Magic Falafel by ANON.

It’s rare to find yourself in Camden Lock market on a weekday unless you work there, are a tourist, or a teenager looking for something illicit. I was just hungry after walking from town. It was sweltering and jammed full, with people lining the sides of the canal, the water bright green with summer algae.  Camden is a place renown for fast, varied, portable international food – much of it vegetarian. It even boasts a Mildred’s. The street food stalls snake around three or four alleyways in the market, with vendors cooking in small box kitchens and vying for passing trade.  They’ve taken to laying out samples on their counters to make their offerings stand out and appeal. But in the heat, it all just looked congealed and fly-blown. Despite its veggie credentials, there was very little fresh food on offer in the market. Lots of basic meat in bread/wrap combinations – tacos, burgers, various Asian specialities wrapped in a takeaway layer of various rice papers or chapatti – but nothing with any crunch.  It’s noticeable in the new laudable hipster love affair with plant-based diets that many of the insta/facebook sites and markets do tend to be of the deep-fried, processed faux meat, highly sugar-laced confectionary type. There’s a lot of cake and baked goods that you’d never look at twice normally, being scoffed in the name of new found vegan life.  It might be a symptom of the difficulty in carting fresh and chopped salad and vegetables in confined street food vendor vans and stalls. It might be nutritional ignorance – or everyone’s having a lot of cheat diet days. Whatever the reason, it’s great to turn Vegan to save the planet, but you have to save yourself too, and only a balanced diet of varied plants will do that.

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Which is why falafel is such a perfect meal. A falafel wrap just cannot be a falafel wrap unless it contains mountains of crisp salad and pickle.  A truly wonderful falafel – street food or not – always come with that right combination of masses of varied, fresh and crunchy salad, hotly spiced falafel, perfect creamy tahini sauce, sweet/sharp chilli sauce and soft pita. So it took a few forlorn wanders around the market (and even a look into Mildred’s) finally to come across a side alley with the glorious sight of a mountain of fresh carrots, purple cabbage, pickles, tomatoes and grilled aubergines calling to me like a siren to a sailor in the deep fried fog. It’s called Magic Falafel – and not only are they jolly nice people – their falafel roll is a masterpiece of stuffing pita with extraordinary amounts of crunch, bite and creaminess, for six pounds. They do boxed falafel too for those who eschew bread. But the pita comes in a nice tough bag, easy to take away and eat by the canal with a view of the algae and Amy impressionists, and strong enough to take what’s left (it’s huge) home.

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Magic Falafel. Camden Lock Markets.

Bread – 3/5

Falafel- 4/5

Salad – 4/5

Extras 4/5

Intoxication – 0/5

Many Thanks to our special guest reviewer ANONYMOUS this week!

 

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Greek Falafels (Athens Part 2).

Ratemyfalafel.com took a trip to Athens in March to sample the growing number of falafel eateries in the capital city. Well, we went there to volunteer for ECHO refugee library, who provide a library service to migrants/refugees in and around Athens, but the real reason was of course to get falafel. It would be ludicrous to pretend otherwise. It’s taken a very long time to get round to writing about this trip – not because I was traumatised or anything, but because I watched all 7 seasons of Game of Thrones over the long winter…

During my brief 12 day stay, I managed to squeeze in 4 falafels. I would have had more but every time I actually wanted one (like when drunk) they were all shut. 2 of the falafels were bought reluctantly from a trendy hipster-ish place in eXarchia, in which the staff were surly. It was like being home in Bristol – graffiti everywhere, rude staff, over priced – a must have for any Brits/Bristolians feeling homesick. The only difference was that in Athens there are terrifying army and police everywhere, hanging around with massive guns (weapons, not muscles. Though in comparison to UK cops, they are better equipped in that area too).

The falafel on both occasions was sub par.  The first time round I forgot to ask for it to be vegan (I just assumed, I’m that kind of person) so it came with a generous dollop of yoghurt-y sauce (they love yoghurt over there, or so I hear). The second time I asked for it without, and she grimaced at me with raised eyebrows in a ‘fuck you’ kind of snarl. It also could have been ‘cos I was talking English, having not learnt any Greek at all. Apart from thank you, which I think I pronounced badly. Either way, she was unimpressed by me in general. As I was with the falafel. It was dry and hummus free, with a disappointing salad.

