Lalibela charms from the moment you cross the threshold and smell the coffee beans roasting by the bar. It resembles the home of an eccentric africophile uncle: full of carvings, figurines, textiles, instruments and portraits of elegant Ethiopian luminaries. The smiling and attentive manager is keen to recommend dishes and explain how they can be served (on a very fine circle of injera).
Unlike most Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants, Lalibela doesn’t offer sharing platters, but the menu is long and there are plenty of adventurous house specials. To start, Lalibela salad – beetroot and potato served warm – was tangy and sweet, and spiced chicken salad packed a punch. For mains, we tried fried lamb with spinach and spring greens, as well as a little separate pot of spiced couscous, just in case we developed injera fatigue. Tofu spinach tibs (tibs are sautéed dishes) was deliciously savoury, if very oily.
Fried fish tibs, with tomatoes and peppers, was delicately flavoured with rosemary and lemon juice and went well with shiro (peas, shallots and hot spices). It was a hot and steamy night, so we eschewed the coffee ceremony in favour of a couple of cold St George beers (from Ethiopia).