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The Queen of Sheba

Location: 12 Fortess Road, near Old Kentish Town, London, UK

Fond memories brought us to our first visit to The Queen of Sheba, an Ethiopian restaurant in London. The memories weren't ours, but those of naxos and haggisthesecond, who'd had a memorably wonderful meal there eight months earlier. Neither Colin, easterbunny, aca, nor I had tried Ethiopian food before, and we were all game for new tastes. So it was that the lot of us crowded into a corner of a modest, though quite pleasant space. We crowded not because the place was, but because we were many, and thus were the tables.

Our waitress, in addition to her monumentally elegant hair, was a gently enthusiastic woman who guided us through choices when there were warnings to be had, such as that the "electric tea" included a shot of alcohol, and that there would be no utensils available for our main course. We began with two appetizers, shared among the meat-eaters among us, unwinding rolls of injera bread to scoop up tastily seasoned mixes of meat and vegetables, one of which especially benefited from its tart vinegar dressing.

It is at this point that I tell you that I not only failed to take notes as to what it was we ate, but I have entirely misplaced the little informative business card/brochure I ended the evening with, and which I counted on to guide me back to menu names which provides a non-functional URL, and thus no menu information at all. I suspect that I will eventually be able to remedy this lamentable situation and update this review accordingly, but I needed to write it before I forgot anything more, since the meal was already a week and a half back.

But I can nevertheless tell you that the food was very good indeed. The coming of the mains was heralded by the arrival of two enormous circular flatbreads, the full-fledged form of the injera, which also arrived in roll-filled baskets. Injera is a thin, spongy sourdough, vaguely reminiscient of hoppers, for those of you who what those are. The platters were so large that they crowded out our wine bottles, and so a series of low side-tables arrived to handle the overflow. The waitress started us off by serving each of us a sampling of every dish on our own side of the injera, which we could then scoop up and eat. Although we effectively had an endless supply of injera, the concept was to finish the meal by eating the injera plate out from under the dishes. The dishes were all tastily spiced thick stews, ideal for scooping up. I ordered the Doro Wot (chicken, egg, onion, spices etc.), but the meal was all about sharing. The dishes weren't spicy, so much as richly flavored, a wonderful contrast to the mild sour of the injera.

To finish, the men all ordered the coffee, which was an event all in its own right. First the beans were roasted before being brought out to the table, the scent of freshly roasted coffee wafting appealingly across the table. A while later, they'd been ground, and the coffee brewed in a traditonal pottery narrow-necked coffee pot. The pot came accompanied by burning frankincense. Colin described the coffee as thin, but very tasty despite that - he was enthusiastic, and all three of them went back for seconds.

It was a very good meal, and quite reasonably priced, especially by London standards. And since I can't remember what the dish names were... perhaps I'll just have to go back and do more "research" on the subject.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 20th, 2005 01:37 pm (UTC)
Yum, i love ethiopian food! I really like ethiopian honey wine too ;)
Jan. 20th, 2005 02:50 pm (UTC)
Being new to Ethiopian food in general, I've never tried Ethiopian honey wine. It does sound rather good.
Jan. 20th, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC)
Confesses with shame that although this is barely 10 minutes walk from where I live, have never been there. Definitely bearing it in mind for some suitable occasion.
Jan. 20th, 2005 07:32 pm (UTC)
The longer I live in a place, the less likely I am to be a tourist about it, and the less likely I am to have been to landmarks - historical or culinary - that I live near. I spent a year within a block of a house of Dickens', and never went. I came home from university one year and my mother was astonished to find I'd never once seen the museum/grand house that was not a mile distant from our house.

I suspect this restaurant falls into that category for you, the way so many local eateries do for me. I develop local habits and rarely branch out. I am more likely to try a new restaurant halfway across town than one I walk by every day.

I'm happy to have been able to explore a bit of your neighborhood for you!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )