Friday, January 3, 2014

Little Africa

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So I've recently been hanging out with people who make me realise how much I actually like food. The sort who listen to me talk about some new restaurant I went to, or a particular food I had that I liked recently, then turn to the person next to them and comment: "You can tell she's a food blogger can't you?"

Like, most people don't actually talk about food this fervently?! Oh my gosh!

Despite enjoying food as much as I do, there are still many cuisines that I'd like to get to know a lot more, or just experience at all!

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So I was quite excited recently when Brad, Theo and I decided (or well, I decided) that we would pop into Little Africa for dinner before heading to the Public Bar for another comedy night. This was to be our first experience with African food. 

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I hadn't realised how close to the city Little Africa was, nestled in a small shop on Victoria Road opposite the Queen Victoria Market. I had always thought it was much further out, so it never really popped up as a priority on the never-ending 'list' to visit!

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Little Africa specialises in Ethiopian cuisine, with a menu filled with a healthy mix of vegetarian and meat-based stews and curries. It was a little overwhelming, as everything sounded quite sumptuous, with plenty of garlic, cardamom, turmeric, and plenty of other spieces present in the descriptions, promising all sorts of deliciousness. 

To keep things simple though, we opted for a 'Vegetarian Combination', essentially a great big share plate. For one person it's $20, two it's $35 and every additional person after that is an extra $18. There's also a combination plate available, which we can only assume is a mix of both meat and vegetarian dishes, but that will have to be consumed another day!

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And so behold, the 'Vegetarian Combination' for three people. There's a serious feast there! 

The selection of dishes are served directly on top of a few pieces of Injera bread, a yeast-risen flatbread, with a soft, spongy texture. Although it is a sea of brown, with a sprinkle of greens in the middle, the plate smells absolutely amazing and we quickly tear into the bread and eagerly dunk it into everything. 

That's right folks, who needs forks and knives? Finger-licking good is where it's at! Especially when the soft, porous bread just soaks everything up and infuses itself with flavour. Yum!

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Throughout our meal, the boys and I kept commenting on how easy it would be to go vegetarian if you had food like this. Each dish was a bang of flavour in the mouth, but warm and comforting as well. Despite all the dishes being quite stewy and sauce or gravy heavy, we didn't leave feeling bloated or weighed down.

We particularly liked the 'Fool', fava beans cooked until tender, mashed, then mixed with ghee butter and seasoning, topped with green chilli, onions and tomato, and the 'Tumtummo', split lentils stewed in thick but mild sauce with seasoning. 

Some of the dishes had an element of heat to them, in terms of spiciness, but nothing near what you might come across in South East Asia, but if you can't take any chilli at have been warned!

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On top of the delicious flavours though, the experience of, not just sharing food, but eating from the same plate was just gorgeous. Especially when you're in good company. There was a jovial and playful spirit, and plenty of laughter as we watched each other intrepidly make our initial scoops of food with our hands. And then there was the stealing of bread from Theo's side of the plate (because it looked better, or something), which made him look like the rather healthy eater by the end of it!

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The drink menu is short, but not to be missed as well, with a variety of Ethiopian beers on it, Brad's Castel was quite light and refreshing, and the Chai with Kammam just warms your heart in an instance. Just quietly, I now find myself drinking much more black chai tea because of it I think! 

At the end of the meal, with full bellies and our wallets each only $23 lighter, we really couldn't have been more satisfied. I think it's been a while since I enjoyed a meal like this, and I would definitely return in a heartbeat. And as a little tip, Wednesday nights are a pretty good time to visit at the moment, since everyone else is getting crowded and overheated in the Suzuki Night Markets!

What cuisines have you wanted to try? And any other recommendations for awesome African restaurants?!

358 Victoria Street
North Melbourne

Little Africa on Urbanspoon

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  1. Yum! African food and eating with hands so close to the city? Count me in!

    1. Great deal right? Let me know what you think if you visit! :)

    2. So I just made a visit yesterday. I have to agree with everything in this post - the food was delicious, but the experience was even better - definitely a keeper!