Friday, 30 January 2009

african kitchen gallery

living right next to drummond street is a blessing. first of all, sizzling bombay is the perfect solution for those really lazy, tired nights in, offering seriously good food for ridiculous prices. raavi kebab is another favourite for pakistani classics, with gigantic portions of byriani and an okra dish that lures me back in the small and overheated restaurant way more often than strictly necessary.

but it’s not all about indian and pakistani food, as many would think. drummond street also happens to be the location of a tiny, somewhat bizarre african restaurant, which has been my favourite for a while now and has never, ever, disappointed me. the african kitchen gallery is so small that four customers are enough to make the place look packed and the windows steamy, which i actually quite like as i’ve always had the feeling of having dinner in a lively living room rather than another anonymous restaurant. the owners definitely help in making you feel at home, as they are always happy to exchange a few words and recommend a dish or two, on top of spoiling you with complimentary nibbles like the magically-seasoned carrots (i’m really not a big fan of carrots, but i could eat tons of theirs) and the yummy and refreshing coconut balls that come with tea and coffee.

the food can be somewhat of an experience for a first-timer, as the flavours are different from any other cuisine available in this city, including other african restaurants i’ve tried. the spicy rice can be seriously spicy and so are some of the meat and veggie dishes, but it’s all worth it. the tilapia fish is especially exotic, tasting like no other fish in its rich sweet gravy. being a ginger-addict i love the generous amounts of fresh ginger that add a strong and distinctive flavour to chicken and chickpeas. last night, being in the mood for something a bit lighter, i went for the african delight, a veggie option with sweet potatoes and other secret ingredients that some might not like but i absolutely loved thanks to the perfect combination of sweetness and tanginess. i was let down by the fresh mango juice, which is usually a winner but maybe only so when mangoes are actually in season.

a serious foodie would usually be put off by the absence of a proper kitchen in this establishment, as all dishes are scooped out of tupperwares and warmed up in the microwave. however, the taste of the many dishes i have tried in the african kitchen gallery during the last year is the best guarantee of the freshness and quality of their ingredients. this tiny restaurant is a true gem, combining excellent food with a friendly atmosphere and intriguing flavours. i will go back, again, and again.