Mangal I, 10 Arcola Street, E8 2DJ
Picnic for two: £10.50
One of the things I love about East London is the proliferation of makeshift BBQs, which fill up our open spaces as soon as soon as the temperature hits twenty degrees. By contrast, the residents of Clapham, whilst favoured with a spacious Common, are generally more law abiding when it comes to park regulations. However, there is a downside to the Victoria Park BBQ anarchy: food envy. How can even the most luxurious of hampers compete with proper grilled food? It can't but, fortunately, it doesn't have to.
We'd been running on a hot, sunny Sunday morning and I was so hungry I was threatening to eat Mr Fork if he didn't hurry up and come to the park with me. There was no time to buy sausages and light coals. Instead we cycled to the park via Mangal I, a venerable Dalston institution, which has been serving Turkish food to the residents of North East London since before the dawn of time (c.1990). For about £5, depending on what one chooses, they also sell takeaway kebabs. Not greasy, elephant leg donners (which I do have a guilty soft spot for) but grilled meat with salad, all wrapped up in the biggest flatbreads in the world.
We collected our adana (spicy minced lamb) and chicken sis kebabs and pedalled as fast as we could, arriving in the park just in time to eat our lunch while it was still warm. The kebabs were marvellous: the meat slightly charred but perfectly moist with crisp salad that had a citrus tang from a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sumac. Enveloped in an enormous bread, they were gargantuan beasts and yet they disappeared in minutes. As we ate, the BBQ anarchists eyed our lunch with thinly-veiled envy. Whilst I admire their spirit, it turns out it is pretty hard to cook anything worth eating on a disposable tray.