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Review-

Bread – 4/5 – nothing to complain about here, but not amazing

Falafel – 3/5 – dry

Salad – 2/5 – bland

Intoxication – 3/5

Service – 2/5

The next falafel was made for me by a man living in one of the refugee camps. I’d been volunteering for the library for a week, going to various social centres and camps to bring books and help catalogue the stock, and by the time it got to Friday I was ready for a decent falafel. I believe the falafel- cook was Syrian but I also could be wrong about that. Any way, it was brilliant. Costing just one euro, made in his kitchen in his caravan, he presented it to us with no fuss (and actually no words, neither of us spoke the others language). We communicated by a shared loved of fried chickpeas alone.

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I recorded an interview about this particular falafel, made whilst trying not to get falafel all over the books, and trying to entertain very enthusiastic kids. Unfortunately I lost it. It was good.

A final falafel was bought in a very cheap ‘street food’ type place called ‘street souvlaki’ in the centre near all the touristy bits. The price was right at 1.80, it was just big enough (I could have eaten more), but it did have a weird taste to it. A bit like a mixture between an onion baji and a falafel. Which is fine, as I am a bit bored of falafel these days. But still, it wasn’t really what I would call a falafel. And as always, no hummus. In fact, it was very difficult to find ANY hummus in Athens at all. Shocking.

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WE DO NOT SELL NITROUS OXIDE

Apologies to all the falafel lovers out there. Your falafel stuffed author has been too busy watching TV and complaining about the cold to write any reviews for a while. Life is hard.
Well, we moved to another part of Bristol. One of the primary reasons to move was to appreciate a whole new range of falafel eateries, this time in Easton. Stapleton Road and St Marks Road both boast several places to find falafel, all within a stones throw of our tiny, mouldy flat (complete with infuriating downstairs neighbours).
Let me summarise the falafel thus far
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Al-Waha has it all. Pizza, Indian curry, Afghan food and, falafel. Having sampled most of these foods, I can quite firmly say that all of the food is cheap in taste and in price. The curry is overly greasy with murky vegetables swimming in fat, and the pizza is made with that weird fake cheese that is in all cheap pizza places (which is only edible when drunk). The falafel was equally shit. They didn’t even attempt to contain the ingredients within the so-called ‘wrap’, just letting it slop all over the greasy paper. Far too dry and far too onion-y, the falafel came with a tantalising smudge of hummus which did nothing to relieve the dryness. I was having one of my periodic no drinking spells, which naturally made the falafel even more depressing, along with life in British winter. Why did I decide not to drink? It is one of life’s small pleasures, along with falafel of course (good falafel, not shit falafel). I can’t wait to start drinking again. Anyway…
Bread 2/5 (was standard but the wrapping was terrible)
Falafel 1/5
Salad 1/5 (too onion-y)
Minus points for scant hummus
good points – price (£3 with chips)
Also, very un- pretentious. No frills. I like that.
Baba Ganoush – Stapleton Rd
‘WE DO NOT SELL NITROUS OXIDE HERE’ reads the sign on the door.

Good to know, I mused as we entered into the café with my brother and my niece. Techno was blasting out at lunchtime. The walls seems to be ‘boom town ‘ themed, which was weird, until I realised that the owners had helped set up the festival. Having been to Boom Town Fair many times, this café seemed to be perfect. Rave meets falafel. The seats were comfy. The nervous waitress took our order, seemingly disconcerted to have a 5 year old in tow with us. She was probably high.  We accidentally ordered a too large quantity of food, all mezze dishes, including falafel and hummus.

