Monday, 6 December 2010

Adulis, Kennington


On a freezing cold evening in early December we slipped and slid and skated our way through unlovely Kennington streets in search of a meal. I used to live round here, and for better or worse it hasn't changed much in five years - the Fentiman Arms is still a comfortable if somewhat corporate "gastro" pub, and over a pint of Staropramen before the meal I tried to think if there was anything I missed about the place. Being two minutes from Oval tube station was handy, obviously. And there used to be an interesting little French deli around the corner. But other than that, not really. It's a strange no man's land between the urban charge of Brixton and the more salubrious attractions of Clapham and just feels even now like a giant, ugly corridor designed to efficiently herd traffic through to somewhere more interesting. Here we were anyway though, and here too was Adulis, an Eritrean restaurant that has been serving injera and foul to the attention-starved residents of Brixton Road since 1996.


It was Zigni house, back in August, that first really turned my taste buds on to Eritrean food. Not a perfect restaurant by any means - service was reclusive and we had to shift tables a couple of times until we found one that wasn't excruciatingly painful to eat off - but it was nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable; fresh, spicy, exciting and - most importantly - cheap. So my hopes for Adulis were similarly high, even once I'd noticed that the price points on this menu seemed a notch or two above the other place. We took a scattergun approach to ordering in order to build as varied a meal as possible, and hoped it would all be worth the effort.




Things started well. Foul (pronounced "fool") was a warm oily broad bean and onion mixture, served with piping hot pita bread and was remarkably deeply flavoured for a vegetarian dish - I particularly liked the topping of (presumably home made) cottage cheese, which was slightly annoying because we had been told the cottage cheese as a standalone dish wasn't available. Three crunchy stuffed chillies were notable mainly for the sheer eye-watering level of chilli heat, although I did still like the refreshing tomato/onion salad inside. Best of all though were sambusa, sort of an African samosa using delicate filo pastry, which contained a lovely balanced meat (beef?) and onion mixture.


I'm prepared to admit it was mainly our fault the mains didn't live up to the starters, as the stew we'd ordered for the main injera platter - the Adulis Special lamb - was really too dry to create the lovely gooey injera-based slop we'd enjoyed at Zigni House. Having said that though, I would have appreciated a member of staff being more pro-active in offering advice to two clueless Eritrean cuisine beginners. The spicing in the lamb was great, and I loved the way they brought it out on a little sizzling pot over flames, but there wasn't enough richness or moisture to fight through the sour bread, and I'm afraid the end result was rather disappointing. Not inedible, just disappointing.


At a full £10 more each than Zigni House (just under £30 a head with a bottle of wine), Adulis had that much more to live up to, and I can't really say it did. In fact, if anything the food here was slightly less exciting than our meal in Islington, even taking into account the superb sambusa and the (for me anyway) still entertaining novelty of eating without cutlery. But, if you find yourself in Kennington, or God forbid if you live here, there must be far worse places to spend your money and at the very least our meal was tasty, fresh and served with enthusiasm. As for whether I'd go back, well, the next time I'm hungry in Kennington I'll certainly consider it. Although, the next time I do find myself in Kennington, there's a very good chance I'll just be halfway to somewhere else.

6/10

Adulis on Urbanspoon

13 comments:

Oliver said...

Hiya

I'd recommend Queen of Sheba for Ethiopian food if you haven't tried there. Fairly cheap as i recall and really tasty.

http://www.thequeenofsheba.co.uk/

funkabubble said...

Strangely I was coming to recommend the Ethiopian just a little along Fortess Rd in Tuffnell Park near the one that Oliver recommended - Lalibela. Absolutely amazingly nice food, friendly service and the coffee is just delicious.

http://www.ethiopianrestaurant.com/england/lalibela.html

Hugh Wright said...

Should've gone to Migue's like I told ya: http://bit.ly/TPFP_Bites

H R Wright
Resident of Brixton Road

Melanie Seasons said...

You should try Mosob in Maida Hill (just near Westbourne Grove tube station). Had an excellent experience there, and the owner is lovely.

Lizzie said...

I'm yet to be convinced on Eritrean food - that sour pancake gets to me after a while.

Jodie said...

