I’m sure most of you have a dream cuisine…
You know, the kind of food that you could eat FOREVER and be totally satisfied?
Maybe it’s Mexican, or Italian, or Chinese?
For me, it’s Ethiopian.
In high school, my parents used to take us out for dinner to a restaurant of our choice on special occasions. Birthdays, accomplishments (like when the black sheep of the family actually graduated from high school with pretty decent grades despite doing zero homework and sleeping through the majority of my… I mean, her… classes). I think, on occasion, I may have even wrangled them into special dinners out following bad break ups (and in high school, aren’t they all just the end of the world?). Such are my wicked powers of negotiation.
Anyway, I often chose an amazing Ethiopian restaurant in Georgetown, D.C. (sadly, it is closed now). Back then, I wasn’t one for spicy food or real food in any form, so don’t ask me why Ethiopian was my pick. But I think it was just the flavours. For those who haven’t had Ethiopian cuisine before, it is just an explosion of amazing flavours. It’s pure magic.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago, living back in Sydney, and I was struck by a massive craving for Ethiopian food. I think it was an episode of Food Safari that did it. I hopped onto Google and alas – no Ethiopian restaurants in Sydney (although I believe one has recently opened). But I discovered a treasure trove of Ethiopian and African restaurants in Melbourne – I could.not.wait until the day I could get down there and eat eat eat!
Well, my friends… that day did come! Tyler and I welcomed this summer holidays with a five day trip to Melbourne as soon as school let out.
Now, we had five full days in Melbourne. We did a lot of stuff in that five days, and we ate a lot of food. But hands down, by a long shot, my highlight of the trip was our visit to The Horn, an African Café & Restaurant in Collingwood.
It was oh-my-goodness-amazing. I was actually speechless following this meal. I simply couldn’t find the words to describe to my friends who joined us for the delicious dinner, precisely how that meal had satisfied every corner of my soul. On a 1-5 scale, I would easily give it the full 5 points. And then some.It was kid-friendly, delicious, relaxing, delicious, interesting, fun, delicious, allergy-friendly, and delicious. Everything a restaurant should be.
We were seated at a table next to a window display of traditional Ethiopian items, which was pretty cool. The set up for the coffee roasting tradition that is so embedded in the Ethiopian culture, some amazing woven baskets filled with dried herbs, and other authentic tokens that really added to the experience.
We ordered some beers with recommendations from the woman who was serving us (sidebar: I LOVE getting recommendations from the staff at restaurants as to what they like on the menu, and actually taking their advice – otherwise, I know I would stick to ‘safe’ aka boring options, and not have the full experience). She absolutely nailed it on the beer recommendation for me (another sidebar: this is probably really why I ask for advice – yeah, sometimes they get it wrong and that sucks, but when they get it so right for you, it is amaaaaazing). This was amazing.
My friends ordered a starter – an Ethiopian hommus. I chose to sit out on the starters, because I wanted an empty belly for the mains! The hommus was very spicy, but they loved it.
Then came the mains. Oh, the mains. ‘Scuse me for a minute, while I am transported back to that amazing moment in time…
We ordered Doro Wot, Doo Ba Wot, Doro Tibs, and Godin Tibs (minus the green chilli).
Doro Wot (chicken cooked in a spicy red sauce) was my absolute must-try, because it is generally the most well-known Ethiopian dish. One of my friends voted for the Doo Ba Wot (a spicy beef & pumpkin stew), and we had to choose a couple of mild dishes so that Tyler (spice-phobic, no real surprises there!) would have something to eat. To suit his not-spicy needs, we chose the Doro Tibs (chicken in a herbed butter) and Godin Tibs (pan-fried lamb ribs).
In Ethiopian cuisine, the main meals are served on a big round of injera, with a few extra rolls of injera on the side. Injera is kind of like a massive sourdough pancake or crepe. It is both the bread and the cutlery – you rip off a piece of injera, use it to scoop up some curry, and pop it in your mouth. Yum, yum, and yum.
And The Horn even does gluten free injera, for those with allergies or intolerances! Plus vegetarian and vegan options.
An extra side note, it is a great restaurant for real foodies – the injera is soured (properly prepared), and in Ethiopian cuisine most things are cooked in ghee/butter.
We ate and we ate until we could eat no more, and we loved every mouthful. My favourites were the Doro Wot and Doro Tibs (oh my goodness, the Doro Tibs!!!!), but they were all so amazing. Our beers were left slightly neglected as we were so totally lost in the delicious food.
The woman who served us was very forthcoming with information, so passionate about the food (we had a good chat about her herbed butter!), and great with Tyler. Two thumbs up.
We all left totally amazed and blown away by the food, with my friends (who live in Melbourne) declaring that they would definitely be going back there! And me feeling rather envious about that.
My only regret? Not staying longer and asking for the traditional coffee ceremony – on the list for next time.
Would I go back there? Yes, yes, and yes. If I lived in Melbourne, it would be my go-to. But believe me, I will be going there every time I find myself in Melbourne. It’s not to be missed, folks. If you live in Melbourne or holiday in Melbourne – get there ASAP and enjoy!
The Horn African Cafe & Restaurant
20 Johnston Street
Collingwood VIC 3066
Ph: (03) 9417 4670