Claremont Rd, at Claremont Primary School
Keye Watt: £4
Firstly, my thanks to TomG, who commented on my Dubay Caffe post with a recommendation for an Ethiopian place near Claremont Primary School. I was in Rushholme buying cheap spices, so I schlepped up Claremont Road to find it.
The place that I presume he was talking about is a small Ethiopian and Somali restaurant. The owner is lovely and kept coming over to chat and give me extra injera (a sour pancake-like bread). On the walls are various posters and leaflets pertaining to Manchester's Somali and Ethiopian communities - a poster of Manchester City's Somalia-born Abdisalam Ibrahim figures prominently.
The food itself is cheap and plentiful. I chose the keye watt - a dish of diced beef and onions in a spicy sauce with shredded lettuce and a dish of sauteed carrots and cabbage as accoutrements. All dishes are served on a big disc of injera, which both soaks up the sauces and is used to transfer the food from the plate to your mouth. No cutlery here (well, there might be, but I couldn't see any).
All of the elements of the meal were spot-on. The keye watt's beef and onion pieces were tender and tasted like they had stewed in the sauce for just the right amount of time. The spicing lent heat but did not overwhelm, and the double-whammy of sauce (first on the beef, then soaked into the injera) suited me fine due to how delicious it was. The vegetables were sauteed in a light, yellow and mildly sweet sauce and retained their crunch and flavours. The dressing on the lettuce was citrus-y and provided a nice contrast to the bolder flavours of the keye watt. The injera appeared fresh - hot with crispy edges, but soft and spongy throughout.
I have no idea what Ethiopian cuisine was like prior to Italian colonisation, but I definitely detected Italian influences in my food. Apart from there being small jars of olive oil on every table, the lettuce came with a dressing of olive oil and herbs, and the keye watt sauce tasted of a tomato base, not unlike a much spicier and thinner pasta sauce.
For £4, I was able to eat enough to last me for two meals (I didn't need dinner). The quality of the food and the attentive attitude of the owner means that this place deserves more custom than it currently gets.