I’m a big fan of the Ethiopian food I used to get in Orlando, so when I moved to London last year and began taking the 91 from Holloway to Bloomsbury, I thrilled at the sight of at least three different Ethiopian restaurants on Caledonian Road as the bus lumbered along. Unlike in Orlando, where the sole Ethiopian restaurant, Nile 7, is a serious drive away from where I lived, these restaurants were within a short bus distance (if not a fair walking distance) from my flat on Holloway Road.
I was excited.
So came the day I took the bus to Caledonian Road, intent on some Ethiopian food. After walking past two, I opted to go to the one with the little picket fencing out front, with the words ‘Cafe Merkato’ above its front. The experience was lovely, and I became a fair regular while I lived in Holloway, often popping in after class to have a delicious serving of misir wat on a bed of injara.
I’ve taken a handful of friends to Merkato on Caledonian Road, and everyone who has been has seemed to enjoy their food. When I moved to Hackney, I stopped going to Merkato as it was no longer on my way home from anywhere. However, recently I had the chance to catch up with a couple of friends from the Anthropology of Food course I took at SOAS, and we met up there.
Not only was the food still amazing, but the service was quite sweet and considerate. My friends and I were at the restaurant for a good few hours, and we were never bothered or rushed out at all. It was a Thursday, and although there were other people who went to the restaurant, it wasn’t busy. In previous visits, I’ve seen a couple of birthday dinners, and even then, I never felt the service was slow nor rushed. It provided a great evening for me and my friends to catch up.
Sofia and Lauren, my dining companions, opted to get the vegetarian samplers, whereas I stuck with my usual order of misir wat along with a side of something I can’t really remember. The misir wat is a spicy lentil dish which is very flavourful. I recommend if you don’t mind a bit of a kick.
In addition to the misir wat, which you can see at the centre and in two little clumps on the side, there were also beans, some spinach, cracked wheat and other things that made up a delicious, sharable plate for the three of us. There aren’t any utensils to eat with at an Ethiopian restaurant. Rather, you gather the food in the injara–also spelled injera–which is the bread you see rolled up in the photo, as well as the ‘plate’ the other food is on top of.
It was an ace meal, and I hope to visit Merkato once more before I leave London for a spell. The cost is fairly reasonable as well, with a main being around £8-12 (with exception of the meat-based sampler, which was more expensive from what I recall) with healthy portions. Although I generally finish my meal, back when I lived in Holloway I would eat only half of my order, and then take the other half home to be another meal the next day. When you’re a student, that’s how to rock it.
Oh, and your fingers will smell like whatever dish you’ve consumed afterward. So you know.