I’d tried a number of times to spontaneously have dinner when Nyala African restaurant was located on the southern end of Brunswick St opposite Atherton Gardens, but it was always full. Having moved some months ago further north to above Django Django on the corner of Brunswick St and Kerr St, I’d tried a further couple of times but the opening hours seemed a bit erratic and it was closed when their website said they were meant to be open.
Persistence sometimes pays off, and I finally enjoyed a good lunch there with friends last weekend. We ordered the mixed entree platter, which features: a samosa, or sambusa; a large piece of deep fried cauliflower called abeba bomen; ful (fava beans) and the dish I liked most, baboutie, which is spiced minced meat with a mild sweet fruit chutney, sultanas and almonds. It’s served with flatbreads.
We also ordered the mixed vegetarian platter, a mild chicken curry with coconut milk called kuku na nazi, injera and cous cous. All the vegetable dishes are delicious, especially the silverbeet or gomen. The chicken was also amazing.
The speed of service is leisurely even when the restaurant is not busy. This complaint is repeated in a number of reviews on review aggregation sites. Half eaten positively reviews the old location. Melbourne cafe hunters and Gastro-ology review the new location, which is spacious and charming once you get upstairs, but the entrance off Brunswick St is unappealing.
There’s a sign on the footpath, but the door leads to a grey carpeted staircase that looks like it leads to an office. Moving on its own can cause a loss of customers, and an awkward entrance is likely to be a disincentive to uncommitted passing trade. They need to make that staircase look exciting and worth investigating.
We also tried the Ethiopian and Mauritian beers and liked the former more than the latter. The food we ordered was plentiful for three people, and came to $83 and was reasonable value. I’d be cautious in recommending it if you have somewhere to be at a particular time afterwards, like the theatre, but if you have time to sit back and let it happen then I’m sure you will enjoy it.