I had never really eaten Ethiopian food before visiting Lula’s pop up at Common Ground. That’s partly why I was so excited to go: I am always up for trying something new, and sometimes it feels like there is not much left. Lula’s food is available at the Gloucester Green market too, but on a cold January day the idea of sitting on a cosy sofa in cheery Common Ground to stuff your face with comfort food is far more appealing than the idea of perching on an outdoor bench at a market.
Common Ground is in no way a restaurant. It’s a big, casual co-working space and coffee shop, full of students and locals alike. This is not the place to go for a formal meal. However, it is the place to go on Monday and Friday lunchtimes if you fancy a huge bowl of warming Ethiopian food.
We were greeted by Lula herself – who, not that it’s relevant to the food, was totally charming and delightful – and she talked us through the menu. This is hearty, simple stuff: think slow-cooked meat, lentils, rice, warming spices and sharp injera flatbread. My dining companion and I got a bit of everything with one mixed meat plate and one mixed vegetarian plate. It’s worth noting that Lula’s caters very well for gluten free diners as well as vegetarians and vegans, and that on Mondays they serve no meat.
Yes, these aren’t refined plates of pretty food, but by god it is all delicious. When we visited Common Ground, the place was absolutely packed with regulars who clearly come for Lula’s food all the time. We frequently heard people commenting about a new dish on the menu, or what lentils there were that week – these customers are loyal and it’s easy to see why.
So, what are you going to get?
The meat dishes were rich and subtly-spiced, chunks falling apart as you ate them. The lentils (always one of my favourite comfort foods) were perfectly cooked; soft, but retaining enough texture not to descend into mush, deeply flavoursome. Particular standouts were the Tibs – rich marinated beef cooked with garlic, ginger, barbere (Ethiopian curry paste) and green chilli – and the yellow split peas with turmeric and ginger, but really it was all good. The injera – a sourdough type flatbread – is the perfect compliment to the meal. It has a light, slightly spongy texture and a sharp taste which is beautiful when eaten with the main event.
The food is also an absolute bargain. Two vegetarian dishes cost £6, other meat and vegetarian combination dishes are £7 or £8. Everything is served with rice or injera and, believe me, you will not go away hungry.
It’s a real treat to find something new and unusual on the Oxford food scene and we loved everything we ate at Lula’s. I’m already planning my next visit…
Gloucester Green Market
78 The Heyes
Oxford OX1 2BU
Wednesdays and Saturdays
37-38 Little Clarendon Street
Oxford OX1 2HF
Mondays and Fridays, 12.00-17.00
We dined as guests of Lula’s Ethiopian and Eritrean Cuisine. All views remain our own.