Ethiopian food isn’t just a delicacy, it’s an experience – from the vibrant venues to the awkwardness of scooping up stews with your hands and resisting the urge to grab a fork without being disrespectful (or maybe that’s just me). But for a newish kid on a generous block of international restaurants and cafés, Mesi’s Kitchen seems too modest for its own good.
It was empty on a Saturday lunchtime, and there was nothing enticing about the dining room, where Ethiopian music played vaguely in the background. At least there’s a mesob, the beautiful woven table on which to tuck into a meal the traditional way. But it’s right by the entrance, and on a wintry afternoon this was the last place you’d want to sit.
The menus are more logical – but not much. There’s an average selection of soft drinks and spirits, so starting off with a glass of the dry Acacia Ethiopian red wine (£4.50) isn’t a bad idea.
There are loads of starters and mains, with a nice representation of vegetarian options. If you’re a newbie to the cuisine, the safe bet is one of the pretty combination samplers. With this, you get a bit of everything piled on top of the sourdough injera ‘bread’ (more like a savoury sponge pancake), which acts as a plate.
The £26 ‘Mesi combo’ left us happy and satisfied, as a good home-cooked meal would. The best parts were the garlicky ye beg wot, a tasty slop of lamb stew; gorem, crunchy, buttery spinach; and tibs, wonderful sautéed beef bites. While our starters were technically side dishes, we had no qualms about the ye-abesha salad, a fresh and tangy salsa; and the ingudai tibs (mushroom sauté).
Our main complaint was that the meal got cold quickly, not helped by the low temperature in the room. But Hollowayites, note: this is still a nice little addition to the neighbourhood.