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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.

Café Addis
Kingsgate Community Centre
107 Kingsgate Road, NW6
07985 395565
Open weekdays 9am-6pm; Saturdays 9am-4pm.

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