"Tobia is London’s prime ambassador for Ethiopian food."
Time Out MagazineJanuary 2008
"...If you’ve never experienced Ethiopian food, you’re missing out. Head north to Tobia for some traditional, authentic Ethiopian cuisine....
Up a flight of stairs and to the left is Tobia – if you’re not sure where you’re going, just head towards the amazing smell of food.On a Saturday night you can expect Tobia to be packed full, with most people heading for the buffet and a few grouped around the coveted low seats and round tables. Service is friendly and knowledgeable, and staff treat the customers like everyone’s a regular....
Recommended for both experts and beginners in Ethiopian cuisine. Bring friends and eat at one of the traditional tables for a real community experience."
Michelle Court ViewLondon.co.uk February 2008
"....Tobia restaurant, a popular little eatery tucked away from the main Finchley Road in West Hampstead. Visitors to Tobia should not be put off by its rather unimposing entrance, as once inside, a culinary feast awaits you. I had a chicken stew called Doro Watt, a typical Ethiopian speciality that "no respectable Ethiopian restaurant can open its door without". The chicken is cooked gently with red onions and clarified butter (a concoction of butter, red onion, coriander, garlic and ginger that is reduced then sieved) until the sauce is thick and dark in colour. The dish comes with a boiled egg and a scoop of spiced cottage cheese with coriander, chopped spinach and more clarified butter, served on a soft and spongy Ethiopian flatbread called injera which is fermented with yeast to give it a slightly sour taste. Under Sophie's encouragement, I scoop up the food with the flatbread, tearing off a section and picking up a little each of the chicken, sauce and cream cheese. The flavour is intense and not dissimilar to an Indian curry, but without the hot spiciness. If you fancy trying tasting this traditional Ethiopian Dish yourself, book a table at Tobia...." Alice Eaton Limited Edition Magazine January 2008
"....the gracious and genuinely hospitable welcome you get from the staff makes Tobia a joy to visit. What's more the food is delicious. The starters range from a sound beetroot and potato salad; to a dish of carrots and courgettes; or an Ethiopian omelette with a chickpea sauce. The primary flavour of the Ethiopian kitchen is chilli but the sauces are very thick and very rich with a dominant oiliness. The logic behind this becomes obvious when you first try injera - which is Ethiopia's staple carbohydrate. Injera is made from a grain called teff and is a thin floppy pancake made with a fermented batter that gives it a mild sour taste.... it's often the case that trying unfamiliar cuisines can proove intimidating or puzzling - this is not so at Tobia where the welcome is magnificent."
Charles Campion's London Restaurant Guide 2008
"..... but for the real tastes of Ethiopia, this is the place. We marvelled at the coffee-coloured enjera bread: this version made with pure teff (an east African grain), slightly sour and perfectly elastic and spongy. On this a succession of sublime dishes were served, from lamb with clarified butter, through garlicky spring green stir fries, to dal-like lentil dishes.We were wowed by the traditional marinated raw tuna dish, well spiced and unusually textured.... Chef proprietor Sophie Sirak-Kebede is a very genial hostess and happy to explain the dishes and the cooking." TimeOut Eat and Drinking 2008 (Listed Top 100)
"Tobia ia another name for Ethiopia, and in West Hampstead it's also a byword for an unusual dining experience. Visitors to the low seating dining room above the Ethiopian cultural centre will be warmly welcomed by the owner Sophie Sirak-Kebede. The menu can be confusing, so let Sophie help you choose a few stews and salads to go with your enjera (Ethiopian fermented bread), which is also your main eating implement. Finish off with a cup of coffee, the beans of which will be roasted in front of you. The whole experience makes for an adventurous evening out." The Times Magazine (Top 10 bargin Restaurants) July 2007
"Ethiopian food is not just a cuisine in and of itself, it's an entire experience. For one thing, never go alone, bring along a group of your best friends ....."There is no individual plate in our cuisine because our culture does not believe in individualism" says Sophie the restraunt owner....who ever has gone wthout tasting Ethiopian food thus far in their liveshas been missing out on a real treat. So let me encourage you to take a detour from your usual culinary delights and experience this largely ovrlookeed cuisine for yourself." Ayesha Kazmi Emel Lifestyle Magazine July 2007
"A vacation to Africa may be unaffordable, but African cuisine certainly isn't! Try culinary creations from that side of the world at the cozy and colorful Tobia Restaurant & Bar, in Hampstead. True to its name this restaurant serves you authentic Ethiopian cuisine like kitfo (steak tartar), firfir (traditional chicken in chili sauce), and gouramayle (strips of ox tongue, beef and spiced cottage cheese). If you are a vegan visit on a Wednesday or Firday and try the daily specials, or enjoy the lively traditional music on Saturday nights. Flavorful sauces, condiments and wines add that special zing to the meal. Try and catch the 30 minute traditional coffee ceremony if you can, too." Yahoo Travel June 2007
