I recently joined a group of friends at one of Cape Town’s latest eateries, Addis in Cape. Most of the time when I told people I was invited to an Ethiopian restaurant, I was regaled with all the old Ethiopian famine jokes and comments on whether food would actually be served at the place. I must admit I did not know what to expect … but I was very pleasantly surprised.

Addis in Cape is the latest addition to the eating culture in Cape Town’s trendy Long Street. The area comes alive at night and I notice that the number of African themed eateries is growing alongside the other trendy shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

Addis in Cape offers a uniquely African experience in sophisticated surroundings. Located in an historic Cape Dutch building in Long Street, it comes complete with polished Oregon pine floors, long steep Dutch style staircases and beautiful artwork from Ethiopia.

Dining is casual. Guests sit on low wooden Ethiopian chairs around a small round grass table with complete with a unique cone lid. Food is presented in large enamel bowls which slot snugly into the table under the cone.

We shared a selection from the set menu, a lovely sociable way to dine. Most meals are accompanied by spiced Injera bread. This looks like a large round pancake and is the staple food in Ethiopia. It is traditionally made with a grain unique to Ethiopia, but Addis in Cape substitutes rice flour. The bread is light and slightly sour tasting, pepped up with a unique Ethiopian spice blend on top.

The meal begins with a charming hand washing ceremony. The waiters bring around a bowl and earthenware jug of warm water. Each person takes a turn to wash their hands and is presented with a crisp linen serviette to lay on their laps.

We soon realise why : there are no eating utensils, so you scoop up the selection of food with pieces of Injera bread. A selection of wooden bowls arrive, from prawn to lamb, chicken to spicy lentils. The dishes are upended onto a piece of Injera bread on the plate and from here we dig in. The spicy prawns were a hit and I really enjoyed the unique zest of the chicken (not hot, just tasty). Ethiopian cuisine features a wonderful blend of spices that I have not tasted before.

Another round of warm facecloths is presented to us before desert: a somewhat uninspired ice cream and chocolate sauce. This is followed by coffee. Known as Buna in Ethiopia, the coffee comes out in a special earthenware pot. The tray is set with small delicate cups and a bowl burning something sweet yet spicy. Buna is served strong and black, like espresso, and serving it is quite a ceremony – a perfect end to an exotic evening.

Be warned, I have heard that service becomes very slow when the restaurant is busy. It is advisable to get there early and put in your order in before the masses arrive.

Addis in Cape owner, Senait, hails from Ethiopia herself and is passionate about sharing her culture with others. Addis in Cape is actually her second restaurant. Addis in Dar was introduced to the people of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, some 10 years ago. It is now one of the most popular eateries in Dar es Salaam.

Addis in Cape – 41 Church Street, Cape Town. Telephone 21-424 5722
Addis in Dar – Ursino Street, Regent Estate, Dar es Salaam. Telephone 0741-266-299

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