Lalibela

Restaurants , Ethiopian Kentish Town
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(9 user reviews)
8 Love It
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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).

 

Venue name: Lalibela
Contact:
Address: 137 Fortess Road
London
NW5 2HR
Opening hours: Dinner served 6-10pm Mon-Sat; 6-9.30pm Sun
Transport: Tube: Tufnell Park tube or bus 134
Price: Main courses £10-£11.99
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Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|9
1 person listening
MandyGo
Tastemaker

An Ethiopian cuisine for a friend’s birthday sounded like such a refreshing change to the typical menus of dining normally suggested for celebrations. I mean, how could you not be excited?


Upon arrival, the first thing we were told was that their card machine was down. And of course with there being so many of us, it proved difficult to withdraw the essential funds when the only cash machine on Fortess Road (outside Sainsburys) was out of action, prior to us turning up.


Returning to the restaurant, we were then able to take in our surroundings. The décor felt very authentic, with detail in every corner. It was certainly a very warm welcome, like you were stepping into someone’s family home – a perfectly lovely rarity in London.


We were given a large table upstairs and the restaurant had a superb atmosphere. There were many other diners too – which is always a good sign. Once we were all seated and given menus, we decided against the set menu (as it meant the entire party would understandably have to order from a restricted selection). Plus this way, we were able to try anything that took our fancy.  


The waitress and waiters seemed to be constantly on the move, so it was hard to grab the attention of them when we needed someone. However the issue didn’t concern the menu, it was the flickering spotlight above our heads that worried us. Not ones for a risky makeshift disco, we asked if they could take it out the bulb (fearing that it didn’t look all that safe). But sadly none of the staff could manage to solve the problem, so we were left dining under what felt like a faulty hazard light.


Once we’d ordered drinks and food, the evening sadly continued to go downhill. Yes, we were a large party, but the staff and kitchen couldn’t seem to cope with the mass order. We waited almost an hour to receive our food, and many of us were constantly waiting for drinks to arrive as they kept missing or forgetting ones.


I shared a meat platter with my partner, and neither of us were blown away. The injera (a soft, soaked pancake type bread) got a bit repetitive and using it to scoop up an array of accompaniments (lamb, chicken and spinach ‘tibs’ and ‘wots’) had the potential to be delicious. Don’t get me wrong, certain parts of it were delightful, however other bits lacked flavour and the portions weren’t sizeable. And fearing the wait of another hour should we order anything extra, we left hungry. A danger when you intend to have a couple of beverages.


It felt a shame after having expectations of a delicious, alternative meal. I only wish I had tried it as a party of two beforehand, to understand whether it was the size of our troop that made the meal unsuccessful. I think I’ll give it a while before returning, to give them a chance to address their service game.

Photosbysooz
Tastemaker

I've always wanted to eat in this place and especially to sit in the window above Fortress Road - and so my 'dream' was fulfilled. The staff were lovely and the decor very nice though it definitly feels like an Ethiopian restaurant for English people rather than an authentic local's place. But that's not always a bad thing so long as the food is close to the real thing and as far I could tell it was.


My friend and I shared a vegetarian plate, Shiro Beyaynetu, which was delicious, though they weren't very generous with the actual veg dishes (considering the grand price of £24!) and we were full more on the injera rather than the cooked dishes - which I would have liked more of.

We were however bowled over by the two desserts we shared, one a milk cake and the other some kind of pancake type honey balls, and did not expect to eat such delicious treats in an Ethiopian restaurants - so it took us by surprise.

Overall I think this is a lovely restaurant, with a nice ambience, but I'm keen to return to one of the smaller cafes along Holloway, Caledonian Road or Kings Cross and see how it compares for half the price.

Daniel H

I went here in the gap between christmas and new year and we had one of the vegan sharing platters (Shiro Beyaynetu). The food was delicious, every single dish on the platter was distinct and flavoursome, I am not sure I would be able to pick a favourite. I enjoyed the authenticity of eating the food with our hands using the injera. The service was good despite there appearing to be only one waitress on staff that night (to be expected given the time of year) but we weren't in a particular hurry.

Rosalyn M

I've been here twice -- on two very good dates (with the same person) -- and both times my companion and I have eaten way more than we really needed to because the food was just so delicious. Everyone should give this place a try. Worth a visit to the area if you don't live nearby.

James

This was my first introduction to ethiopian food and has remained the stand out best. Warm welcomes, great atmosphere, fabulous food and a unique decor make this restaurant an unforgettable experience.

Ailsa

When we went to Lalibela there was just one problem - but what a big one! We arrived at 8.30pm and left 3 hours later, having received our dishes at 11. The solitary waiter explained that there was just him and a chef on staff, two others having not turned up. He was very polite about it, but the whole restaurant seemed pretty disorganised. Tasty food (particularly the aubergine wot) - fragrant and rich - served in a unique way, interesting decor and a warm welcome; but the wait really spoiled the experience for us. Try the Queen of Sheba down the road for Ethiopian with better service.

Moura

Just got back from probably my worst experience in a London restaurant. We've waited to order for about 30 minutes, and another 1:45 minutes to get our food. and they havent served the whole table evenly, 2 friends had to wait another 15 minutes to get their dishes... food was cold extremely salty all this time i couldnt get them to serve me a single glass of tap water. i could get the jar but they never brought a glass for me. service was not only negligent, it was rude. so of course, SERVICE IS INCLUDED. im never coming back and i advise you to look for another ethiopian restaurant. this one is def not worth it

pine

Not as good as the Ethiopian restaurants in the States but still a good choice in London. The restaurant has a nice intimate atmosphere and the food was pretty decent. A little known gem in London

Sonal Tarneja

I can't believe this restaurant has been awarded more stars than Addis in N1! I've been here once, and thought the service was very very slow (and staff was pretty disinterested as the other reviewers noted), the food was very mediocre - there were no distinct flavours in the 3 main dishes we ordered. The place is very well done up, but in general it just wasn't as authentic - other Ethiopian places I've been to in Rome, Chicago and London, insist on eating with your fingers and serve all the food on the injera. Here they didn't do that, and we had to pay separately for the injera! It was definitely more expensive than Addis, and nowhere as good! And there was not a single African customer...which tells you a lot about how authentic it is.