There’s something of the community centre about this basement restaurant – it’s a little shabby, with workaday furniture, sauces served in polystyrene cups and an easy-clean tiled floor – but service is sweet and the food gratifyingly hand-made and tasty. And it certainly seems to be a meeting and eating place for the Somali community. Much of the menu reflects Somalia’s inclusion in Italian East Africa until 1960, so pasta dishes sit alongside soft Somali bread, stews and spices.
In fact, there’s not much to scare the timid newcomer to African food. Dish names may seem difficult, but translate thus: spiced fried chicken with salad leaves and chilli dressing; goat’s cheese salad and sweet chilli; chicken and falafel. They’re as delicious as they sound. Prawns on a bed of salad were spicy and juicy, the chicken was tender and the Somali pancake (anjeero – similar to Ethiopian injera) wrapped around an orange-sauced vegetable medley was comfortingly doughy.
We couldn’t resist the maize meal mash (similar to white polenta but much more flavourful) served with a sort of vegetable broth. Date cake with ice-cream and a caramel-flavoured sauce made a satisfyingly sweet conclusion. The Village is alcohol-free, but there are good fruit smoothies and the Somali spiced coffee and tea are wonderful.