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The cobblestones are slippery under the pouring rain as our party of five scampers down the Rue de Laeken, an entire hour late for our dinner reservation. “No problem,” smiles the boss, Haile Abebe, “if you don’t mind taking a seat at the bar while we wait for a table to free up.” It’s 22.30 on a Friday evening and Toukoul, central Brussels’ newest hotspot, is chock-full. Abebe (pictured) is one of the two original owners of KoKoB (Brussels’ very first Ethiopian restaurant).

We order Ethiopian beer (a malty lager from St George Brewery in Addis Ababa), a glass of red wine and a couple of house cocktails made with honey and fresh pineapple juice and sit back to take in the atmosphere. It’s toasty warm and cosy, made even more so by a predominantly wooden décor housing African musical instruments and with indirect lighting that bathes the whole room in a soft, orange glow. Meanwhile, a jazz singer and pianist deliver sultry background music. A toukoul, by the way, is a traditional Ethiopian hut made of clay, wood and straw.

Our table is on the small side, but eating Ethiopian style is a communal experience. The only “silverware” is spongy, lightly fermented bread called injera. The food – all stews and vegetarian pottages – comes served on a large platter (or in our case two).

We haven’t even taken the time to know exactly what we ordered, but for the less adventurous there’s a handy lexicon in the menu. We opt for two menus (minimum two people each): the vegetarian Shifinfin (€48) and the spicy hot Cornise (€54).

We tear the bread and use it to scoop up the surprising and delicious mixtures. The vegetarian platter consists of piles of spinach, cabbage, carrots, peas, chickpeas and lentils, plus one especially tasty dish called ayeb, a combination of spinach and Ethiopian cheese. All of the veggies are incorporated into rich and varying dishes with tomato, onion or lemon and spices such as turmeric, basil, garlic, cumin and coriander.

The Cornise platter is covered in stews made with chicken, lamb, veal or beef in various sauces that turn up the flavour and heat with everything from ginger and chilli peppers to shallots and sesame oil. Our hands-down favourite is the doro wot (red chicken stew), a chicken leg and hard-boiled egg surrounded by a dark, spicy Berbere sauce that blends 20 imported herbs and spices. “This is the most typical dish from our country, the kind of thing you would make if you had someone special coming over to your house,” Abebe explains.

A bottle of sparkling water and a bottle of house red provide the necessary refreshment throughout the meal. Afterwards, we take turns washing our hands under a sink that is strategically located in the dining room.

We then take our sweet time sipping a round of espressos, for at midnight there are still plenty of people around, laughing and enjoying drinks with no indication of going home anytime soon. The bill comes to a reasonable €32 apiece.


34 Rue de Laeken, Brussels;

Tue-Sun, 12.00-15.30 & 18.00-23.30

Mains: €8-€18

Authentic Ethiopian cuisine in a fun, laid-back atmosphere; a great place to go with a group

This article originally appeared in Flanders Today


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Feb 18, 2019 14:05

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Apr 12, 2019 12:08

A truly horrific experience! Avoid the place.
Le pire service que nous ayons tous les quatre vu, le personnel traînait autour de la table et prenait des boissons et de la nourriture inachevée sans rien demander et essayait évidemment de nous faire sortir le plus rapidement possible.

À la fin, ils ont gâché la commande et nous ont facturé deux fois pour ce que nous n'avions pas commandé; ils sont passés à 140 euros pour 4 personnes et à une nourriture de basse qualité et froide!

Une expérience vraiment horrible! Évite l'endroit. Il y a beaucoup de bons restaurants dans cette région et Toukoul n'en fait certainement pas partie.

Worst service the four of us have ever seen, staff were hanging around the table and taking drinks and food that was unfinished without asking and obviously trying to get us out as quickly as possible.

The at the end, they messed up the order and charged us twice for what we didn't order, came to 140 euro for 4 people and low quality and cold food!

A truly horrific experience! Avoid the place. There are plenty of good and friendly restaurants in that area and Toukoul is certainly not one of them.

Aug 14, 2019 21:58