Did you know you can get all the way from Birmingham New Street to Ethiopia for £1?
Well, you can’t. And at my time of visiting I was still in a dissertation desert so time and cash were two things I was definitely not in abundance of, so a trip for the taste buds was the next best thing.
A short tram ride from Grand Central and you’ll arrive in the Jewellery Quarter. Proceed on a 10 minute walk to Great Hampton Street and the culinary oasis that is Blue Nile Restaurant awaits.
The venue is named after the river that flows through Ethiopia and boasts an entirely authentic experience, with all their staff having strong Ethiopian roots. The place was quiet when we arrived but soon filled up with a mixture of single diners, families and groups of friends, many of whom appeared to be regulars and were greeted warmly by the staff.
The simple, spacious restaurant had plenty of tables and the place has a relaxed atmosphere. The menu is ENORMOUS and the choice can be overwhelming, however it is helpfully captioned ensuring you know just want you’re getting and don’t make any food faux pas (I don’t think my friend nor I have ever fully recovered from the raw polish sausage incident).
The bar sells a great selection of real Ethiopian beers adding to the African ambience. I chose a St George Amber Beer which has a delicious sweet taste and goes down far too smoothly.
After researching Ethiopian cuisine I was a little dubious in terms of spice levels (I love spicy food, my mouth seems to feel otherwise) but the menu provides plenty of options for those who can’t quite handle the heat.
We chose lamb samosas with salad for starters which cost a bargainous £3.50 per portion. They were obviously handmade and filled with delicious, melt-in-the mouth minced lamb with a bit of a kick.
By this point our St George beers were a distant memory so we decided to try another Ethiopian lager; Castel, which has a slightly more bitter taste but I still can’t resist matching my cuisine to my beverages.
For our main meals I decided upon Minchet Abish Alicha which is a minced lamb dish stewed in a mild (although you can opt for the hotter version) sauce containing a flavoursome mixture of onion, garlic, ginger and Ethiopian butter centring around a boiled egg . My boyfriend can cope with some spice in his life and chose Special Kifto, a mitamita (Ethiopian chilli) infused dish similar to my own but with added extras of collared greens and cottage cheese.
And so the eating of the main course- and inspiration for my blog begins! Injera. Ever heard of it? Well, It’s a sough-dough risen flat bread which is a little like an exotic oatcake, for my Staffordshire based readers and is an essential part of every Ethiopian meal. We received a colossal injera served on a metal plate accompanied by a large bowl of about a dozen more rolled injera, which I later discovered was to be my cutlery.
The friendly waiter obviously saw the befuddled expressions on our faces and explained that we were to put all our food upon the central injera then proceed to use the rolled injera to scoop it up. He also provided us with some cutlery but I’m a believer that when in Rome (or a tasty Birmingham Ethiopian restaurant) do as the Romans so we scooped away.
Having visited Tanzania in the past I did have some experience of African Cuisine. However after my taste odyssey the differences were obvious, making my enthusiasm for this diverse continent grow stronger than ever and I am in firm hopes that my next blog on Ethiopian food will involve me being in the country itself!
So try something new this weekend, say no to staying in with an M & S meal for two and treat yourself to some exotic eats in this Jewellery Quarter gem.
0121 551 9225
28 Great Hampton Street, Hockley, Birmingham, B18 6AA