Wednesday, 3 April 2013

An old favourite: Kokeb Ethiopian restaurant

This is my 100th post, would you believe. And for it I return to an old neighbourhood, Holloway, in the backstreets of which lies a fantastic Ethiopian restaurant called Kokeb. It's on a sleepy little stretch of Roman Way, which curves round from Caledonian Road tube behind Pentonville Prison. There's not much else there - it's what you'd call a neighbourhood secret. I only found out about it because a very foodie friend from the area told me about it.

It shouldn't be a secret though - it's one of the warmest, loveliest and tastiest restaurants I know. It's one lady who owns it, cooks the food, welcomes you in, coaches you through the menu (especially if it's your first time eating Ethiopian food) and serves it to you. Extra help at weekends though, I'm told!

Ethiopian eating often involves eating from a big round injera bread - like a big pancake, made from fermented flour, with a spongy texture and served cold.

It is served with a selection of meat and vegetable dishes. These are served separately and diners spoon them in piles onto the injera, which soaks up all the aromatic juices. You use additional injera pieces to pick up the food, and then, when that's gone, you gradually pick away at the injera bread with the remaining food on it.

The dishes it comes with are really delicious. There are a good number of vegetable dishes - some pulses based (we had a particularly yummy split pea one), more substantial vegetable dishes with green beans, peppers, etc. Particularly delicious are the beef and lamb stews - minced or in pieces, these are full of interesting spices - cardamom, ginger, things you've never heard of.

We had a lamb and rosemary dish, an aromatic mince beef and cardamon stew, green beans, and a medley of pulse stews. Four dishes and two injera breads between two was perfect for three people.

All this, and two Ethiopian beers, came to £38. Very affordable when divided by three. It's worth making the trip if you don't live in the area - you will be well rewarded. Interestingly, Camden, Kings Cross, Caledonian Road and Kentish Town has a bit of a concentration of Ethiopian restaurants - you won't find many elsewhere. I was hoping that the new Ethiopian church opening on Lower Clapton Road would bring some food with it - but until then I'll keep going back to Kokeb for my fix.

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