One day in 1994, at the same time as awaiting his new restaurant to open, chef Fergus Henderson went to the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead together with all the other food pervs, for a screening of La Grande Bouffe. At one factor the louche dinner party guests, operating tough to consume themselves to dying, sit down around licking the marrow from roasted bones. As Henderson once instructed me, a lightbulb illuminated above his head. “I notion, there’s a dish for me.” He brought a parsley salad, a heap of salt and some toasted sourdough, and created one of the unmarried most copied plates of food of the closing quarter-century, and rightly so — the vibrant gems of marrow melt into the sturdy platform of the toast. A flake or of salt makes it sing. The shiny, acidic parsley salad cuts via the richness.
I’ve eaten knock-offs all over the world, often made by using cooks who’ve by no means eaten the original however seen sufficient images to recognise the principles are sound. And now, 25 years later, I am sitting in Black Axe Mangal in London’s Highbury, ingesting a pimped version, with move-quicker stripes, an aerofoil, a painting activity and some thing involving gasoline injection underneath the hood. The marrow has been crowned with a tangle of long-braised oxtail, to put a few meats returned at the bones. It has then been roasted to a crisp. Anchovy is worried. The sourdough has been replaced with a slab of fluffy, singed and blistered flatbread, which belches warm doughy air as you tear. On the facet, underneath a thick mustardy French dressing, is a candy-coloured crimson onion and parsley salad.
It’s a comically huge plate of meals, which slaps you round the chops and slaps you once more simply to make certain. And then shouts on your ear and subsequently kicks you inside the shins. Even so the lily has not been gilded. Black Axe Mangal’s Lee Tiernan spent years as the top chef of St John Bread and Wine, the spin-off from the mothership, and cooked the original extra than enough times to apprehend the fundamentals. But sincerely it had to be his take. This very a lot is.
None of this is news, in the feel of being new. BAM, because it calls itself onomatopoeically, first opened nearly 4 years ago and all the reviews were of large flavours and noise and queues. You went. You waited, possibly for an hour or extra. You sat in a cramped area with room for just dozen, with an open kitchen dominated via a graffitied wooden-fired oven. Tatted cooks did muscular matters with the coolest food. Guitars roared, cocktails flowed, and every body was given sweaty and fed. It sounded like a hoot – simply now not always my hoot.
Three years on, and circumstance provides an opportunity. I had been allowing down using a new eating place which cancelled its beginning and forgot to say it. Charmed, I’m certain. So I head with my companion to Highbury Corner where I recognise there are alternatives. One is Trullo, which I have already reviewed. (And very exceptional it is too.) One of them is closed, as it’s a Monday. Which leaves BAM and, reward be, they have got a table. The song does indeed boom, although not so that you can’t preserve a conversation. Still, in case you be anxious about eating place noise, you gained’t revel in this. That’s first-rate. There are masses of different locations for the likes of you.
If you’re not certain, take the threat. Come allow the food rattle your eyeballs. Tiernan (who happens not to be right here this night) has defined BAM as a mash-up of bistro and the Turkish mangal grill houses he so adores. The menu changes according to what’s exact. Tonight, it begins with a “crispy fuckin rabbit” with sweet chilli and apple. The meat has been slow-cooked, shaped into a nice rectangle, then breaded and deep-fried. It is certainly very crisp and really meaty and surfs a wave of sultry heat and candy courtesy of the slutty sauce it sits upon.
A salt beef and sauerkraut steamed bun is largely a Reuben sandwich with new tailoring. It sits inner an Asian-style rice-dough folded bao, the softness of which offers a way to a thick wodge of the cured meat and the crunch bitter of the fermented cabbage. We have strong spears of green asparagus underneath a dollop of creamy goat’s curd. Because the kitchen doesn’t apprehend the word “sufficient”, there’s additionally bottarga – cured fish roe (typically grey mullet) grated over the pinnacle. It provides a rush of savoury and the sea.
A short while ago the meals-writing world, or the “gutserati” as I’ve simply determined to name them, laughed uproariously at the opening of a new restaurant referred to as Flavour Bastard, as though that became ever going to fly. The internet site now just incorporates the petulant words “Flavour Bastard has now shut and will not reopen.” If any restaurant ever deserved to inherit the call as a subtitle, it’s BAM.
Not each dish works. A salad of brown shrimp and white cabbage is meant, I suppose, to be a way of contrasting the nutty chew of the tiny seafood commas towards the brusque crunch of the cabbage, but the dressing is salty and one-note. Still, with the small plates priced at around £eight, it feels like a low-cost misstep. I’m upset that the crispy pig cheek, kimchi and burnt lime is completed due to the fact they sound like phrases I can be incredible buddies with. Happily, there’s a massive Barnsley chop, the fats-ribboned lamb having taken a virtuous journey through the flames alongside charred hispi cabbage, it all bathed in the heat benediction of shrimp butter.