Restaurant review: Kokeb, N7
PUBLISHED: 11:08 19 January 2012 | UPDATED: 11:37 19 January 2012
Tom Marshall checks out some Ethiopan fare
45 Roman Way
Tel: 020 7609 9832
Mains: from £6
Wine: from £12
Disabled access: no accessible toilet
Children welcome: yes
»Ethiopian may not be one of the best known cuisines in this country.
It probably doesn’t get too many mouths watering at a mere mention like the big hitters, from Indian to Italian.
But after visiting Kokeb in Holloway, it’s not hard to forsee a future when this east African fare takes its place in the nation’s hearts – or stomachs perhaps – alongside those Titans of the dinner table.
And in this forward-thinking enclave of north London it seems to be there already.
There are at least five Ethiopian eateries in striking distance of Caledonian Road Tube. It’s London’s answer to Addis Ababa.
Well, that might be a bit of a stretch. I had to rely on Wikipedia to name the capital so I can’t say I’ve any idea what it’s like.
But if this is how the denizens eat, it’s a place I want to visit.
The first thing that strikes you is the bread. It’s called “injura”, it’s thin, flat and soft as a pancake, and it’s the lynchpin of Ethiopian cooking.
Stews and curries are delightfully dolloped on a huge round injura, colourful islands on a tasty sourdough sea.
Kokeb started out as an Ethiopian bakery, so it doesn’t get better than this.
It’s sharing food. The injura is laid out in the middle of the table ready for all to tuck in.
There are no knives and forks, just tear a piece off and pick up some spinach cooked with onions and garlic (Ye-Alicha Kik Wot) – reminiscent of an Indian saag dish – or sauteed lamb cubes with rosemary (Lega Tibs). The stews are known as “wots” and the sauteed dishes “tibs”.
Just be careful you don’t take too much bread – it’s deceptively filling.
I went for a vegetarian feast, sampling five of the dishes – my injura becoming a delicious mess of lentils, split peas, green beans, carrots and spinach, all for just £9.
For afters, the ample chocolate sponge cake will break you if the injura didn’t already.
It’s not just the food. We were greeted by Getenesh, the woman behind this family-run restaurant, both chef and bubbly host.
She creates a wonderfully friendly vibe, it’s as if you are in her front room. At one point she warned we’d be sent to the kitchen to do the dishes if we didn’t clean our plates but there was no danger of that happening.
If you arrived at Cally Road station in search of injura, but without anywhere in mind, Kokeb might not catch your eye.
It’s off the main strip and understated to say the least, looking almost like a café. But don’t be fooled – the service is great and the food is fantastic.
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