ARE YOU READY TO ROCK???
For some reason, this never seems to work in putting a baby to sleep.
It is, however, a fitting battle cry to rouse your tastebuds in preparation for a meal at Black Axe Mangal.
This unmarked, matte black shopfront on Highbury Corner conceals a restaurant that’s essentially a second home for many Islington locals. And it’s precisely as unusual as it sounds – though it makes a little more sense when you shorten it to the acronym BAM.
BAM. The decor hits you like a slap in the face with a football rattle – the music is loud, heavy and metallic; the tables Hawaiian-shirted; the wood-fired oven spray painted with Californian punk band The Warriors; and the walls have been given a paint-job by Midas. It’s small but mighty, with room for less than 30 diners and a band of tattoo-covered chefs working busily over the hissing grill.
BAM. The flavours. Head chef and founder Lee Tiernan worked at St. John for a decade before opening this place, and his dishes are filled with nods to that venerable institution, and others like San Francisco’s Mission Chinese. But Tiernan doesn’t so much nod as head-bang: bone marrow is roasted with slow-braised oxtail; pig tails are battered and studded with sesame; and there are mermaid glitter-dusted squid ink profiteroles filled with cod’s roe and runny egg.
And thrice BAM. The atmosphere: despite having all the ingredients for being an irritatingly loud, over-hyped hipster trap, it’s anything but. Black Axe Mangal is brash and chaotic in all the right ways – uncontrived, upbeat and extremely functional. You’ll get your food on time, and it’ll taste delicious, because Lee Tiernan is a culinary genius and doesn’t shower things with glitter without good reason.
Two final words of caution:
1) Get there early, as it’s walk-in only; and
2) Don’t let your grandmother look at the floor too closely.
NOTE: Black Axe Mangal is open for dinner Mon-Sat 6-10.30pm, and brunch on weekends, 11am-3pm. They only take reservations for larger groups (4-6+) so be prepared to wait a little. Find out more on their website HERE.
Black Axe Mangal | 156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP
Like eating in Highbury? Take a look at our guide to the best Islington restaurants