Chilli lamb skewers at Manchurian Legends


Manchurian Legend’s menu (I’m informed) is Dongbei-style, and features a lot of unusual dishes (and a whole section of tripe, organs, and other things I’d rather avoid) – while your standard Chinese-restaurant dishes are relegated to the if-you’re-going-to-be-boring set menus. Their lamb skewers are an absolute snip at £1.50 each, and no doubt would come lonely on their own plate if you ordered a single one alone.

“The lamb has taken on a rich, aromatic flavour”

These look like mini-kofte kebabs, on thin sticks you could certainly imagine picking up from a night-market stall-holder. The outside is encrusted with chilli and cumin, and I found myself gulping down water to stave off the spicy heat. This wasn’t especially because I’m generally a lightweight when it comes to chilli, but is likely to be more down to the fact I was guzzling the meat down, so delicious and moreish was it. The lamb, presumably beaten violently till tender, before being char-grilled, has taken on a rich, aromatic flavour, while the spices coating it add crunch, as well as a potency to the aroma that comes from the dry, sauce-free outside.

We ate these with a ‘big bowl chicken’, which I love at Silk Road in Camberwell (who, frankly, do it better), but this wasn’t absolutely necessary. I’d order a few of these skewers, pair them with a simple vegetable, fried in garlic, and write off the rest of the evening to slumber in a warm, meaty stupor.

There’s not much else to say: a simple dish, with strong, vibrant flavours, that works absolutely brilliantly, and with an expertise that comes from getting a particular thing right through practice. I’ll definitely be back.

Beyti kofte at Mangal Ocakbasi


If there’s one good reason to head to deepest, darkest East London it has to be for the Turkish food. With hundreds of local grills, it’s a big claim for Time Out to have picked out a particular kebab as one of the hundred best dishes in London, but since it had, we were duty-bound to head to Mangal Ocakbasi to try it.

“Cooked perfectly, it was juicy and soft”

Rather foolishly we shared a mezze to start (well, you have to try out a place’s hummus, don’t you? This joint’s: the grainy, bland sort), fully aware that our mains would be enormous. Sure enough, two kofte kebabs rested on piles of salad, pickles, chillies and flatbread.

It was clearly good meat, with a freshness of flavour enhanced by crisp herby hints in the mix. Cooked perfectly, it was juicy and soft. But that’s about where the compliments end, because, to be honest, it was nothing special. Sure, it was a decent kebab, and goodness knows you can get terrible kebabs which are downright unpleasant eating. Would I cross London, or recommend this to a friend as the place to go for authentic grill? Nope.

70/100 best dish from Time Out London’s list