The starting point of great food is often in a humble market stall. That’s how Alem’s House got its start.
Nethanet Assefa owns the Camperdown cafe with her husband Nicholas Gilmore, her mum Alem – the cafe’s namesake – and her dad Assefa, serving modern-Ethiopian food. The menu sits comfortably in the Sydney cafe scene, welcoming influences from around the world.
Peer through the windows to see comfortable lounge seating, Ethiopian trinkets and a dramatic, vibrant mural by artist Camilla Carmody – a welcome respite on the busy Parramatta Road.
At breakfast, dishes riff on contemporary Australian cafe fare but with Ethiopian flavours. There are chilli scrambled eggs with spiced Ethiopian butter; and teff (a type of ancient grain) pancakes, served with strawberries and macadamia nuts from Gilmore’s property in Byron Bay.
At lunch, the menu turns vegan and is more traditional. Lamb, goat, fish or chicken are swapped out for vegetables. Try the atakilt wat, a turmeric- and ginger-laced green bean and potato dish, or the spicy red lentil misr wat. Shiro, a chickpea stew, is made with a hard-to-find Ethiopian berbere chilli spice.
Each of these toppings are piled in little mounds, ready to be scooped up by hand, on top of injera– a tart flatbread that’s fermented over a few days. Everything arrives in a colourful, round communal basket with a cone-shaped lid that’s typically used to transport food in Ethiopia.
At Alem’s House, they make the coffee on a La Pavoni machine. The usual brews, from short blacks to cappuccinos are available, beside Ethiopian coffees, which are spiced with cinnamon, cloves, chilli and korarima (smoked cardamom).