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Restaurants & Bars

[Manchester, city centre] Habesha

Harters | Jul 23, 201105:24 AM     1

It’s not often I get the excitement of a new eating experience. And, I have to confess, I may possibly have known slightly more about astrophysics than I did about Ethiopian food. That’s now redressed after a visit to Habesha which may be the only African restaurant in the metro area.

It’s an unprepossessing place above a kebab shop, just round the corner from Canal Street. It’s a bit dark and dismal inside but my partner, who notices these sorts of thing, said it was absolutely spotless. And there was a friendly welcome, which is always a good start. Place was empty except for one table which was just finishing up as we arrived and no other customers arrived.

There’s a short menu – a dozen dishes, mainly stews of chicken or lamb. There’s no starters and no desserts. There’s also no crockery or cutlery. The deal here is that you share your dishes, ladling portions of your stew onto a large round of flatbread called injeera. You eat with your right hand, picking up the stew with pieces of the bread (of which of “extras” are provided). The bread is odd – not a flatbread in the usual sense. This is thicker, softer and spongier – more like a thick pancake or very thin crumpet. It does the job of filling you up.

With nothing to go on by way of experience here, it was very much potluck about our ordering choices. Lega Tibs was small strips of lamb, the “tibs” indicating it was fried before going into a thinnish sauce, with vegetables. We didn’t think this was a complete success – meat was bit chewy, sauce was a bit bland, although there was a hint of chilli and other spice there. Much better was the Yebeg Wot – a very long cooked stew with onions so tender they were just clinging to the meat. Packed with chilli that left my lips tingling till we got home. And the injeera seemed absolutely perfect accompaniment.

So, here was generous quantities of interesting food (you wouldn’t want additional courses even if they were on offer) served at a bargain price. The bill, including for a couple of beers and a bottle of Perrier, was under twenty quid. Has to be worth a punt if you’re after a spicy change from the city centre’s Indian and Szechuan places.

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