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A Taste of Addis Ababa In The Heart of Cape Town
Eat with your hands: Ethiopian food and a coffee ceremony on Long Street
Colourful. That’s the best way to describe dining at Addis in Cape. From the ceiling of umbrellas to the vibrant ambience, cheerful staff and, of course, the smorgasbord of flavourful cuisine and appetising aromas that come with it.
BEAUTIFUL ETHIOPIAN DECOR, FLAVOURFUL FOOD
Meals at Addis in Cape – where you eat by hand – are best shared. So gather your friends or family and meet at the corner of Church and Long Street.
Sitting around a beautifully woven basket-like table called a Mesob, you’ll forget that you’re in the middle of the City Centre. Traditional Ethiopian music plays in the background and the aromas waft through from the open-plan kitchen.
The decor is simple, but has an African energy – from the wooden beams, chairs, side tables and floorboards to the exposed face brick in places.
The food you are gathered around is an array of vegetable and meat stews and sauces, some of them hot, but always flavourful and vivid in colour. It’s served on a sourdough base called injera, usually made from a staple grain originated from Ethiopia called Teff, that’s also fat and gluten free.
SPICES FROM ADDIS ABABA
Owner and successful restauranteur Senait Mekonnen, 62, was born and raised in Addis Ababa and all the spices used in the restaurant are made in her home city as a family business since 1998.
Addis in Cape has all their main ingredients flown in straight from the family home in Ethiopia.
“Our family is very strict in the way we apply the traditional method: We prepare the spices with care and a peaceful energy, while blessing them,” says Senait. “This is why our food stays consistent.”
HALAAL-FRIENDLY AND VEGAN, TOO
After travelling and living throughout Asia, Europe and the rest of Africa for some years, Senait decided to share the cuisine that she knew best. Interestingly, it was Senait's father who taught her how to cook.
In 1998, she opened Addis in Dar in Tanzania, where her sister is now preparing the spices and ingredients. Encouraged by its continuing success, yet drawn to South Africa by its people and its energy, she opened Addis in Cape Ethiopian Restaurant in 2007.
“Whenever I return to Addis Ababa, I am reminded of how virtually all the ingredients in Ethiopian cuisine are still widely prepared in the home,” says Senait. “Without any effort at all, time spent back in a typical Ethiopian home translates into a time where processed food is automatically removed from your diet. Here at Addis in Cape, we maintain that powerful tradition to the best of our abilities.”
Addis in Cape has an extensive menu that equally caters to vegan, non-vegetarian, gluten free and halaal-friendly diners.
NO KNIVES OR FORKS, USE YOUR HANDS
If you are unfamiliar with Ethiopian dishes, go for mixed platters – where you get to taste a variety of dishes.
While seated around the Mesob, you’ll be served a mix of dishes on the large pancake-like injera. Warning: things can get deliciously messy as you tear off pieces of injera to scoop up the stews and sauces.
BAKLAVA TO STRAWBERRY SORBET
According to Senait, desserts are uncommon in traditional Ethiopian cuisine. “In Ethiopia, we have plentiful fresh and seasonal fruits that satisfy our sweet tooth. Here in Cape Town, though, we offer a selection of popular desserts.” There’s baklava with a scoop of ice cream, otherwise, go for the strawberry or lemon sorbet.
Besides the usual wine, beer and spirits, you should definitely try some Tej, a sweet homemade Ethiopian honey wine.
TAKE PART IN A TRADITIONAL COFFEE RITUAL
After your meal, enjoy a mini coffee ceremony served at your table. The Ethiopian coffee is freshly roasted, grounded and cooked in-house daily and is brought to you in a traditional coffee pot called a jebena. For the complete experience, they also burn some Frankincense at your table and bring you a small serving of popcorn. Snacking is a big part of the ceremony.
“Coffee is central to our culture in Ethiopia: it encourages relatives, neighbours or visitors to get together and socialise,” says Senait. “Therefore, we have a ritual to celebrate this through coffee, and it is highly respected.”
By Daryn Wood
Here’s our list of vegetarian restaurants in Cape Town.
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