Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Zigni House - A Little Bit of East Africa in North London

A dull Friday afternoon at work with me watching the clock, and twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do. This is a common theme with me at work at the moment.
My ramblings on skype were not going down to well with my friends who had things to do at work before the weekend.
Then a crazy message came from Lina.
“Diana wants to meet up with us tonight”
“OK, where?” I replied
“No idea, but she likes eating different foods”
“Well what about Baozi Inn in China Town?” was my reply
“Nah, she mentioned African food, what about that place on Essex Road?”
“Ahh yeah, Eritrean I think it is. OK, I’m sold”
So that was how we came to eat at Zigni House. I love the spontaneity we have sometimes. Keeps you alive.
Zigni House is kinda baffling. On the one hand it is a good restaurant serving from what I can make out pretty authentic and tasty Eritrean cuisine by very friendly staff. On the other hand it was a Friday night and there was only one other table occupied. Odd. A few people came in for takeaways, but it was pretty dead. I know the stretch of road that it is on, is a bit of a nightmare, but surely word must have spread about this place. Obviously there are too many people not willing to leave the comfort of Upper Street and venture further a field. Shameful.

Our lovely host who offered us tips on what to order was very patient with us, as one or two of us were pretty slow in ordering. She was also very proud to tell us about each and every dish, which was good, as we knew nothing about Eritrean cuisine.
It does seem that everything and I mean everything comes with Injera, a sour bread, more like a pancake than a bread, but its sourness goes so well with the curry’s. I was a very happy man.
You learn a lot about people when you are put in a situation where you have to share your food. Me, I love to share, as I love trying different things. Other people do not like to, so I never got to try all the food on our grand platter. A shame.
Our food came on a massive tray with the injera on the bottom and the food was ceremoniously put on top in our own little corners.

Between us we ordered a Begi Curry with Zigni sauce. (An on the bone lamb curry in a semi hot sauce). It was really unxious and using the bread to eat it was a pure delight, especially as I was now a kind of an expert at eating with my hands. So those 10 weeks were good in a way.
Goden Tibs (spare ribs fried in garlic, rosemary and spices). This I never got to try, but I was told it was very good.
Derho Cotelete with an Alicha sauce (fried chicken breast in a mild sauce made with onions, garlic, turmeric and curry powder). The sauce was very subtle and was a nice combo with the juicy chicken.

One of us had a small combo with about 4 different items form the veggie and curry menu. I only got to try the dhal, which was really rich and filling.
The best thing about all of this, that being served on the injera as you worked form the outside in, the bread was soaking up all the sauces and it was purely unxious and dreamy. Every morsel of the last bits of bread was soaked with the sauces that it was very difficult to stop eating it. I mean very difficult.

All this was finished off with some traditional coffee. The beans are roasted in a clay oven and brought round for us to smell. Oh my god I was in heaven. It is served in a traditional coffee pot made of clay with a little bit of hay stuffed in the spout to keep it hot. The coffee was pretty strong, and had such a lovely nutty flavour that I had to have some more. Actually polished off 3 cups. Maybe that was the reason I could not sleep that night.

We chatted with the owner for a bit afterwards and from what I can gather they are just surviving. Which is crazy for such a great restaurant. A big pity. But it is all down to location. Shame really, but I will be returning for more of that bread.
I hope you will give it a try also. 

Zigni House on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

backaEnvy you, as I'm really missing this goooooood stuff. There's only one restaurant of this kind, Ethiopian, in the whole Mother Russia, and by the way, despite being better located on the very central Sadovoe ring road in Moscow - they also barely survive.

Mark Benson said...

At this appealing eat out in London you totally feel like you have taken flights to Accra, Ethiopia, Kenya Rwanda or any other dazzling East African nation. Actually the scrumptious food takes you on a tour of African food. Awesome place.