Mango Shack is the belated sister to Mango Rooms, which has been serving up tasty Caribbean food to Camden Town for over fifteen years. So how does this new location under the arches of Camden Road station (occupying the former Meribel Brasserie) match up to its famous sibling?
6.30pm, a quiet restaurant, its vast, hollow arch plastered in a collage of brightly coloured wallpaper with dim jar-like lights. But those faux white wood wash chairs all empty? It was as if they were awaiting guests for a wedding.
Never mind, food wise it all started rather well: scallops with mango and pineapple salsa, the ripe fruit highlighting the perfectly seared and seasoned bouncy flesh, made zestier with a squeeze of lime.
Salmon, home-cured with a cocktail of rum, sugar, chilli and lime, missed the mark, but only slightly. Why? Its aftertaste was a “dusty scout hall”, quipped my partner. As for me, I just found it a bit sweet. Yet the texture of the fish was silky, the colour good.
The Mango Rooms staple, Camden’s Famous Goat Curry, arrived looking wholesome. The goat leg was rich and full of flavour and the sauce, which there wasn’t quite enough of, delicately spicy and typically Caribbean. The same could be said for the char-grilled chicken with peanut sauce. I wanted to mop up the tender breast in the smooth peanut sauce – but alas, there was only a dribble. Why scrimp, especially on a slow midweek night? But the chicken plate was decorated with intricately carved slithers of pepper, poking out in all directions.
I can’t help but think they’re missing a trick here. It’s all in the name Shack. Camden has the fancier Mango Rooms so why not rough this new one up a bit?
Then it all started to make sense: this venue is crying out to be a raucous Manhattan-style bar. I could just picture hundreds of revellers, rum shack in hand, bopping to the same brilliant tunes of Damian Marley and Gentleman cranked up a notch. So what a shame an application for a drinks-only license has just been rejected by the council. And can the objections really be down to memories of a murder that took place at the venue in the late 90s?
If something doesn’t happen fast, this place, like the ill-fated brasserie before it, might not be here for much longer. And that would be a huge shame, especially as nobody seems to know how good the food is.
Kentishtowner Rating 7/10. 47-49 Camden Rd. Meal for two around £40