I took my mother to the Queen of Sheba in Kentish Town on the recommendation of a workmate. It serves Ethiopian cuisine, which my flatmate once unkindly remarked must not consist of very much. Turns out he was wrong, they have loads of cuisine. Cuisine coming out of their ears. (NB: it should be noted that every single fucking Ethiopian restaurant on this earth is called the Queen of Sheba, so if you’re going on my recommendation make sure you get the right one.)
The Queen of Sheba is a short walk from Kentish Town Station, and has a casual, intimate vibe. We were greeted by a dude who was managing to pull off a baseball cap indoors. Don’t ask me how. We started with the Sambossa, a deep-fried savory pastry filled with spiced meat (or vegetables, if you’re that way inclined). It was nice, but not the most flavoursome thing that’s even tickled my tastebuds. And at £6/two I’ve certainly had tastier and better value starters.
Before we moved on to the main course, the waiter came round with some alcohol sanitising gel. Which was weird, but nice. I thought perhaps the owners were just really hot on food hygiene, but actually this turned out to be because you don’t get knives or forks. Or spoons. Or chopsticks. You do get bread, which is made from rice powder and has the texture of a very thin crumpet, and serves as cutlery, crockery and carbs.
It comes rolled up and you tear it off and use it to pick up the food, sort of like edible toilet roll (!?) It’s not as messy as you’d think, even considering we both ordered sauce-heavy dishes. I certainly embarrassed myself less than when I tried to eat a Subway Meatball Mariana sandwich on the tube last week, but I still don’t think it’d be the best idea for a first date. Or a second date, even. Basically, don’t take someone along unless you’re 100% sure they’ll still want to have sex with you even after they’ve seen you covered in stew.
The menu is similar to that of a curry house in that many of the dishes have similar ingredients, so it’s split up by meat. My mother picked the prawns and ingudai (king prawns marinated in ginger, garlic, basil and simmered in a cream of mushroom sauce), and I had the ti’bs we’t (beef with ginger and garlic in a red pepper sauce). Both were delicious and meaty, and the Ethiopian bread soaked up the flavours perfectly. Spice-phobes, fear not, neither was very hot, but for those who like to feel like their insides are burning there’s a whole page of the menu dedicated to spicier dishes.
It’s no secret I’m a slag for a spud, so I ordered the spicy potato wedges, which were delicious but not really necessary when there was so much crumpet bread. My mother chose the gomen ayibey, mixed greens mixed with homemade cottage cheese and Ethiopian butter. I’m dead against cottage cheese because it looks like a yeast infection, but apparently it’s a national dish so I had to try it. It was…alright, I suppose. I probably wouldn’t order it again, but then my mother loves cottage cheese and she was sucking it right down.
Ethiopian is a decent place to take animal-loving friends with plenty of vegetarian options, but don’t bother taking anyone on a carb-free diet. With bread as the only means of actually eating the food on offer, they’re gonna have a bad time.
We visited on the Queen of Sheba early on a Saturday night with no reservation, but for later in the evening or larger parties I’d recommend calling ahead. Our meal came to about £35/head for a shared starter, main course, sides and wine.
You can find it at 12 Fortess Rd, NW5 2EU and the whole menu online here.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.