It was far too much food. It was also very overpriced for lunch.
The food was really tasty, but my niece didn’t agree. I think she probably wanted a cheese sandwich or something.
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price – too much
falafel – 4/5 good
bread- 4/5
Salad – 4/5
In all fairness, I would like to go back there again and just get the falafel wrap for a truly accurate analysis.
stay tuned for my next post – “the proposal”

Library Falafel – Tough Times, High Hopes

Munching on a cheeky lunch break falafel at Wick Road Library,  I couldn’t help wonder if this would be the last time I falafel-ed it in this particular library. It was one of the 17 libraries in Bristol marked for closure and the decision was to be made in a few weeks time (December 4th). I scoffed the falafel pensively, it was good. A decent amount of hummus, no need for extra sauces, not too big, not too dry. I stared out of the staff room window which over looked the garish new build flats that had popped up some months before, blocking the access to our garden gate entirely. Maybe that was part of their evil scheme. It was common knowledge that the whole site would be turned into un-affordable flats as soon as the library shuts its door- this was lucrative real estate. It was good falafel, but would I come to Brislington just to eat it when the library shut down? I doubt it. I tried to savour it, but gobbled it down too fast (I’m only human).

 

I had been disappointed by Marvin Rees’ standard reply to the passionate letter I had written to him about libraries the previous week, using my personal experiences and making the argument that libraries play a vital role in supporting other services – this shortsighted approach will put more pressure on other services – it will not save money, nor lives. At least the council had released a motivating new consultation with the catchy tag line “tough times, high hopes” – together, we can do it! A more cynical person than I would think the marketing team were laughing in our faces.

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Wick road was one of the libraries I was most upset about, in fact. It was a well used busy library. Just this morning we had a computer class and a craft class, in the afternoon our knitting group would arrive. Someone was helping someone with a job search on one table, another group were having a quiet work meeting. The library was also often full of young parents and kids. Baby bounce and rhyme was always packed with babies – a little too much so if you ask me (spoiler alert – I HATE SINGING BABY SONGS, THAT’S WHY I DON’T WORK IN A NURSERY). The saddest thing about it though, is that there really isn’t anywhere else to go – no community centre nearby – just a small parade of shops. Libraries ceased to be about books ages ago – now they are spaces – to read and borrow books if they want, to use computers or simply be – no one charging you money for just existing.

My break time was over, my breath onion-y. It was worth it. It could be my last (lunch break) falafel. Perhaps that was worse than even losing my job or the declining literacy rates in children and adults. Where was the humanity?

Now to the review

Cafe – Sandy Park Rd, Bristol BS4 3PG

Falafel – 4/5

Salad – 3/5 (nothing special there)

Bread – 3/5 (standard)

Level of intoxication  – minus 1/5 ( I was the most sober I had ever been, 5 weeks into a no drinking challenge. Tough times, high hopes?)

Hummus +++

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

polish falafel(s)

Mc Falafel

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I had been in Wroclaw (vrotslarv??) for 3 days, still completely unable to pronounce any words, remember how to say thank you, or work out the price of anything. I had been thinking about McFalafel all day, ever since I had spied it in on a quick run in between talks. Perhaps I should explain. I wasn’t in Wroclaw on holiday, oh no, I was a very important and grown up person attending a week long international library conference (IFLA). I was also, stupidly, trying to train for a half marathon that I had foolishly signed up to in the spur of the moment the previous week, giving me just over 4 weeks to train. This, combined with the confusion of travelling, the Eurovision song contest style welcoming session, the copious amounts of free champagne (I had 5 glasses in 2 hours) and a complete lack of vegan food at the conference did not lead to a promising result on my run day and definitely not in Wroclaw. I had also managed to somehow confuse myself so much that all my various devices said completely different times on the screens that I accidentally missed the session for ‘newcomers’ as I had gone with a time 2 hours back instead of one hour ahead. I had managed to get lost 5 times on my first day and at least once on all the subsequent days, and I spent the conference considering throwing my devices in the many rivers that run through and around Wroclaw. It really is very pretty, and totally FLAT, unlike this godforsaken country. I had been to a particularly boring talk about Hungarian archiving, which was making me hungary, and I found my thoughts drifting to how polish falafel would compare to other attempts by European countries. Berlin had excellent falafel, and we were not too far away so my hopes were fairly high. I could have stayed to ‘network’ after the talks, but I know who I am and where I come from.

