est Kentish Town may not be a gourmet’s delight (although new arrival Pho Ta is awesome), but this spot on Malden Road housed the decent Persian restaurant Reyhana for several years. Over the summer it reopened as the second branch of Harar, a popular Vauxhall-based Ethiopian specialising in, as its name suggests, the cuisine of east Africa.
Within its simple and authentic but slightly garish interior – the blue neon lighting proved a little harsh – there are lentil stews, curries and vegetarian and meat specialities. We had been meaning to try it for months, and finally popped in before a visit over the road to catch a band at the Fiddler’s Elbow.
It’s BYO and they were as happy as any others in Kentish Town for us to nip out and grab a bottle of red (note: there’s a £5 corkage charge).
The menu is laid out into meat, fish and vegetable options, but we were after something unique to get a real feel for the place. A chef’s sharing platter costs £30, and is presented on a huge silver plate of spongy injera bread – made from teff, the gluten-free super grain, says the menu proudly, “packed with nutrition and vitamins” – with the various tasting dishes arranged in circular pools within it.
Highlights included doro special tibs (chicken fried with fiery green chilli, spices and herbs); awaze tibs (lamb cubes marinated in hot pepper sauce and fried in ghee with onions); key wot, the spicy hot minced beef stew cooked slowly for richness; misir (deeply savoury lentils), cottage cheese with hot paprika and a dark chicken stew in the centre with a halved egg. Filling stuff indeed.
If you find the extreme heat of some of the dishes off-putting, persist as it’s not a lingering fire in the mouth. All in all, Harar is a solid addition to a thoroughfare that’s desperately in need of more dining options. Now, about that pesky neon lighting.