Want something to try some food that’s a little different ? Want it to come from Africa ?(but not involve quantities of meat larger than your head ). Want it to be run by food and coffee loving people eager to please ? Well it looks like African Mesob may be just the place you’ve been looking for.
African Mesob is run by Simon & Julie Teshome. Simon is Ethiopian, and after meeting Julie in Ethiopia and moving back to Perth to live, they decided that there was a definite need for a restaurant that could express the love they both had for traditional Ethiopian food (and coffee!). Not finding anything that suited their needs… they took the bull by the horns and opened their own.
African Mesob is a unique restaurant. From the time you walk to the sound of African drumming you know that this is going to be a little out of the ordinary to the standard Perth restaurant.
A mesob is a tabletop on which Ethiopian food is traditionally served. It’s a style of eating whereby you are served a big basket of food and you use your hands to tear up a special bread called Injera (a slightly sour kind of bubbly dough bread made from sorghum flour) and wrap the different food in it. At the risk of being pithy, it’s almost like African tapas… you get given a variety of dishes in small servings on top of the Injera and you use the bread and your fingers to scoop it all up. It’s a great way to eat, the waiter washes the hands of everyone before the meal and couples are encouraged to feed each other.
Sharon and I went along on a Friday evening a few weeks back, on a complete whim, just hoping to find something different to the usual pizza/pasta/stir fry quick and easy meals that are so easy to resort to on a Friday night when noone can be bothered cooking. We were pleasantly surprised by what we found.
We both thought the idea of the hand washing and feeding each other was a great idea… that was until I started stuffing pieces of food into Sharon mouth faster than she could eat it, at which point the novelty wore off and she decided she could quite easily feed herself. I personally love eating with my hands… something many cultures do without a care in the world, and a great counterpoint to the alarming rise of germophobes out there who won’t touch anything that hasn’t been sterilised first. I think it’s a great way to get in touch with what you’re eating, and adds an extra sensation of tactile sensation when you’re picking up all the different pieces and combining them together. Plus it’s almost expected that you’ll make a mess… which is right up my alley :)
We ordered a beef mesob… which came in the basket with the Injera and an assortment of meaty stew dishes (wat) that I’m told come from a range of African countries. African Mesob aims to be a kind of focal point for African culture and cuisine in Perth. They have staff from many different parts of Africa, all adding their own flavour to the unique dishes of their homelands, and trying to raise the reputation of places that are so often lumped together with little regard to the cultural diversity of complexity of each one.
Most importantly however, the food was beautiful. Maybe I was biased by the simple but enticing style of eating, or the ridiculously cheap house wine ($3.50 a glass), but It was all delicious. The soul of Ethiopian cooking is Berbere, a rich spice mixture abounding with chilli that fuels many of the stews and adds depth and complexity to the dishes. When eaten with the Injera it was a wonderful combination that was both interesting and fulfilling.
[a better photo of a mesob taken by Greencolander
So, having had our fill of a great meal, our hands washed again, and on our way out to pay. What did I spy behind the counter but a coffee roaster. As any self respecting coffee geek with be happy to tell you, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee.
Stories tell how a goat herd named Kaldi noticed that his goats would become frisky after eating the leaves and berries of a certain bush. He decided to try some himself and so discovered the exhilarating effects of coffee. Kaldi then took the berries to a monastery where the monks, believing them to be the work of the devil, threw them into the fire. This released the aroma of the coffee and the berries were hastily rescued from the flames and the monks learned how to make coffee.
Skip forward a thousand years or so, and coffee is one of the worlds most traded commodities, but still has strong roots in Ethiopia, being used in many cultural and religious events and having a special significance to many Ethiopians.
So the idea of having a coffee roaster in an Ethiopian Restaurant, and roasting a variety of African coffees fresh each week, is not such a strange concept. Simon holds his love of coffee quite dearly, and it was a natural step for him to want to bring his love for Ethiopian coffee to the people of Perth. They are also hoping to bring in the traditional preparation methods… which is serving it in a little earthenware pot in small cups… heated over an open fire… but the logistics of doing it in a restaurant may prove difficult. Still I think it’s a great initiative, and the smell of fresh roasted coffee wafting through the restaurant is another lovely thing to have.
So, in my typical fashion of not being able to think of suitably succinct way to end these rambling review/experiences, all I can say it go and try this place out. If you’re anything like me you’ll love it. If you’re not…then why are you reading this blog ?? ;)
100 Lake Street, Northbridge. (Cnr Lake & Newcastle Street)
Open for Lunch 12 to 2pm and Dinner from 6pm til late. Closed Mondays.
Phone: 9228 1544