By Pippa Moore
Asmara, 386 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LF,
0207 737 4144
When I first entered Asmara, it seemed like a modest cafe severely lacking in atmosphere, with only two others dining and a rather uninspired-looking waiter. This did, as you would imagine, leave little to be desired, but as recommendation had lured me to Asmara I decided to give it a whirl…
I am so very glad I did. Within around 15 minutes, Asmara had completely filled up and a large group of people arrived for a party upstairs.
Meanwhile, the extremely attentive and friendly lonesome waiter had provided us with menus (fairly daunting if you’ve never experienced Eritrean food before), brought over two glasses of the house white (£3.50 a glass) and taken our orders. These were completely selected at random after watching with intrigue the arrival of the other couple’s meal and the process that followed.
We opted for the Traditional Meeob Meat Dinner for two (£35) which arrives as a large metal tray consisting of 5 spongy pancakes, known as Injera. The waiter then proceeded to bring over a variety of dishes which he spooned on top of the pancakes: Zegni (spiced lamb stew), dullet (minced liver and tribes of lamb cooked in seasoned butter), Minchet – Abish (spiced minced meat), Kulwa (seasoned fresh vegetables), Derho (spiced chicken stew) and Zighny (chicken curry with a hard-boiled egg). This was then to be eaten by tearing off the pancake and using it to scoop up the various dishes.
The flavours were superb and I would urge every person who hasn’t yet eaten with their hands in their adult life to do so; there really is something quite therapeutic about it.
After being completely and utterly defeated by the mound of food, we decided to try some traditional Eritrean coffee, served in a Jebena, which has a wonderful incense-like aroma and is accompanied by a large bowl of popcorn.
My only disappointment was that they had run out of the honey wine, which I was desperate to try as this had also been recommended to me.
I’m a big fan of taking my friends and family to unique local restaurants whenever they come to visit and Asmara is certainly one I am very excited to introduce them to.
Pippa Moore runs the Piano Club, which rents desk space in The Piano House, Brighton Terrace
Justine Foong has her photos here