For more than 20 years the scent of spicy food has been wafting out of Nyala and across the unlovely lower reaches of Brunswick Street. It’s as good as a billboard for this mostly unremarkable-looking restaurant, enlivened within by rows of colourful paintings that proclaim its pan-African identity. Nyala serves food from across Africa, with a particular emphasis on Ethiopian cuisine.
Here you’ll find ful, a fava bean dish from the Sudan; futari, a mild cabbage, potato and carrot stew with coconut milk originating in Tanzania; and abeba goman, an Ethiopian recipe for thickly battered and fried cauliflower florets. It’s a cuisine that will be unfamiliar to many diners – African food doesn’t exactly dominate the Melbourne restaurant scene – and Nyala makes a great ambassador for it.
The menu is heavy on warm, oddly familiar-seeming comfort foods, so even the least adventurous diner is unlikely to be intimidated. As our dining companion put it, “it tastes like somebody’s mum cooked this for me”, and they mean it in a good way.
Keke wot, a hot split-pea dhal with onion, garlic and peri peri is highly recommended, as is the baboutie, sweet and spicy minced beef mixed with fruit chutney, sultanas and almond flakes. Dishes are served with rice, couscous or injera, a type of bread that resembles a large soft pikelet.
A range of African beers is available for those inclined to drink as well as eat their way around the world – we tried Hakim Stout, Tafel Lager and Meta, all of which, including the stout, are unusually sweet.
The warm, friendly service puts the final, feelgood touch on the experience. Una Cruickshank