"It may be small, but teff is tough....But for such a little feller, teff sure packs a hefty punch, for a start it's gluten free....and its packed with nutrients including iron and high levels of amino acids....Like other Ethiopian restaurants in London, Sophie used to make her injera using a blend of rye, millet and wheat flour, but she is now the only one using it in the traditional way for injera. But teff can be used as a substitute for any flour – in pastas, breads, pastries, cakes and puddings. It does everything that wheat does,” Matthew Lewin. Matthews-Table.com March 2007
this great family run Ethiopian restaurant may be situated above a community hall
(and looks it ), But all reporters agree that a meal here is "an amazing
Hardens UK 2007 Restaurant Guide Hardens
Survey Awards Star Rating "Very Good Food"
could prevent us coming here again, however. For a start you can feast like a
king for around £15 including wine! Then there's the lovely homely atmosphere
and the knowledge that , unlike many western cuisines, as well as tasting good,
this one really does your body good too!" Sue Webester This is London,
Eating Out 5th December 2006
you arrive a warm welcome awaits. Upbeat Ethiopian music plays out and you are
seated on some brightly coloured comfy sofas......none of this was expensive and
the vegan menu is worth trying..... the service is friendly and informative and
Tobia isn't trying to be something it's not" North Magazine November
new menu offers a timely excuse - if you need one - to revisit this gem of a neighbourhood
restaurant. Excellent traditional Ethiopian main courses are still a must, but new
dishes bring a variety to a menu already crackling with interest....... Tobia
remains as enjoyable as it is unusual" Karina Mantavia The Guardian Guide October 7th 2006
never had a bad meal at this Ethiopian restaurant, which features some intriguing
old family recipes along with national classics.......veggies will find plenty
to satisfy, and Wednesdays and Fridays are meat free and dairy free" Time
Out Food and Drink Top 50 13th September 2006
cuisine at Tobia, run by the charming Sophie, reflects the long history and culturaldiversity
of Ethiopia...." RestuarantExplorer.com
is shared and tapas style: you order a number plates and when the waitress brings
out a ginormous pancake called an injera, upon which you make your own. It's absolutely
delicious, there's even Ethiopian sushi, too. For further dietary sensitivities,
Wednesdays and Fridays serve predominantly vegan food" Urban Junkies
London 30th November 2006
began the experience - and that is what it truly was, an eating experience of
the most enjoyable kind.......To our amazement, the 'cutlery' arrived in the form
of five rolled-up smaller pancakes! Those are torn into smaller strips and used
to scoop up each different dish, then prepare yourself for yet another culinary
experience when you place them in your mouth. A stunning experience!....."
Alex Constantinou Call Sign October 2005
those who desire a truly distinctive dining experience, a visit to Tobia is a
........Flavours were rich and delicious, and all very moreish...."
Magazine November 2005
is a lovely place - inexpensive, hearty and full of family warmth - definitely
a local hangout. If you're in the neighbourhood, drop in for a gastronomic journey
to East Africa." Sue Coulter, restaurantsOMH.com, October, 2005.
restaurant has recently been refurbished in shades of peach and saffron, and chef-proprietor
Sophie Sirak-Kebede has enough charisma to front her own TV show. She produces
food to match. Among the standard Ethiopian dishes on a short menu, you'll also
find ancient family recipes - such as marinated leg of lamb baked in banana leaves,
cured beef mixed with clarified butter and chilli sauce and assa kitfo ("Ethiopian
sushi" made with raw tuna). There's much choice for vegetarians too. Musicians
and regional dancing can be seen on Saturday nights." The Guardian,
a newly refurbished 50-cover restaurant ...provides some of the most authentic
dining experiences in town....and for Londoners keen to experiment this is just
the ticket." Caterer
you fancy a more casual, but authentic experience, this quirky Ethiopian restaurant
may be just your scene. ... This turned out to be an evening we’ll never
forget, enveloped in a warm, unique atmosphere with beautiful music and genuine
hospitality. " Louise Elgin, Dine Online Restaurant Review, September
...This lot can be washed down with the 'Abyssinian Tej' – a home-brewed
honey mead. As Ethiopia is also the birth place of coffee, it's only right that
there's a suitably indulgent ceremony which includes roasting beans and burning
frankincense in front of the recipients. ...It's an interesting example of the
diverse range of cuisines available in London (now almost 70!) Just for the record,
Tobia actually means Ethiopia" www.bbc.co.uk, September 2005
a really authentic African feel to this Ethiopian restaurant... let Tobia’s
beamingly enthusiastic owner, Sophie Sirak-Kebede, choose for you. You’ll
probably end up with a huge tray of assorted stews & salads dotted on top
of a vast expanse of injera, the fermented bread used to pick up a pinch of the
food & convey it to your mouth...A visit to Tobia ...a voyage of culinary
& cultural discovery" www.squaremeal.co.uk, September 2005
reports have begun circulating about Tobia, a homely restaurant above a community
centre in north London. Its menu looked varied, interesting and refreshingly unfamiliar.
