Why we like this
- Wonderful architecture: Ben Abeba has the most unique design of any restaurant we've seen. As you approach, you see its spiral staircases and raised platforms lit up in orange as the lighting reflects against the clay moulding. As you get closer and begin to hear the chattering of the many happy customers within, the building starts to feel like a living, breathing organism.
- Stunning views: spiralling ramps lead you to stunning views overlooking the northern highlands. The relatively flat landscape is framed by mountains peaks either side and the roads and buildings in the foreground fade to hazy, shimmering mountains in the distance. These mountains continue into the horizon, tinted in reds, yellows, and oranges as the sun sets directly behind them.
- Exceptional service: the charm of Ben Abeba extends beyond its location and design. The service from the staff and delightful welcome and charm of the owner keeps us coming back time and time again.
- Creative dishes: Ben Abeba must have claim to the most unique menu in Ethiopia. A fusion of traditional Scottish dishes with traditional Ethiopian dishes, its clear the design of the building didn't exhaust all the imagination from the owners as it can be found in spades on Ben Abeba's menu. It's not all fusion, though, and there are plenty of international and local Ethiopian dishes to please the palettes of tourists and locals alike.
The Ben Abeba Experience
As if Lalibela wasn't already extraordinary enough, one Scottish ex-home economics professor sought to make it even more magical. Thanks to Susan's efforts, there is now a hilltop restaurant overlooking the beautiful highlands around Lalibela, packed with both locals and tourists fresh off a tour of the nearby 13th century rock-hewn churches.
Susan and her partner, Habtamu, have turned a once wacky idea into one of Ethiopia's most successful and renowned eateries. The pair have carved out a unique space in the Ethiopian restaurant scene.
The energy and creativity of Ben Abeba is most apparent in its design, with spiralling staircases leading to raised platforms overlooking the expansive highlands beyond the escarpment. On the approach walk at night, the building is lit up in orange as LEDs reflect off the clay exterior, and the building almost looks alive as you start hear the chattering of happy customers and the building takes up more and more of your field of view. Before long you're meandering up the spiral walkways and the quirky innards of Ben Abeba are replaced in an instant by staggering views that flood into sight before you fully emerge onto the platform to dine.
Fortunately, Ben Abeba is not all about the views. The restaurant can back it up with fantastic food that can please both Ethiopian and international palettes. The menu often combines traditional Ethiopian dishes with traditional Scottish dishes - to delightful results.
It's a remarkable accomplishment and a wonderful addition to what is already a spectacularly beautiful and fascinating town. Once you have explored the incredible churches that make this town so famous, spend a night or two at Ben Abeba and you'll leave with a heavy heart (but a full stomach).
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Fusing history, culture, landscapes and wildlife along a perfectly paced circuit, this trip is a synthesis of the very best experiences on offer in Ethiopia’s northern highlands. Explorations of the ancient cities Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Lalibela are broken…
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