In the second instalment of our series about discovering a different culture in London, we will explore Ethiopia.
We recently used the Uber cab service. Our driver was a very friendly guy from Ethiopia with whom we had a good chat. He reminded us about an Ethiopian restaurant called Lalibela, which we’ve wanted to write about for a while. One of us had been to Lalibela 15 years ago! After our ride, we decided we will explore Ethiopia through Lalibela.
A few facts about Ethiopia
Currency: Ethiopian birr (1GBP = ca. 30 Birr)
Capital: Addis Ababa
Population: ca. 100 M
National dish: wat (hot and spicy stew accompanied with injera which is a type of slightly sour and spongy pancake)
Famous Ethiopian people: Haile Gebrselassie (marathon runner), Gelila Bekele (model), Haile Selassie (former Emperor of Ethiopia), The Weeknd (superstar/entertainer)
Lalibela opened in 1993. It is a family run restaurant with a nice & friendly family vibe. The head chef is the mother and she comes up with all the recipes.
Lalibela takes its name from a religious place in Ethiopia.
We went to Lalibela because this is a restaurant one of us tried more 15 years ago and liked it. We don’t know for you but when we go to a restaurant we want something more than just eating a meal. We want an experience. We want the restaurant to make us live something unique and almost magical and different.
Lalibela succeeded on all aspects. The food is excellent, the staff is friendly and the restaurant is extremely well decorated with Ethiopian ornaments and paintings. Also, they play some Ethiopian music at exactly the perfect level. Not too low as to wonder where does that nuisance noise come from. And not too loud as to wonder if you haven’t e
The food is very good and for people who don’t like it spicy, well good news it is not too spicy. Unless you expressly ask for it to be spicy.
We ordered a sharing platter with various small dishes nicely presented on a giant injera (slightly sour and spongy pancake).
There was a good mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes presented as nicely shaped balls.
If you want to do it the proper way, you need to forget about fork and knife. You need to use your hand and get ‘messy’! You need to take one of the rolled injeras (that also are on the giant injera), unroll it and tear it apart. You then use each part of the injera to help yourself with the dishes.
Where does the name Lalibela come from?
Lalibela is a town located in the northern part of Ethiopia. It’s a religious place that is known for its rock-cut churches which are visited by pilgrims. It’s a highly important location for Ethiopians.
Lalibela is one of the oldest if not the oldest Ethiopian restaurants in London and since it provides good quality food and atmosphere, it is one of the best rated.
However, there are also other ones (which we have not tried ourselves):
- Wolkite, 82 Hornsey Rd, London N7 7NN
- Abyssinia, 9 Cricklewood Broadway, London NW2 3JX
- Kokeb, 45 Roman Way, London N7 8XF
- The Queen of Sheba, 12 Fortess Rd, London NW5 2EU
- Addis, 40-42 Caledonian Rd, Kings Cross, London N1 9DT
- Asmara, 386 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton, London SW9 8LF
- Zeret Kitchen, 216-218 Camberwell Rd, Camberwell, London SE5 0ED, UK
There are also different Ethiopian shops in the capital.
Here are a few:
- St Gabriel Ethiopian Delicatessen, 12 Blackstock Rd, London N4 2DW
- The Ethiopian Coffee Company, 61 Amwell St, Islington, London EC1R 1UR
- Engocha, 143 Fortess Rd, London NW5 2HR
Ethiopia is an interesting country. Unfortunately, it is not really well represented in London and even in the UK. So, there are no places where we can truly discover the country, learn the language, the dances etc.
Lalibela is an excellent restaurant where you can experience Ethiopia and its friendly spirit. In London, this is one of the places where you will get to experience that beautiful country that has changed a lot and that is worth knowing.