...The welcome, from owner and chef Sefanit Sirak-Kebede (Sophie to her friends)
was warm. I liked her from the minute I called to book a table, ..." The
Independent, 9th July, 2005
a longtime fan of Ethiopian food, and have been to a few places in London in the
last couple of months, ending up at Tobia, in an Ethiopian community center on
Lithos Rd., next to Finchley Rd. tube, last night. It was really excellent, the
best I've had here. ...but overall this was my favorite by a good bit."
www.mouthfulsfood.com, June 2005.
the restaurant has a relaxing family atmosphere. Tobia is well worth a visit,
good value, interesting foods and a nice atmosphere." www.london-eating.co.uk,
restaurant that offers a taste of Ethiopian cuisine and culture... a glass of
Yemar Tej – an Ethiopian mead made from pure honey – which delivered
a highly potent kick....Of course no meal is complete without coffee. At Tobia,
this comes at the end of a half hour traditional coffee ceremony. Raw green coffee
beans are roasted to their more traditional darker look, while frankincense is
burned to eliminate bad spirits. The coffee is brewed slowly, before being served
in tiny china cups. The experience feels reverent, and gives a taste of Ethiopia.
As the ceremony is communal, it also brings together the restaurant’s patrons,
which gives a charming sense of community and shared experience to finish this
unusual culinary experience. The open-minded will fin Tobia a great alternative
to the norm." www.restaurantguides.co.uk
is a very good place for vegetarians, not only because there is a variety of non-meat
dishes on the menu, but because it follows the Ethiopian Coptic Church tradition
of eating an entirely vegan-only diet on Wednesdays and Fridays (although some
fish dishes are still available on those days). We ate ourselves to a standstill
and couldn't possibly...manage desserts on offer.... Our meal for the three of
us cost the princely sum of £26.50 for the food, which arrived in such quantity
that we couldn't finish it. Even including a bottle of wine, some water and the
10 per cent service that we added, it all came to just £50 - or about £16.50
a head. You just can't get more reasonable than that." Ham &
High, 3 June 2005.
"...At the recently refurbished Tobia, above an Ethiopian Community Centre,
owner and chef Sefanit Sirak-Kebede (Sophie) offers up a heroically authentic
experience: it doesn't get more real than this. You may feel as though you've
gate crashed a private party but you'll be genuinely welcomed..." Metro,
25 May 2005
you're after a quick caffeine fix in Hampstead, beware of Tobia, the Ethiopian
eaterie off Finchley Road. 'I nipped in for a cup of coffee, ... and found myself
embroiled in a 30-minute ceremony during which the beans were roasted before they
burnt frankincense to eliminate bad spirits. It made me late for a meeting - mind
you, the coffee was good." Evening Standard Magazine, 13th May
if you're into caffeine in a big way, enjoy it at Ethiopian restaurant Tobia,
2a Lithos Road, NW3. But also try the scrumptious food. Every delicious dish on
the menu is utterly unique - from the 'enjera' pancake-shaped bread that you use
instead of cutlery, to the banana lead-wrapped leg of lamb, to the 'Tej' - a home-brewed
honey mead not to be missed. It's a great place for your vegetarian friends as
the menu is meat-free Wednesday and Friday (although includes fish) but has meat
the rest of the week." Ms London Magazine, 3rd May 2005.
goes against every instinct to tell about this gem. Come here for remarkable Ethiopian
home cooking delivered with warmth. There are treats galore. On Wednesday or Friday,
when the Ethiopian Coptic Church dictates a menu free of meat and dairy, the compensation
is excellent fish. Try the gargantuan portion of zingingly fresh raw tuna: accentuated
by coriander and oil clarified with ginger and garlic, this is made perfect by
a dusting of chilli. Onion and green peppers add fragrance to a lentil dish, while
a spiced chick-peas sauce has big flavour. All come on a more-ish sour pancake
- enjera. Accompany with Tej - mead tasting of wild honey - and finish with the
sweet-smelling ritual of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Simply superb." The
Guardian - The Guide - Saturday April 16 - Friday April 22, 2005.
"...there's much to enjoy in chief-proprietor Sophie Sirak-Kebede's
honest, homely cooking and warm hospitality" Time Out
Eating and Drinking Guide 2005. If you want to read the full review,
please click here.
"... Sheila Dillon visited Tobia restaurant where she met owner and chef
Sophie Sirak-Kebede... and was- also joined by Rita Pankhurst. ...having been
to Tobia ...I can certainly vouch for the excellence of the food and hope that
members will note that this is where the Society Christmas lunch will take place.
— Who knows, it may even be that our Supper Clubs will soon have to fight
for space in the London restaurant!" The Anglo-Ethiopian Society
News File, Winter 2004 issue.
click here to listen to the interview on BBC Radio 4
Food Programme the BBC's Radio 4 on 19th September 2004.
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