Homecoming Falafels: The Triumphant Return

That’s right, we couldn’t resist the pull of mighty olde England and we returned once more to the glorious homeland. I wanted to see Brexit in all its fanfare – putting the Great back into Great Britain. So, we drove for 3 days across land and sea, and arrived back in the old country – to witness history in the making. Also, I really wanted a crumpet and a decent curry. And a falafel, obviously. One of the first things I noticed in the first few days of being back was the sudden proliferation of vegan food absolutely everywhere. I mean, Bristol was pretty darn vegan friendly when I left just 5 months before, but now you couldn’t go anywhere without massive signs announcing vegan menus, the supermarkets had entire freezers full of vegan ice-cream, Greggs vegan sausage rolls were on sale everywhere (well, in Greggs). It was brilliant, especially as I had recently developed a dislike of cooking for myself. It was perfect timing. The prices just need to be quartered and I’d be laughing, (and rolling around, obese). It felt a bit like cheating really, though. It used to be a challenge to be vegan, you could feel smug, knowing you were better than everyone else and their insatiable appetites. Now, it was too easy to eat total crap, junk food galore, that happens to be vegan.

I digress somewhat. We were staying at a friends house which was just off Stokes Croft, and I knew for a fact it was just a stones throw away from Biblos, who do pretty good (if hipster-expensive) falafel wraps. I had been obsessing about getting one for the entire journey from Italy to Bristol and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. If you get there before 6pm you can have a medium wrap for £4.50 otherwise it is a whopping £6 for a wrap – which is frankly ridiculous. I arrived at 17.58, just in the nick of time and ordered a falafel wrap with mixed veg. I anxiously waited for it to arrive, reading the Bristol Cable as I did so – an excellent local, cooperatively run investigative journalism type newspaper- lacks in falafel reviews and horoscopes. I had quite a while to kill before meeting a friend in town so I could take my time over the falafel, savouring the flavours and analysing the composition scientifically. I was starving though, and greedy, so I demolished the thing just as quickly as normal.

With less grace than normal in fact, as it was far too full and completely fell apart. I thought I was just being gross, but then I noticed others were having similar struggles and had requested cutlery to eat the rest of theirs. A wise idea, that I wish I had thought of. Instead I ended up with sauce all over my hands. It was good, but not as good as ones I had there before. The veg was different and was too cabbage heavy this time, whereas before it had mainly been roasted veg like sweet potato. It was still a hundred times better than anything I had sampled in Italy, however.

A few days later my friend told me about Eat A Pitta. I mean, I knew all about Eat a Pitta obviously, I am not an amateur, but she said there was a deal that you could buy a salad, 3 falafel and hummus for only £2.20, and then 50p for an extra salad if you wanted. I had received many free Eat a Pitta Falafels in my time, whenever I passed by, so I felt it was time to actually buy one. I know people who swear by Eat a Pitta, but I had always been put off by the big queues and the chain nature of them. However, it was time to open my mind and I happened to be in Clifton, failing yet another interview to work for Bristol University. I consoled myself with a falafel salad at the Clifton Eat a Pitta branch. After a brief confusion about paying one person then having to produce the receipt a minute later to someone else, I managed to get my order. I went for 2 salads – a tabbouleh and a mixed greek style salad with cucumber, onion and tomato.

homecoming falafel 4

The falafel itself was really tasty – green on the inside and moist, crispy on the outside. I had thought in the past that their falafel was a little too dry, but they seemed to have perfected the recipe now. The hummus was ample, but non- descript, and the salad was fresh and pleasant. I felt pleased with myself for having gone for a slightly healthier lunch than usual, but I vowed to try the pitta as the name suggested later as well.

UPDATE: Another friend has now informed me that Eat a Pitta have now started offered a zaatar flat bread for an additional 50p that is ‘very nice indeed’.

 

Biblos, Stokes Croft

Bread – 3/5

Salad/Veg – 4/5

Falafel – 3/5

Customer Service – 3/5

Intoxication – 0/5 (alas)

Plus points for hummus

 

Eat a Pitta, Clifton

Bread – N/A

Salad – 4/5

Faladel – 4/5

Customer Service – 3/5

Intoxication – 0/5 (shame)

Plus points for hummus.

All in all, both were good but lacked the wow factor. Stay tuned for more Bristol Falafel!

 

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I’m not basic

I hate to be so basic but I’m partial to chain restaurants. The predictability suits my anxious nature. I had come to Gloucester for some training and as lunch approached I googled for a trusty old Pret. But to my dismay I was informed that the nearest Pret was in Cheltenham. How do people of Gloucester cope? Where do they go for their predictable sandwiches and soups. I was at a loss. That is until I walked past a sign outside a cafe called Tarbosh advertising vegan falafel wraps!

jenn falafel 4

The only problem was this wasn’t a chain. My hunger fought with my anxiety. Was I going to wonder around Gloucester getting increasingly more fatigued and hangry or was I going to brave it and try somewhere different! I knew that I could use this experience for ratemyfalafel, which is an important thing to factor into any meal decision making. I entered the cafe and was greeted by the friendly staff. I made my request for a vegan falafel wrap with no cucumber and sat down.

The establishment was nicely furnished and had a homely vibe. All was well so far. My falafel arrived on a really nice plate. However the side salad contained the dreaded cucumber..I picked up the wrap to inspect and thankfully there was no cucumber inside. I was pleased that a side of hummus was provided topped with an olive.