Agree with Melanie, you have to try Mosob on Harrow Rd for great Eritrean - especially good to go with a few people and all share a selection of dishes picked out by the owners. Lovely people who are so passionate and proud of their country and culture.

Ute@HungryinLondon said...

I have eaten there once (when I got lost in Kennington) and found it definitely interesting and strangely addictive (but not delicious as such). I am also not familiar at all with Eritrean food, would be fun to go with someone who can actually advice on what to order... I enjoy eating with my hands though.

miss south said...

I much prefer Asmara in Brixton. Better spicing and I like the vibe better too. Adulis thinks it's a cut above and like you I feel it's disappointing.

(Another resident of Brixton Road)

Anonymous said...

I'm actually totally mindblown - as to just how unbelievably bad an experience we've just had. at Adulis. We waited an hour & a quarter just for the starter, then when the main finally came, it looked really amazing (we had ordered a vegetarian combo platter for 2). It was a big dish of injera, with at least 8 or 9 different dishes on it, possibly as many as 10. The first one i tried was tasty enough, but it seemed strange that it was only just luke warm. I tried the other dishes 1 by 1 - luke warm was the best it got - & that was only for 1 other dish. All the others were abolsutely stone cold. And I mean like straight out of the fridge stone cold. They were all tasty enough, but it just didn't seem right. We have eaten at ethiopian restaurants several times, & it seemed to be much the same type of food, but the dishes were always hot previously. We called the guy over & asked if they were supposed to be cold, & he said no, apart from 1 of them, they should all be hot. He took the plate away, & came back another 15 minutes later, with the very same plate, with the very same injera & the very same half eaten scoops of food on it. The injera, that had previously been just about at room temperature, was now completely cold. The actual dishes themselves were still only luke warm. It seemed that they had been microwaved halfheartedly 1 by 1, & that by the time they had finished, most of them were cold again. I think that as a minimum, they could have put it on fresh, warm injera, & properly heated the food through, & preferably given us fresh scoops of all the various dishes. Basically, I walked out in disgust. And instead of being apologetic, the guy started getting shirty with me. Maybe this is not how they usually are, but even if so, the one thing I can now state as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt, & QED, is that all the food they serve at Adulis comes straight out of the fridge - nothing is cooked to order. I really feel compelled to say something now, as this is quite possibly the worst meal out I have ever had. And it's Valentine's night as well!

VPI said...

I live around the corner from this restaurant. I've never been becausr the clientele always looked dodgy. I think they have parties at the weekend. I have had run ins with drunken patrons who think it is absolutely acceptable to urinate on the buildings nearby (including my front door) and roll joints while laughing loudly outside people's bedrooms at 3:30am.
It's generally a quiet borough and this is its main blight.

Kush said...

As a few mentioned here Mosob in W9 is a cut above the rest. It's a great all round experience with great food.

I've taken half the people I know and every single one has liked it.

Anonymous said...

To the mindblown anonymous

I think you must have misunderstood the waiter - it is standard for all the food in a mixed vegetarian platter to be served cold, except for the shiro. The injera is definitely always supposed to be cold (except for kategna, which is fried). maybe in the other places you tried, they have been catering for English tastes by heating everything? I agree fridge cold is not ideal though

and also, of course they dont cook everything from fresh when you order! what restaurant does? imagine how long you'd have to wait for them to prepare 10 dishes from scratch...

for me, the best Ethiopian/ Eritrean is Marathon or Addis in Kings Cross, Kokeb off Caledonian Road and (RIP) Ibex on Brixton Hill, and the worst a tie between Asmara on Coldharbour Lane and Zigni House

Anonymous said...

To the mindblown anonymous

I think you must have misunderstood the waiter - it is standard for all the food in a mixed vegetarian platter to be served cold, except for the shiro. The injera is definitely always supposed to be cold (except for kategna, which is fried). maybe in the other places you tried, they have been catering for English tastes by heating everything? I agree fridge cold is not ideal though

and also, of course they dont cook everything from fresh when you order! what restaurant does? imagine how long you'd have to wait for them to prepare 10 dishes from scratch...

for me, the best Ethiopian/ Eritrean is Marathon or Addis in Kings Cross, Kokeb off Caledonian Road and (RIP) Ibex on Brixton Hill, and the worst a tie between Asmara on Coldharbour Lane and Zigni House