The table cloths are stained, decorations include a dusty Eiffel-tower-shaped brandy bottle and the place is empty around 7.30 pm on a Friday night.
Plus, in my mind 'Ethiopia' was always more linked with television images of famine than with cuisine.
But stereotypes and appearances can be deceptive.
We order their taster selection. The first to arrive is a large tray covered in traditional injera bread - a pancake like thing with a slightly vinegary taste. Upon it, the waitress ladles out half a dozen or so different dishes. I particularly enjoy some beans and a mix of barely cooked mince with (I think) spinach. All is eaten with your hands, scooped up with more injera bread, and washed down by surprisingly good Ethiopian larger.
The only dish that we fail to finish is the Ethiopian take on steak tartrare - large chunks of raw beef in a thick, spicy sauce. It's not bad, but the consensus is that the chunks are a bit too big to chew/digest raw.
Still, we leave a couple of hours and many beers later, absolutely stuffed and amazed to have paid only about 15 quid for this feast. Sure, you might not want to eat here once a week, or even once a month, but it's definitely worth trying at least once.
Menelik, 277 Caledonian Road, London, N1 3EF; Tel. 0207 700 7774; Tube: Caledonian Road
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