Wining and dining – An Ethiopian experience by Celest Lotter

I was dragged to yet another Vegan friendly spot against my will. Since my boyfriend has decided to go full vegan on me, I have been to every tree-hugging, hippie-happy, sandal-wearing restaurant in Cape Town. Needless to say, I was less than excited at the prospect of yet more tofu, espcially Ethiopian tofu (have you seen how thin those people are??)

We walked up a narrow flight of stairs and right into a display cabinet filled with jewellery – and that’s when I knew we were off to a great start! The restaurant smelled amazing! Like… pan African/spice markety smells… it was quite overwhelming and wonderful. Even though we booked a table, we were asked by the hostess to sit in the lounge for a while on what I can only describe as hobbity chairs.About ten minutes later, she came up to us carrying this weird basket of sorts. I was expecting her to show us to our table, instead she brought our table to us! This Table is about 60cm in diameter (if that) – so I thought this was just going to be a place for us to put our drinks on (but I will get back to that). Grant (the BF) proceeded to bravely order some sort of Ethiopian tea (crazy) and me being a creature of habit, I looked for any kind of wine I could recognize (not to worry, they have a good selection for us wine lovers to choose from!)

Then it came time to order food. The menu is very well explained: All meals are well described and easy to understand as anything in Ethiopian Amharic is translated into English. They did not however say how the food was going to be served!

Initially I was after the prawns, however was coaxed into eating vegan choices. Thank goodness I didn’t order the prawns, as the food is served in a bowl, which is literary the size of the table… it fits into the woven basket which ‘is’ the table. The bottom of this bowl is lined with traditional Ethiopian rice bread, which resembles south African millie pap (maize meal)…so it looks like a Millie pap pancake. All the dishes we ordered arrived in little dishes, and without warning were tipped upside down onto the rice bread…meaning we then had little mounds of everything.

Our charming waiter then arrived with a funny kettle/come silver coffee pot. At first I  thought he was going to pour us some water, but the hand washing gestures were a dead give away that we were not going to be drinking any of this. So we washed our hands and were then brought another bowl of what I honestly believed were towels to dry our hands. These were in fact more rolled up rice breads (like a rolled up herring mops). We then tucked into the mounds of food.. and if you were wondering when the cutlery arrived…it never did.

Surprisingly, the food was amazing! We had this incredible lentil paste (who knew lentils could taste that good!) Right at the end of the meal I spotted stuffed chillis on the menu…which I obviously decided was a good idea to eat. The hostess explained that they were out of stuffing chillis but would make us up some other ones, using normal chillis but with the same filling. She did go on to say that these would be somewhat hotter than normal, but as I was well fueled by my glass of wine, I accepted the challenge.

All in all it was a really fun night! The jewellery they sell is authentic Ethiopian and it’s very well priced. I certainly didn’t feel like I was in Cape Town and I will definitely be going back! I highly recommend this to anyone who wants an exciting, cool and different experience right here in the mother city.

 

by Celest Lotter, the one who braved the chilli.