscopic food culture right in your face.

Black Axe Mangal is a digestive onomatopoeia. Check out some recent additions to the ever-evolving menu of this neo-kebabish on Highbury Corner: crisp calf brain and tarragon steamed bun; Asian brisket deluxe; smoked lamb mapo tofu; and raw Dexter onglet with bone marrow and anchovy. The language itself makes the mouth water. It’s as if Ridley Scott has reimagined a futuristic version of an average London doner-dispenser – but BAM is even more fun than that.

If you’ve ever spent an evening in late-night London’s less-posh postcodes, you will be familiar with the classic London Kebab House. Forged originally in the Turkish and Cypriot communities, after dark these places are fulcrums of London’s human traffic. Many a Londoner has a neon-lit story about the hoodie who tried to nick their chicken shish. Blow-ins have been initiated into the glory of chips, hummus and pitta served in orange styrofoam that will outlive your grandchildren. But if the culture of the kebab house is decades deep here in the English capital, Black Axe Mangal has taken the universal human desire for tasty, casually served grub and created an institution that even the wool-dyed food luvvies can fetishise.

BAM is the brainchild of Lee Tiernan (that's him in the pictures), a veteran of the earthy but much more refined culinary gem that was St John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields. In 2015 he turned his energies to creating food rooted in London’s true grit and swagger, and in doing so has uprooted the essence of what makes this town tick.

All the elements of a casual street food factory are here in this tiny, hilarious room. The charcoal-burning oven covered in killer graphics; the open grill; the flatbread launchpad from which crackling, salty innards and flaked shanks and cheeks fire the brain’s pleasure-seeking parts. As these things usually go, once you’ve been you’ll want to weave their food into your dietary regime as a matter of course. Nutritionists and wheatgrass be damned.

BAM has only 20 covers per sitting and is always packed. In the current London trend, it takes no reservations, but turn up early, stick your name on the list and pop round the corner for a pint until they call. One whiff of the grill will have you twitching for that phone to ring.


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