You can place Lee Tiernan’s Black Axe Mangal right in the midst of any selection of cultural disruptors you fancy. It’s the Ulysses of grub; the Mystery Train of dining; the Sex Pistols of the culinary arts.
BAM is a single room in London’s Cannonbury, right on the square. It looks like a canteen. A run-down canteen. The menus look like they were nicked from a greasy spoon, sometime circa 1975. The soundtrack is loud and raucous - Sonic Youth; Queens of the Stone Age, Soundgarden, Jane's Addiction. Like the set up, the food takes no prisoners. One page of drinks includes two wines - white, and red. A page of dishes includes crispy fuckin rabbit, and blood fried rice, and squid ink flatbread with smoked cod’s roe.
Depending on what your expectation of a restaurant is, BAM is either Mordor personified, or the taste of the future. For me, it’s the future. It’s a restaurant that is, first and foremost, an artistic statement - this is the food I want to cook, in the environment in which I want to cook it. There are no compromises, no concessions.
And it works, because the food is mind-blowingly good. The flatbreads that arrive from the BAM pizza oven are superlative, crisp, light, charred, and dense with strong flavours - lamb offal; taramasalata with duck egg yolk; smoked aubergine with nettles. At every point, BAM subverts your expectations, so buttermilk chicken has Mission Chinese spices; cabbage has katsuobushi butter; the crispy fuckin rabbit is a pure killer.
It all works, like a dense work of art that slowly unveils it’s depths and its layers of meaning.
Best of all, it’s intensely personal. Mr Tiernan did the fairly conventional stuff for a decade in St. John’s, then took a break and worked on the Gubbeen Farm cookbook in West Cork, where we met. He is an amiable and intense dude, and he has fashioned his restaurant in just that way - amiable and intense. BAM is a blast, and a major piece of culinary art.
156 Canonbury Road, London N1 2UP