Saturday, 10 April 2010

Restaurant Review: Asmara

Me and a friend came across this place after a trip to the perennially brilliant Ritzy cinema in Brixton.  We were looking for some dinner and the Time Out review in the window promised good things, so we thought we'd give it a go.  The inside is far nicer than the standard looking store front would suggest, clean lined, pale wood furniture, paintings and weavings of Eritrean scenes cover the walls, of what is a pleasantly small place.  Never having eaten Eritrean food before we decided to go for the royal banquet so we could try a lot of different dishes.  I remember being impressed.  So when I was looking for somewhere to eat dinner in Brixton the other evening I suggested Asmara.

Asmara is a nice social experience, the small location gives it a nice buzz, but without distracting you from your dinner partners.  Food is normally placed in the middle to share - though it doesn't have to be - and instead of eating with knives and forks everything is laid on a base of sour Eritrean pancakes called injera, which you use to scoop up the food and eat it with.  We picked two lamb dishes, one with roast sliced pieces the other with stewed cubes of meat, both coming in spiced Eritrean butter.  We also had a broad bean dish.  Both lamb dishes were rich and delicious, the stewed diced lamb being slightly better, with a good hit of garlic that made it really punchy.  The broad beans were dried ones, stewed with tomatoes and spices, which was a good earthy accompaniment to the lamb dishes, though excellent in its own right.  The pancakes themselves are thick and well made and tasty and though the portions are not massive eating them with the pancakes makes sure you leave satisfied.

An excellent place that's fantastic value, dinner for two with no drinks came to £22.  The service also deserves  a special mention it was excellent, very friendly and quick.  Particularly nice was when coffee was ordered by someone else in the restaurant and our waiter walked round the restaurant perfuming it with a saucepan of smoking coffee beans.  All in all a very pleasant experience.

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