When you step into Somali restaurant Banaadiri, head straight for the counter. It’s where the friendly server stands in front of 12 grainy pictures which make up the menu. But what this Shepherd’s Bush spot lacks in physical menus and the input of an interior designer, it makes up for in fall off the bone meat, and excellent-value portions that will keep you full for the next 48 hours.
The restaurant is an in-and-out kind of place—the white lighting and mismatched dining chairs hint at the fact that it's all about the food here. The limited tables are usually half-filled by friends looking for a quick fix when they’re on a budget, or a hungry Twitter-scroller perching on a chair while waiting for their takeaway order.
The first time we pointed to a picture on the menu and were told "it’s lamb and rice", we weren’t 100% sure what to expect. But by our second visit, we were eager to re-order the mandi, tender lamb shoulder covered in caramelised onions, potatoes, and peppers that requires minimal chewing thanks to the softness of the meat. All the food is served in a silver tray with huge piles of yellow, peppery rice, and makes for an excellent weeknight dinner when you’re looking for something that tastes home-cooked.
Although this is just rice and meat, it's an understatement to call it that. Every grain of rice holds its own, with hints of cinnamon and turmeric peaking through. Combined with a piece of soft lamb shoulder, which comes away from the bone with the slightest nudge, it's the perfect mouthful. We could happily eat this once a week.
A basic spaghetti in a dry, tomato sauce, this is fine alongside some meat, and is an easy win if you’ve got some kids with you. But we prefer the rice dishes.
Banaadiri’s strong suit is its red meat, so we’d opt for the lamb over the slightly overcooked grilled chicken. It’s inoffensive, nicely spiced, but equally forgettable. When you glance over and see the person at the next table ditching the cutlery and pulling the lamb apart with their hands, you’ll kick yourself for getting the chicken.