24th December 2015
227 Racecourse Road
Kensington, VIC 3031
“Injera, zighini, bozena, gored-gored… can we get all this in Melbourne?“
“If you know where to look.”
With that said though, The Abyssinian is something of a poorly kept secret in Melbourne, being the most popular place for Ethiopian food and all. This small, dark restaurant is painted a violent shade of sunset orange, the walls festooned with traditional African handicrafts and knick-knacks. It may seem quiet if you’re here for an early meal, but don’t be fooled – most of the tables are booked out every single night, and the atmosphere becomes lively before long.
Although there is a full two-page à la carte menu, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who ventures beyond the chef’s platters. We went for the Meat, Vegetarian, Poultry and Fish Platter ($48/2pp), but the vegetarians are catered for with the vegetarian-only platter for a few dollars less. Now this is the ultimate embodiment of a feast. Tipped out onto a platter the size of a small table was a selection of saucy treats, soaking into the swaths of injera bread. Cutlery isn’t even offered – dig in with your fingers!
Everything on this platter was bold and flavoursome (the only exception being the bland green lentils), but there were definitely a few standouts. A creamy mash of slow-cooked split peas; fatty chunks of goat in a dry braise; pearly fillets of fish in coated in a thick, peppery gravy; chunks of sugary pumpkin in a spicy, smoky-sweet berbere sauce. The tangy, fermented flavour of the injera was a delicious counterpoint to the complex, slow-cooked spices. If you ask me though, the best way to eat the injera is to wait for it to be so saturated with sauce that you can barely pick it up.
I was introduced to the world of African cuisine by the delicious Little Africa, and although I loath to say this, the food at The Abyssinian is even better, and a smidge cheaper too! The combination of stews, braises, and carbs was super satisfying and, needless to say, extremely good value. And although I’m speaking from the perspective of a person who loves eating with their hands, I just find this to be such an engaging and mindful way to eat. Even if this doesn’t seem to be your thing, you have to try it at least once.
Rating: 14/20 – oh i forgot to mention; the salad was crisp and fresh.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.