Asmara

,As01

Address: 386 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LF

telephone: 020 7737 4144

We reviewed this restaurant six years ago, which brought it home to us how hard it is to keep up with the widening choice and turnover (Calcutta Street now closed). But this  Eritrean restaurant on Coldharbour Lane is no newcomer. It is a Brixton staple and has been here for years and years. The fact that it is still here must mean that it appeals to those with a sense of adventure, as well as those who come back over and over again. It is small and so reservations do help secure seats unless you go very early. But they will try to fit you in. Choose from the tables for four or for more fun (but not much space) the cosy basket-weave chairs with a round table – especially if you are sharing. The walls have a few African adornments but it is not overwhelming cultural apart from the waiting staff who make jokes (usually at your expense). Here the experience is about eating the tablecloth with your fingers.

The menu is heavy on meat although there are vegetarian options. The reference to the tablecloth is that some options are served on injera, large sourdough pancakes. They rapidly cool so you need to be quick.  If you don’t like sourdough you can choose rice or cracked wheat.

There are spicy or not so spicy choices like kulwa ( lamb with tomatoes) and derho alicha (mild chicken stew).  We chose the Royal feast for two people (although there were three of us). It was a good choice as we didn’t finish it all. This was the most expensive meal but included a “coffee ceremony”.

The Royal feast consists of injera laid out on a large tray with about eight different portions of curried meat or vegetables plonked on top. We definitely had favourites and sometimes the subtlety of the different meat versions was lost on us. We knew some were hotter than others but couldn’t discern the different spices We all agreed that we would choose it again, until we felt we had more expertise to make an informed choice.

As02The coffee at the end of the meal comes in a ceramic pot with something stuck in the spout to prevent the coffee grounds coming out. You drink small cupfuls with as much sugar as you want. It is accompanied by a large bowl of slightly salted popcorn. There were desserts but we definitely didn’t need one after this lovely end to the meal.

The bill came to about £40 (we lost the receipt) which included one beer. We will come back again but we know that after a few months we will not remember what everything was.

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