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It took me a while to find it again, I felt like I had been walking down the same street for hours until I finally strode into the brightly lit interior. (When I checked my google fit, it had actually been 7 minutes, I swear that thing isn’t right). There were 3 types of falafel to choose from ‘Zestaw Falafel’- no idea, ‘Pita Falafel’, and ‘Falafel’. Thank the lord ‘Falafel’ seems to be the same in all languages. I tried to remember the word for hello but reverted quickly to the tried and tested British way of ordering food in other countries – louder. FALAFEL? I shouted, gesturing to the board. The slightly bored server (there was a man and woman, which pleased me, normally falafel takeaways have a labour force of men) asked me in perfect English what type I would like and I gormlessly stared at him until he explained the options. I went for the standard wrap.

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I pondered on my experience so far as I awaited my food. It was interesting being in a country where I had absolutely no idea what anyone was saying, any of the time. Most times I visit somewhere I have a vague sense of what is going on, I can understand the tone of voice, read a few signs. Here, nothing. I did have an entire conversation with a Polish lady who was giving me directions to my hotel/apartment – she spoke in Polish and I spoke in English, but we seemed to get along OK. Trying to pretend to be a real person all week was also very tiring- I felt completely exhausted at all times. How must the people with English as a second or third language feel listening to all these talks (the conference was in English, naturally) in English? It hurt my brain just listening, and having one conversation in Spanish, with my only friend.

When my wrap arrived I was wary. There was far too much sauce, I thought “this will not be pretty”. However, the wrap managed to keep its form in a way that in fact the tahini sauce did not drip too much at all. The falafel had an almost floral taste to it, with hints of parsley and a generous amount of hummus. I was also very happy to note gherkins in the salad as this ticked off the ‘polish food’ eating part of my agenda. Actually, I had had a freezing cold gherkin for breakfast the previous day as well, I think I accidentally put it in the freezer section. It was disgusting.

Below is an example of some of the fish soup they tried to give me at the conference.

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I packed up the other half of the wrap for later with my every present tuppaware as it was very big and as I left I was pleased that the staff didn’t laugh at my attempt to say thank you – jenko ya?

Bread – 3/5

Sauce – 4/5

Salad – 3/5

Size- 5/5

Service 4/5

I also went to another vegan restaurant (Ahimsa?) on my last day. I had a singular falafel for a starter. It was a bit dry. They also had 2 pieces of vegan cheesecake on display but apparently they had ‘been reserved’. I left furious.

 

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If any one wants to sponsor my half marathon, it is for Libraries Without Borders who do loads of great work all over the world to get people access to library material and technology. https://gogetfunding.com/im-running-the-bristol-half-marathon-for-libraries-without-borders/

 

 

View from a professional – Mezze Palace

Well, we’re all pro’s at falafel I suppose, but I was dining this time with my professional chef friend, who made falafel for a living!  Double dining. A cutesy couple-y double date – dinner and a (shit) movie. Our other friends had reacted in disgust when we told them, and one of them (recently single) put on a punk song from the 70’s called ‘I hate Love’ repeatedly in protest.

Because we at RateMyFalafel.com take our impartiality very seriously, we have never reviewed my friends falafel at Bristol’s ‘Roll for the Soul’ (bike workshop / cafe / music venue, check it out) so we decided to go somewhere that would not compromise our integrity. This was Mezze Palace, on Small Street, a place that my chef friend boasted she had ‘tried everything vegetarian on the menu’. Except, it turns out, the falafel. She was sick to death of falafel (like the author).

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The 4 of us used to be the type of people who dug food out of bins and lived in squalor, trying to work as little as possible and that kind of thing. Now, as we reach the end of our 20’s, we have finer tastes and higher standards. With the same level of relative poverty, what with the rent paying and taxes and all that malarkey that you get when you enter free market capitalism, in the age of austerity.  I’m sure it will start to ‘trickle down’ soon, though.

As we met in the underground restaurant in which the Mezze Palace was situated, a very pretty and decorated Lebanese place, we immediately started a refined and adult conversation about crack. Luckily, to lighten the mood, one friend had brought along a joke book. While we waited for our sharing platter and sides to arrive, we contrived to find the most offensive joke. My favourite was :

Man at bar – do you serve women?

