Cycle from Drayton Park, down Holloway Road to Highbury Corner and you will be treated to a slice of the broad culinary life London has to offer. From Mexican takeaway Amigos to purpose-built boozer The Lamb, in this short stretch of Islington, someone like me, a navel-gazing, metropolitan, two-wheel-enthusiast (or whatever recent appellation Nigel Farage and his gang of merry Brexiteers have come up with to describe us, Remain-supporting city-dwellers), is never far away from top quality nosh.

Choosing an eatery where to rest my forty-something-year-old bones while avoiding the Christmas razzmatazz recently proved to be a bit of a hard find. I finally settled for Mesi’s Kitchen, a restaurant that billed itself as the hub of authentic Ethiopian cuisine.

Mesi’s did not disappoint at all. I had the azifa as a starter. Served cold, this was a beautifully presented vegan-friendly dish consisting of whole lentils cooked, mashed and blended with onions, jalapeño and vegetable oil. A hint of garlic and lemon juice provided a much-welcomed touch of zing. The lentils were tender and had a nice kick to them.

This was followed by the main course, awaze tibs. Lamb cubes marinated and sautéed with onion, tomato and seasoned butter. All served with salad on a bed of Injera, a large wheat-and-rice-made pancake that lined the whole plate on which the lamb was served. The meat was cooked to perfection, including the edges (I’m certainly not a fussy eater, but one of my gripes with Turkish cuisine, for instance, is that their grills char the sides of the meat all too often). The awazw tibs was hot but not too hot. It was the sort of spiciness that normally leaves a lingering, pleasant aftertaste long after the last piece of meat has been digested.

Outside, London had turned a winter-crackling, soft-grey colour. I am not a fan of winter at all (give me autumn and spring any time), especially the snow-free variety that the British capital offers, but I do like the renewal-like feel this season brings. This is the time of the year when the falling leaves from autumn become fallen leaves on pavements, rooftops and awnings. On the latter two, very often leaves take the shape of birds. A beak-looking one here, an is-it-or-is-it-not flutter of wings there. Dark-brown leaves whose gentle motion is caused by a cold-snap breeze that forces pedestrians to zip up and rush on.

Inside, even the music didn’t disappoint. Instead of the usual, season-specific Mariah Carey letting everyone know several times a day, week in, week out, what she wanted for Christmas, Mesi’s Kitchen offered a varied selection of Ethiopian music, with some of which I was familiar through my love of Gigi. Old-time Ethiopique recordings mixed with modern pop in a smooth blend that sounded nothing like the muzak you usually get in more upmarket (and pricier) places.

Two expressos later (very good, by the way. Strong as I like them.) it was time to saddle up and go. The bill came at £18.90. Not bad for a part of London where you would normally cough up two thirds of that just for the starter. As I got back on my bike and cycled down Drayton Park, the day’s earlier crispiness had become an early-evening ice-cold snap. As I pedalled away I found myself humming a melody by Tèshomè Meteku.

© 2018

All photos were taken by the blog author

London-based, Cuban writer. Author of “Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner”, to be published by Austin Macauley. Has written for The Guardian and Prospect.

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