09 June 2015

Aaboll Cafe ~ Ethiopian - Merrylands

Aaboll Cafe and Ethiopian Eatery is one of only a few African restos in Sydney. Centre stage is injera, the large crumpet like pancake that acts as plate, spoon and mixing bowl in one. Dig in and get ya fingers dirty.

At Aaboll Cafe in the western Sydney suburb of Merrylands, homestyle Ethiopian cooking is served in the back of the store while the front serves as a regular cafe.

Venturing through into the rear of the cafe is like visiting an eccentric aunt who has travelled the world and decorated her terrace house lounge room with African souvenirs (Alison is well on the way to getting there). A full wall sized mural covers the back of the room with a cushioned eating area set aside for special meals and the coffee ceremony, where beans are roasted, ground and brewed immediately before serving.

Around the cafe are bright green, purple and yellow mesob woven baskets, the traditional serving platters for food. Smaller versions are shaped like tajine pots, while a full size mesob can be used as a table to eat at.

The most important component of an Ethiopian meal is a large circular pancake called injera which serves as everything you need: plate, stomach filler, placemat and utensil for carrying food to your  mouth. You use your fingers to break off bits, scoop up some of the food and escort it to your mouth.

Made using a batter poured over a flat hot plate, the slightly purple bread cooks a little like a crumpet, small holes bubble up to the surface to indicate when it’s ready. Cooked on one side only, the tiny pock marked surface is useful to gather up the spicy sauces from a wot or two. The flavour is slightly sour from the lightly fermented batter made from teff flour, a small grain that is friendly to celiacs and  high in protein and the source of the purple pinkish hue.

Along with injera are choices of other dishes either meat and vegetable based or vegetable only. As there are a number of official fasting days in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar where no animal products can be consumed, much of the menu is made up of vegan dishes. Most dishes can be divided as either a wot (or wat) or tibs. A berbere sauce (red pepper and spices) is used as the base for the wet curry style wot, while tibs are a lightly sautéed mix of meats and vegetables.

Very much not vegan, one amazing meat dish here is the Ethiopian version of steak tartare called kitfo, raw minced meat mixed with melted butter and spices in a warmed bowl. The meat is seasoned and heated by the butter, and a mix of mitmita or chilli, spice and salt is added to taste. It’s a flavour not unlike the raw meat Lebanese kibbe nayyeh. Ayibe, a cottage style cheese is added for an extra hit of salt and texture, with the whole lot scooped into your sections of injera.

If meat ain't your gig then look for Atkilt wot, used on the menu to refer to all vegetable dishes. You can try most of the selections on one combo plated out on a flat injera if you can’t decide. Each lentil or bean mixture has a unique taste, especially the shiro, a gravy like sauce made of ground chick pea flour. The injera becomes soaked through with flavour, we were ripping off the sauce soaked sections to get one more flavour hit. More injera is easily ordered but you won’t need it.

While there is no alcoholic beer or wine served, meals can be finished off with some fine coffee or sweet spiced tea served in small clear glasses.

At first the menu might look a little confusing, but explanations on the best combination of dishes are easily gained from the staff.  We went for the combination dishes so we could try out a few at one.

Aboll also opens early for breakfast. Try the honey and chechebsa, a spiced bread perfect with that famous coffee and one of the only meals eaten with a spoon.

Aaboll Cafe and Ethiopian Eatery is at 140 Merrylands Road.


  1. I stumbled across this place a couple of weeks ago after a meeting in Merrylands, and had a delicious impromptu lunch here. The owner Jera was super-sweet and cooked this Ethiopian-food novice a little bit of everything so I could taste a variety of different dishes. Make sure you're hungry when you go though, as that injera is very moreish and very filling.

  2. I've only tried Ethiopian food in the form of a beef stew with rice and veg. It's soooo good! Def need to try and hunt down more Ethiopian food in London.


  3. Just dropping another comment while I remember. I went here a couple of months ago and this place was great. First time having African/Ethiopian food, owners were very lovely. Thanks again for finding out and posting about this place.


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).