Peace meal – Harar is a true place of celebration
New restaurant with extensive and intriguing menu is the ideal place to toast the recent reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea
24 November, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
Harar – a simple neighbourhood place with an intriguing menu
ETHIOPIA and Eritrea share the same culture and cuisine but were at war for more than two decades. To everyone’s surprise, peace was finally declared a few months ago – and there’s still a mood of jubilation.
Harar, a new restaurant in Camden, is the ideal place to celebrate this reconciliation. It serves traditional dishes from the Horn of Africa, which are tricky to find elsewhere in .
The location is in Malden Road opposite The Fiddler’s Elbow pub, a short walk from Chalk Farm station. This part of north London boasts a sizeable Ethiopian and Eritrean community. Some moved here to escape conflict and military conscription.
If you have never tried this cuisine before then you’re in for a ride. The most well-known item on the menu is injera: a spongey and stretchy sourdough flat bread the size of a bicycle wheel.
Meat and vegetables dishes are typically piled on top of the bread, creating vivid splashes of colour like a painter’s palette. The bread also soaks up their curry-like sauce.
You eat with your fingers, tearing off strips of injera and using this to scoop up the food.
The coffee ceremony is another key ritual. Raw beans are carefully roasted before your eyes, ground, boiled with water then served in tiny cups. The smell is intoxicating, with a waft of incense for good measure.
I’ve visited Harar several times now to explore their extensive and intriguing menu.
Be warned – this is not a swish, fancy restaurant. Harar is a simple neighbourhood place that’s still finding its feet and building up clientele. The décor has the authentic feel of Africa, with plastic tablecloths and green and blue strip lighting in the evening.
I recommend starting with kategna, an injera brushed with spice paste and clarified butter, then rolled and snipped into bite-sized portions.
Shiro, one of the many vegetarian dishes on the menu, is comfort food of the highest order: finely ground dried chickpeas or haricot beans fried up with onions, ginger, tomato puree and special spices.
Key wot, a tender beef stew, showcases the exotic spice blends that characterise this cuisine – quite unlike anything you know from your favourite high street takeaway.
To crank up the flavours still further, I sprinkled pinches of mitmita, a moreish mix of salt, chilli and spices.
To be honest, I’ve lost track of the names of each individual dish. We came with friends and shared one of their special platters. This is the best way to eat out at Harar.
The friendly owners are originally from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Their first branch trades in Vauxhall, another epicentre for the Habesha community south of the river.
Prices are very reasonable – expect to pay around £15 for a slap-up meal before drinks. They also serve gluten-free injera and vegan dishes.
These are momentous times for Ethiopia and Eritrea. Politics is often fractious but food brings people together.
20 Malden Road, NW5
020 7735 8915