EVERY DINER WORTH HIS SALT knows of Fergus Henderson’s iconic St John restaurant. The man single-handedly revolutionised nose-to-tail dining, making offal cool again. Even the late Anthony Bourdain put St John at the top of his list of places to eat at before you die.
Today, St John alum Lee Tiernan continues this legacy with Black Axe Mangal, occupying what once used to be a Chinese takeaway store in north London.
Like St John, Black Axe Mangal doesn’t fit easily into a mould.
The entrance is fronted by a black curtain, and the interior lit with a dim reddish glow. The music — Casisdead or anything by Lee Scott — is unabashedly pounding. And the floor? You’re better off thinking that lurid pattern is a floral design.
“The loud music started out as a defence mechanism (to surviving long hours in the kitchen), but became part of the restaurant’s make-up. I love music as much as I love food,” says Tiernan.
Big On Flavour
Food is where Tiernan defies all expectations. While Ferguson turned out proper English grub like devilled kidneys, Tiernan takes his cooking up a notch with East-meets-West combinations that are big on flavour.
Sit at the counter for the full experience. The open kitchen stretches across the back of the restaurant, dominated by a black K.I.S.S wood-fired oven. Out of this comes smoke-kissed flatbreads, best for sopping up the dripping juices of roasted bone marrow — Tiernan’s homage to St. John —with fiery chilli padi.
For snacks, there’s crispy rabbit that is slow-cooked and deep-fried, served with a tangy mango chutney. Cod fish is salted, then poached in a rich brown butter and XO sauce.
Desserts are equally bold, taking on the form of a deep-fried cherry pie or ice cream bars made from foie gras, peanut caramel, and sour cherry.
No Room For Average
“David Chang once said, ‘life is too short to be mediocre’. This stuck with me, and it has become a personal mantra of sorts,” says Tiernan.
His unapologetic style of cooking has gained a strong following. The 20-seater is filled with local regulars and destination diners from around the globe on weekdays. On weekends, the brunch crowd spills out onto the streets. Go early, or hold out for a late-night dinner spot, fortified with strong cocktails or a dram of Jameson’s whiskey — Tiernan’s tipple of choice.
Black Axe Mangal
156 Canonbury Road, Highbury
London N1 2UP
For reservations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org