Former NHS worker’s healthy alternative with Ethiopian cuisine
Addis Daniel draws on a vast, vegan-friendly repertoire after opening cosy community café
30 January, 2020 — By Tom Moggach
Addis Daniel: ‘Every day we surprise our customers’
IT’S a mystery why Ethiopian food is not more popular – especially in a city like London.
For a start, it’s vegan-friendly so firmly on trend. The meat dishes can be spectacular but chefs like Addis Daniel draw on a vast repertoire of vegetarian and non-dairy recipes, too.
Daniel runs Café Addis in West Hampstead, where you can discover other hallmarks of Ethiopian cuisine – distinctive, addictive spice blends and injera flat breads, used to scoop up the food.
The drinking culture is also right for our times. Caffeine is integral to Ethiopian culture: the coffee ceremony, which involves roasting the green beans, would be the envy of any hipster coffee shop; while their beers deserve a wider audience in this renaissance for craft brewing.
Café Addis is a small and cosy community café tucked at the back of Kingsgate Community Centre, which hosts classes such as basketry, Iyengar yoga and Wushu, a Chinese martial art.
The opening is a dream come true for Addis, a long-time local resident who quit her NHS job to grab this opportunity.
“I always wished I could run this place,” she says, dreamily.
Her menu is a compelling mix of Ethiopian home cooking (served Thursday and Friday) and options such a paninis, baked potatoes, penne au gratin and shepherd’s pie. “Every day we surprise our customers,” Addis explains.
On Fridays, for example, try her fabulous take on jerk chicken – the Caribbean dish given an Ethiopian twist.
I visited towards the end of Addis’s long shift serving coffees, fry-ups, lunches and cakes to loyal customers.
The simple room sparkles with homespun touches: trailing pot plants; a hand-painted cupboard from Ethiopia; a mural of an enchanted tree whose branches bear the word “welcome” in many languages.
First up was her plate of three Ethiopian vegetables dishes, served with the injera. I adored the complex spicing on the lentils – a blend called berbere, which uses peppers similar to the Spanish paprika.
“In Ethiopia we eat a lot of vegan dishes for two reasons,” Addis explains. “The first is religion – we have a lot of fasting days during the 12 months, especially for Christians… The second is economy. Obviously, it’s cheaper – especially for people who cannot afford meat.”
Her lentil and coriander soup is subtle and satisfying, served with a squeeze of lime. The aromatic jerk chicken, served with rice and peas, falls off the bone.
Addis is a creative cook. She’s proud of one of her bestselling inventions – a wrap with roasted aubergine, hummus and cheese.
“I came home from a late-night shift in the NHS and didn’t have anything in the fridge,” she explains. “It’s completely my creation.”
This is a gem of a café, hugely popular among the local community. It’s worth a special trip, but just remember the opening hours (see below). Ethiopian food is served on Thursday and Friday.
Kingsgate Community Centre
107 Kingsgate Road, NW6
Open weekdays 9am-6pm; Saturdays 9am-4pm.