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Mangal 2: Chef Sertaç Dirik to leave Stoke Newington favourite to launch own restaurant

Romeo done: Sertaç is off to pursue other projects (Mangal 2)
Romeo done: Sertaç is off to pursue other projects (Mangal 2)

The chef Sertaç Dirik will leave Mangal 2 at the end of October with a view to open his own restaurant.

Dirik, now 27, relaunched the family business with his older brother Ferhat three years ago, taking over what was then a traditional ocakbasi and building a modern Turkish concept, reinventing classics with an almost whimsical approach. Since then, thanks to dishes such as Cull Yaw köfte, grilled mackerel with peaches, and börek filled with beyaz peynir and fermented wild garlic, reviews for the Stoke Newington restaurant have been universal in their praise.

But Dirik said now was the right time to move on, having spent almost “every year of my life” in the Mangal 2 kitchen. He first announced the news on Instagram.

He told the Standard: “It’s a big decision. I’ve spent so much time in this restaurant. I grew up here. It’s two years older than I am.

“But it’s very tied to my family, and that comes with a weight. It’s a lot of pressure and we can’t really have a normal relationship.

“This has always been a family project and I felt like I couldn’t fail. If I messed up, it would be catastrophic not just for me, but for everyone.”

Dirik began his cooking career at Mangal 2, long a cult favourite in the area in its previous guise, then spent two years cooking at the now-closed 108 in Copenhagen, once the Michelin-starred sister restaurant to Noma.

Dirik in the kitchen (Mangal 2)
Dirik in the kitchen (Mangal 2)

He returned to Stoke Newington aged 24 and with Ferhat, seven years his senior and who runs front of house, set about turning Mangal II into what it is today, though he said there was never really a formula.

“We always wanted to do something different,” he said. “To show Turkish food in a different light.

“In essence, it was about saving the family business. The restaurant was in a lot of debt when I came back and dad had been retired for ten years, so it was being run by random chefs.

“My brother was keeping it alive, and he had ambitions, but limited options. He was on his own. Together, we were able to branch out, give one another strength, and push it forward.”

With Mangal 2 in a much better place, Dirik said he will hand the kitchen over to his Israeli sous chef, Amit Alafi, who will “put his own stamp” on the menu but continue to cook the food for which the restaurant has become so well-known, and so popular.

He told the Standard: “None of this was really part of the plan. All we had were honest intentions and we didn’t really know what Mangal 2 would look like. The reaction has been overwhelming. It’s been hard to achieve and it’s been crazy in parts...

“It was a space for me as a young chef to cut my teeth and develop. To learn how to run a business and be creative. Mangal 2 will carry on with Alafi and Ferhat. It’ll always be Turkish-leaning, with food that allows for a subtle play on classic dishes. I’ll be around for guidance, but it will be those two in charge.”

Dirik said he intends to “wait for the dust to settle” before pursuing anything new. But something is brewing. What’s to come is a project entirely separate from what’s been before, allowing the chef to realise his own ambitions, away from what, he said, was a tricky balancing act.

“I do plan to open another restaurant, something separate — my own thing,” he said.

“Posting [on Instagram] was a bit of a call. I don’t have a building or an investor right now. I have a concept: something similar to Mangal 2, but much more personal.”

“At Mangal 2, we pushed boundaries while catering to regulars and locals, we had to keep its history in mind and we had to be quite strict with ourselves. In the end I didn’t want to destroy the beauty of it and when you want to push further, it all becomes too much.

“I’m ready to do my own thing.”

4 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XN, mangal2.com