Feeling rather uninspired with the London food scene lately, I’ve decided to check out some no-frills local restaurants with the hope to discover some hidden gems in the area. Red Sea Restaurant is one I have walked past quite a few times, a restaurant that’s loosely on my radar but never really made the effort to go try it. Well, it took me a few years but better late than never! Without having much of an expectation, whilst it’s not a wowing outstanding meal, we have been pleasantly pleased with the food there.
Table of content:
About Red Sea Restaurant
Red Sea Restaurant specialises in Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Yemeni cuisines. The interior is simple and really gives off the vibe of a local community meet-up spot. Despite having very briefly encountered Ethiopian food at Borough Market a couple of years back, it’s still a largely unfamiliar territory for me. It’s just a small simple restaurant along Uxbridge Road of Shepherds Bush – nothing fancy, no Instagram, and even no website.
The Food (What We Ordered)
The menu offers quite a variety of options. Starters are more Arabic, and for mains, there is a wide range of both Yemeni and Abyssinian (i.e Ethiopian) dishes. Everything is halal at Red Sea Restaurant. No alcohol served. Here is what we had:
Awaze Tibbs (£14)
From the Abyssian section, I decided to try out one of the Tibbs and went with the Awaze Tibbs. It is essentially tender meat chunks fried in a spicy Awaze sauce. Typically, it is served with Injera bread but you can also choose to have it with rice as well. We went with just bread as we’ve got rice from other dishes. The meat and bread were served separately at first, then poured on top of the bread.
It must be said that the bread was huge. We couldn’t finish the bread, which I will mention a bit more in a moment. Starting with the meat, it was tender in texture, saucy with a little hint of spices, and just really tasty! It did say it’s spicy on the menu but it’s relatively mild in my opinion – just a little kick and more of a tease to the palate. The flavours certainly hit the spot for me. It was robust to taste and no doubt a moreish one.
As for the bread, Injera bread is a traditional Ethiopian sourdough flatbread and is commonly served with pretty much every dish. It’s extremely spongy in texture that it almost doesn’t feel like bread. Flavour-wise, it has a very distinct sour tangy taste to it. Initially, the acidity was welcomed as a tangy balance to the lightly spiced meat. But after a while, the sourness started to feel a bit overwhelming. With that very brief encounter with Ethiopian food many years ago at Borough Market, I did have Injera bread as well and don’t remember it being that overwhelmingly acidic in taste. But that was many years ago so I could be wrong. In other words, I need to explore more about Ethiopian cuisine to get a fair verdict! As for now, I’m more 50/50.
Grilled Sea Bass (£16)
Another popular dish on the menu is the grilled sea bass. Instead of just a grilled fish fillet, it came as a whole butterflied fish with bones still in it -which I like! For me, I enjoyed the crispy edges and chargrilled flavours. It tasted quite fresh as well.
The fish featured a simple seasoning plus a little touch of chilli sauce here and there. The chilli sauce, for sure, has got quite a punchy kick to it. When complemented with a squeeze of lemon, that piquant flavours really popped. We were also given a little bowl of salsa-like sauce when we first sat down and that sauce worked incredibly well with the fish and added quite a sharp refreshing zing and extra heat.
Lamb Mandi (£12)
Mandi is a traditional Yemeni dish of steamed meat and rice, typically with either chicken or lamb. In this lamb mandi, the lamb has been cooked to an incredibly tender texture. Flavour-wise, steamed meat doesn’t mean bland as the subtle hints of spices seep through at every bite. It came with a large portion of flavoured rice and it’s always nice to have some fried onions on top. Though I’m not a hundred per cent sure if the rice is necessarily cooked together with the lamb as it’s the same as that served with the grilled sea bass. Anyhow, it was a filling and satisfying one. Though the dish does get a bit heavy towards the end so the salad on the side was key to balance the dish a bit. Remember that salsa sauce mentioned? It helped to balance the flavours too.
Lentil Soup (£3)
I was feeling a little under the weather and was craving soup on one of the visits. The lentil soup here was generous in portion and really hit the spot. It was incredibly comforting and warming to taste. A little lemon wedge is served on the side and gives a nice little tang to it. The soup was really smooth and got a little touch of spices that just tingled a little on your taste buds. It’s simple but one that we enjoyed.
For drinks, we saw a lot of people ordering this green drink which we found out as a mint lemonade. They blend it into a slushie-like drink and was super refreshing. We also had the milk tea which was lovely and soothing with a cosy touch of cinnamon and cardamom in there – perfect as a post-meal drink to wash down the food.
All in all, I wouldn’t go out of my way just to visit them but if you’re around Shepherds Bush, Red Sea Restaurant is a decent no-frills local food pick. The portions are pretty big and we left with full bellies plus leftovers for takeaway. Service is friendly and, for a basic small local restaurant, there’s nothing more to ask for!
Red Sea Restaurant
Red Sea Restaurant is a fully halal restaurant.
Nearest station: Shepherds Bush Market