Barman – No, you have to bring your own.

When the food arrived it was delightful. We had a mixture of the typical Lebanese cuisine such as tabbouleh (which my friend claimed was  ‘the best tabbouleh anywhere ever’ hummus, vine leaves, foul medames, baba ganoush and of course, Falafel.

We tucked in straight away, using the bread to dip in and out and enjoying a spinach-y side that I had never had before. To be honest, the falafel was my least favourite of the dishes, there seemed to be an excess of parsley in all the food apart from the falafel, leaving it pale. Beige, one might say. It was very crisp ( I don’t like my falafel too crisp) and was covered in sesame seeds, which I did like.

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The service was weird. We were asked by 3 different waiters if we wanted to order a main (we were absolutely stuffed by the end of the sharing platter) and when we ordered a cheeky medicinal brandy instead as I was ill, the manager looked furious. When it came to pay we had to troop to the bar instead of having the bill brought to us. It was a strange end to the meal. Why would we need more food?

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Then we went to see Valerium at the cinema. It was as bad as the reviews had given it, sexist while trying not to be, very predictable and far too long.

The Ratings

Falafel – 2/5

Hummus – 5/5

Bread – 4/5

Service – 2/5

Ambience – 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

Falafel not Fracking!

I was standing in what can be best described as ‘pissing rain’, in the middle of Preston new road, wearing a ‘one size fits all’ incontinence nappy. But why? Had I taken a job as a traffic conductor or was I on a mandatory work scheme from the job centre? No. I was there to help block the road to prevent access to the fracking site, that Cuadrilla were still insisting on trying to use, despite literally having no support from anyone. Except from the government of course, and some big businesses, like banks. Anyone with children or like, hope for the future didn’t seem too pleased with the idea that they would soon have no drinking water and would suffer from earthquakes.

I suppose the nappy needs some explanation too, but we’ll get there, eventually.

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I admit I was a little disappointed. I’d gone up to the anti fracking camp to show my solidarity with the protectors up there, some of whom had been there for months, fearlessly stopping the convoys getting in by all means necessary. You’d think, however, that a fully functioning vegan kitchen would have some sort of falafel on offer for hardworking protesters, but shamefully, there was not even a whiff in sight. Not a trace!

My mind racing, tired from the travel up, I wracked my brains to think of an alternative way of accessing a falafel. I hadn’t brought any with me, assuming the situation would deal with itself. It was with this in mind that I offered my services as an ‘arrest-able’. You see, my friend had told me about this time that she got arrested in a group once and when she was released, she was presented with a hot, tasty falafel by the lovely activists of the Green and Black Cross. I’d be lying if i said that this tale didn’t influence my decision a little bit, to rise at 5am, don an adult nappy and ready myself to block the road- ‘locking on’ in arm tubes. (Hence the nappy, it can take hours to get cut off).

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a truck surfer – badass individuals who jump – or ‘surf’ onto a truck and just stay there for days, thus preventing the truck from entering the site!

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the plan changed as plans do and I was left waddling around in it all day, drenched to the skin from ludicrously insistent rain as I helped out others who had done the deed. This meant stopping them from being run over, and mainly being called a wanker by furious commuters who were so angry by the 30 second delay to their journeys, that revving up to potentially run us over seemed reasonabe. I did consider using the nappy (cos I could) at one point but I thought the novelty would soon wear off and I would lose the only part of my body not soaking wet.

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So I resisted the temptation to piss myself. And despite my best efforts, I didn’t get arrested either, thus eliminating the second potential falafel option. Must try harder next time!

New words learnt –  1 (Truck Surfer, very cool)

Falafels consumed- 0 (v disappointing)

Lorry’s stopped going in – dunno, but lots

Good news – L M T transport pulled out of working for Cuadrilla on ethical grounds

Bad news – scummy Cuadrilla snuck in a convoy in the middle of the night, illegally.

For some actual information on whats going on, see Reclaim the Power and Rising Up on Facebook and Twitter!

#WesaidNo #RollingResistance

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