I’ve wanted to blog about this restaurant for the longest of times, but before I could capture a decent photo of the food, either Mr H or myself would have already tucked into the mouthwatering stews and injera.
Merkato International Leeds (the only Ethiopian restaurant outside of London!) is hidden away in a tiny corner of the ramshackled Merrion Centre, where the rent and footfall is low. But don’t let the setting deceive you. This little restaurant is a gem and Leeds should be proud that it has one such as this, beating in the heart of the city.
We’re talking about good honest food served by friendly waitresses, who are happy to oblige your curiosity of their culture and cuisine. They remind me of mothers of the friends I grew up with in international schools. Originating from different countries they cooked the food of their homeland so that their children wouldn’t forget. Only in this instance the children would be the groups of men, drinking their spiced tea as they talk of Africa and their new life in the UK.
The food: Generous servings of vegetable and meat stews. The cutlery: None, unless you count the spongelike bread called injera (as much as you want!), which you use to scoop up the tasty morsels into your mouth.
And it is in this little restaurant, with its mismatching chairs and rickety tables, you will find (in my humble opinion) the best coffee in Leeds. Pure black Ethiopian spiced coffee. For (get this) £1. That’s right, £1! Starbucks can keep their namby pamby cream-with-a-bit-of-coffee.
Everything on the menu is ridiculously affordable, with a meal for two usually costing £15. I feel like a cheat every time I stand before the till as they ring up the numbers, so I always leave a good tip.
If I ever compile a list of my best restaurants in Leeds, Merkato International would definitely be not far from the top.
79 Merrion Superstore, Merrion Centre, Leeds,
Mon to Sat 10am to 6pm.
Tel: 07961 883500