You might have heard of Beza Ethiopian Vegan Food already, or even tasted her authentic cuisine, because she’s been on the food scene in South London since 2006. But now she has her very own restaurant – the aptly named now open on Sayer Street.
Starting with a stall on Camden Market in the early 2000s, Beza moved to the Elephant Artworks in 2016. Her time spent cooking in the area, meeting the local community and developing contacts with other independent businesses made her decide that Elephant and Castle was the perfect place for her to house the restaurant she’d been waiting years to open.
We caught up with Beza to find out all about her little piece of Ethiopia in the Elephant.
What is the background of Beza?
I trained in nutrition, and have always been interested in the nutritional value of good-quality, tasty food made with the best ingredients possible. Originally, because there wasn’t as much of an appetite for vegan food, I offered vegan and meat-filled dishes on a stall on Camden Market. Often, customers would ask why I was offering both choices, and I explained traditional vegan Ethiopian food, and how my plan in the future was to open a restaurant that was fully vegan.
Why Elephant and Castle?
One of my neighbouring stallholders at Camden Market moved to a pop-up at Artworks in Elephant and Castle, and they were telling me I should open there too. When I first moved over from Ethiopia, I lived with my cousin near Elephant and Castle, so I knew the area, but I wasn’t sure whether the space would be right for me.
I went to see Artworks and did some taster dishes for management to try. I got to know the area a lot more, met the people living in Elephant Park, experienced the diversity and friendly nature of the area, and it became a bit of a home from home. I saw that more local businesses were popping up, so I started looking for a place for my new restaurant here. When the unit on Sayer Street became available, I was very excited and jumped at the chance to be part of it.
How would you describe Beza in three words?
Cosy, traditional, happy.
Why did you decide to go fully vegan for this restaurant?
I cook plant-based food; I always have and, because of Ethiopian traditions, I wanted to offer a fully vegan menu at this new space. Vegetarian and vegan food in my home country can be traced back to one of the world’s oldest religious bodies, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The church states that, during Easter, people must fast for two months, but they are allowed one vegan meal per day. Outside of Easter, the church states that people shouldn’t consume animal products on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Because of these traditions, I learned to cook delicious vegan meals from locally grown produce – and I wanted to share this with the local community when I moved to London.
What food have we got to look forward to?
The menu is made up of traditional vegan dishes packed full of vegetables and Ethiopian flavours. Expect dishes such as Shiro Wat (stews and curries) using berbere (an Ethiopian hot spice blend), with traditional injera (flatbread), and lots of turmeric, which Ethiopians believe offers health benefits, including helping your complexion and boosting the immune system. We like to keep everything fresh, so the menu changes every three days, offering variety each time you walk in. I hope people will discover a little Ethiopia on their doorstep.
What else can people expect from Beza?
This is just the start of my business; I’ve got big plans. I want to help the local community with wellbeing and health – both with the food I have on offer and by giving them a place to come and take part in activities and get to know one another. So I plan to host small ‘mummy yoga’ sessions at Beza.
I would also like to show more Ethiopian traditions to the local community. I’d like to host live Ethiopian music and events to bring the community together. All big plans, so please let me know if you’re interested in these events when you pop in.
What do you predict will happen to the food and drink scene in Elephant and Castle over the next five years?
I can only hope to see the variety of activity in the area continue. You see different things in Elephant and Castle daily, and I love the multicultural feel. I also really hope that more small, independent businesses such as mine pop up around the area; it’s great to have so many already, but it would be great if this expands.
Beza vegan food is now open at 8A Sayer Street, Elephant and Castle. Pop in between 12pm and 10pm Monday to Saturday, to experience your own trip to Ethiopia. Find out more on Beza’s website.
Since late 2019, Sayer Street has become home to a whole host of restaurants offering cuisine from across the world including Japanese, Jamaican, Lebanese, Ecuadorian and much more, all in Elephant Park.