I’d heard lots of great things about The Abyssinian in Kensington. In fact, it seemed so popular that our group could only be accommodated at the 8pm sitting, rather than earlier. The duck enabler Anna took a night off from cajoling us into eating duck for that from the horn of Africa instead: The Abyssinian specialises in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine.
As always, you’re often asked if you’d like a drink at the beginning of your meal. There was a sizeable list of African (!) beer so three of us conspired to get the only three available at the time and have a taste. I of course got the worst one, the St George. No depth of flavour, slightly sweet and just generally a poor example of what a lager should be. Blech blech blech. Watery with a hint of beer.
The more common choice which was a good deal more drinkable was the Dashen beer. I stealthily swapped my bottle of St George with Tristan’s Dashen when he wasn’t looking. Dashen matched the food very well. It could be a good session beer too!
The best one out of what was available was the Castel beer however. I should have known by the fact that it had gold wraparound on the neck of the bottle (JOKE). Not sure how to explain why I liked this – it was rich in flavour and just felt like it had more depth.
Sadly, they did not have the African stout in stock. A shame, I’d love to try it! Perhaps next time?
All nine of us agreed to have the banquet. This worked out perfectly because the platters are shared between three. So, you take a pinch of injera (sour, fermented, porous, slightly moist pancake with sorghum) and then pick up a handful of any of those dishes shown above and then scoop into your mouth. Nope, no cutlery. Yes, very messy and therefore very fun.
There seems to be trouble viewing the menu online at the restaurant’s website so let me try to take you through what we had. Starting from the dish in the bowl and working clockwise: goat curry, yellow lentils, red meat (possibly lamb?), brown lentils, chicken, chickpea, fish, and lastly beef.
Think Indian-like curries but with a different spice base. The spiciest one to the left of the goat curry reminded me very much of vindaloo. I know, I’m sorry – it’s not very fair to compare Ethiopian and Eritrean food to Indian food, but they do have their similarities – as you can see, lentil soupiness and stew-like things which look like curry.
Not pictured, we also added another dish for ‘goormette’ kicks – a raw mince tartare-like dish to be eaten with injera. It came with a little dish of the most fragrant and alien spices my palate has ever had the pleasure to taste. It reminded me of the smell of the earth.
Some of us managed to fit in dessert (which is more in the Western vein) – I opted to have Ethiopian style coffee which is just as fragrant and spicy as its cuisine.
A wonderful, homely communal eating experience with good foodie mates makes for a cheery night during a rainy, wintry Melbourne. The staff are lovely and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed. Get a group of mates and go the banquet as it really is the best introduction to the menu at The Abyssinian. My dear foodie chum Billy was with us and he too reviewed it (he also has a photo of the raw beef dish – my fingers were far too messy for me to take a photo by that stage!).