Lunch at the house of peace

Beit é selam

The patio at beit é selam.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Beit é selam first opened its doors earlier this year, although surprisingly little has been written about it online.
  • You’ll find beit é selam on Maua Close, off Parklands Road, a few hundred metres from The Alchemist.

With some free time on Jamhuri Day on Monday, I ventured into the city to try out an exciting new creative space. Beit é selam first opened its doors earlier this year, although surprisingly little has been written about it online. The fleeting glimpses of the restaurant that I had caught from brief Instagram stories were enticing enough, and it seemed an ideal spot for a leisurely public holiday excursion. 

You’ll find beit é selam on Maua Close, off Parklands Road, a few hundred metres from The Alchemist. If you drive there yourself, you have to park along the kerb outside and walk in through the main gate, which I quite liked. The restaurant is well screened from its neighbours, but it still felt connected to its city surroundings. With its white exterior wall and arched, ornate metal gate, it was like strolling into a private Lamu courtyard. 

As a small, converted home surrounded by towering office blocks and residences, beit é selam is an oasis. This is reflected in its name, meaning ‘house of peace’ in Amharic. And it was peaceful as I sat at my table outside enjoying a freshly brewed coffee. I chose a spot beneath the wide, wooden-beamed pergola, stretching the length of the property above a terracotta-tiled patio. Its beams have been draped with creeping flowers and streams of outdoor lights, and they are supported at either end by striking concrete pillars. Shade and privacy are provided by a giant strangler fig, and a row of leafy trees along the street-side wall. 

The interior is eclectic and interesting, and really speaks to the restaurant’s bohemian, pan-African soul. There are endless nooks and crannies with artefacts, books and paintings from across the continent. Antique birdcages and chandeliers dangle above the bar and central fireplace, and streetlights protrude from the wall above cosy seating areas in the corners. Even the bathroom was a sight to behold: a trippy space of dizzying patterned tiles and 80s-style flower wallpaper. By the patio, there is also a stylish DJ booth — a nod to the restaurant’s musically talented owner, Zelalem Teklewold.

Unique menu

The food at beit é selam is as creative and pan-African inspired as its décor, and I was actually blown away. From their starter, or ‘Ndogo’ section, I had a delicious portion of Masala Potatoes with Tamarind and Dhania Chutney. They were unlike any masala chips I’ve tasted, with that thick, flavoursome chutney. And from the menu’s ‘Kubwa’ section, I had the vegan Roasted Cauliflower Steak — Blackened Cauliflower, Wheat Berries, Maple Carrots and Chowchow Pickle. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I ordered it, but it was an inspired combination of flavours. 

Their menu isn’t large, but it’s certainly unique. A particular dish that I’ve seen posted often on social media is the Corn Ribs — Sweet Corn, Smokey Aioli and Mitmita (an Ethiopian spice) — presented like a mound of pork ribs. ‘All flavour, no meat’, as they say on their Instagram page.

Carnivores, don’t fret — there is a wide variety of meaty meals, too. From the ‘Kati’ menu, you could go for their smoky and spicy Berbere Wings, or the more adventurous Kitfo Tartare — Spiced Raw Beef, Ayib, Gomen and Spicy Injera Crisps. There are more options amongst the mains as well, including the Malagasy Fish (Banana Leaf Wrapped Grilled Snapper, Coconut Ginger Rice and Chilli Sauce), and the Marrakesh Burger (Lamb Patty, Moroccan-Spiced Aioli, Feta and Skinny Fries). 

For these individual mains, the prices range from Sh1,100 to Sh1,800. There are three dessert dishes, too: Mandazi and Chai, Flourless Chocolate Cake, and Tree Tomato Panna Cotta. 

So, for a unique taste of Africa, or for a drink in a tranquil setting, knock on the door of the house of peace. 

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