The falafel was crispy and had an inviting green inside. I would’ve liked a little more flavour but otherwise it was good. The wrap was tightly wrapped and grilled to ensure its stability.

jenn falafel 3

Rating : 4/5 Price: 3/5 (£5.50 felt a bit steep although the ingredients were fresh)

Bread: 3.5/5 it was OK it didn’t add or subtract from the experience

Intoxication: 0

Customer service:4/5

Hummus:4/5

Thanks to Miss Jennifer W for this guest post!

Self-Pity “Pizza – Falafel” Party

Thanks to Miss J.W for this guest post!

It had been a pretty wasteful day. My heart was filled with an unexplainable sorrow. On returning home it was discovered that the kitchen was bare except for a frozen Goodfellas Falafel Pizza. This had been purchased with great excitement months ago but on inspection I had developed an aversion to trying it. Since my mood was one of despair not easily improved or worsened, I felt it this would be the perfect time to embark on a potentially disappointing culinary experience.

pizza falafel 3

I took the pizza out of the box and was taken by the brightness of the spinach and red pepper. The attractive element was short lived as I remembered a particularly repugnant pizza with spinach I had recently. I put the pizza in the oven and sat down in the living room to reruns of the Kardashians. The smell emanating from the kitchen was surprisingly pleasant which reminded me that I had forgotten to put the timer on. I put it in for a further 10 minutes. This seemed to be okay although my pizza was slightly crispy. I reluctantly took a bite and was met with a mediocre falafel but it was not bad. I added some Naga Chilli salt (I like my food to make me cry) and dipped the rest in vegan mayonnaise and Cholula hot sauce I would say my initial apprehension was probably a bit dramatic and the pizza wasn’t too bad. The bread was good especially since it was a little crispy.

The falafel didn’t make much of an impact taste wise and one could be forgiven if you forgot there was falafel on there at all.

All in all for something quick and more importantly for something to dip into Hellman’s delicious vegan mayonnaise I would say this pizza has its place. Would I buy it again? Probably not but if someone served it to me I wouldn’t recoil in horror.

Review – 3/ 5.

Bread 3/5

Salad 2.5/5 not a fan of spinach on pizza and the red pepper didn’t taste as good as red pepper can taste

Intoxication 0/5

Price 4/5 cheap

Customer Service 1/5

Guest post: falafel in India!

Thanks very much to Laura for this review.
Chill Out Hostel Hampi Falafel Hampi

Having tried and failed to review Australian falafel I have to say I was not optimistic of success in India. How wrong was I. Here in Hampi it seems there is not a menu without an Israeli section offering the delights of falafel.

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Where’s the sauce?!?

Well what you see is what I got exactly as the menu said: falafel, salad, chips, hummus, pita. Crunchy, uncomplicated and in the eating uncompromising. The chips were a real highlight perhaps, with a touch of turmeric for that authentic Indian touch. The hummus was fine if non-descript, but the pita was lovely and fluffy though somewhat redundant on a side plate. The falafel itself was tasty and crunchy, did I say crunchy, very crunchy. The biggest disappointment for me was the salad which was just cucumber and tomato. Afterwards I tentatively suggested the addition of onion and mentioned something about chilli.

Pluses: Good service, great music, unbeatable location. Marks out of 5 = 2.5.

PS will try to try some more Hampi falafel when I have fully recovered from my non falafel related food poisoning!

Chick Re-visited : a Brexit Special

Chick Falafel, Brent Cross Shopping Centre: North London 

We have reviewed this particular eatery before, but we at ratemyfalafel.com are nothing if not thorough – we welcome new insights and perspectives. Thanks to this weeks guest contributor for this gem: Marie @planteatingposts (insta)

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Well, just because the entire country has taken leave of its senses doesn’t mean I’m going to miss lunch. And I’ve found a very fresh and highly recommendable falafel chain called Chick, in an unlikely place – the middle of Brent Cross shopping mall. I’d gone there to blank out the political insanity and to try to buy a coat in the sales. But oh Falafel community! These are difficult and uncertain times, particularly those of us who like our food international. This week – in and out of the UK parliament – businesses and commentators have raised the likelihood of dire Brexit-related food shortages. Meaty fast food chains like KFC, who experienced a chicken shortage only last year, and Macdonalds, have written to the Prime Minister, begging not to crash out of Europe. A third of UK food comes from elsewhere. Non meat eaters are not immune. Lettuce and other hothouse-grown salad ingredients  will apparently be at a premium. Responses to these warnings have ranged from stiff upper lips types on TV news vox pops, telling us that going without will ”do us good after so much plenty” – to one Unionist Northern Irish DUP politician being overheard by the Green MP sniggering “let them eat chips”. ( The irony that chips are potatoes and his island has a certain history with having food withheld, and shortages, evidently lost on him).

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So what about falafel? Against the tide, I’m optimistic. Today’s pitta ( choice of white or brown bread – or a box with no bread ) was full of carrot and red cabbage, raw onions, plus pickles. Now I’m pretty sure we grow all that here – so that’s fine. Mine had a tad too much tahini sauce but it was served with plentiful crunch and a smile. The falafel were hot, freshly fried and – delicious. The ingredients for those and the hummus – chick peas, are imported from India and Turkey. So I think we’re covered for non-EU
sources there,  if we keep our wits about us. We could start stockpiling too,  as dried chick peas and sesame (tahini) keep for ages.

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All in all, it’s a good little outfit and very welcome in the grimness of shopping in Brent Cross. As I caught the bus home, I allowed myself two crumbs of optimism in this lunatic week; firstly that healthy falafels are surviving as a relatively cheap and popular none-meat fast food concession, which might even steal some custom from KFC and Maccas, and secondly, such is the unique combination of ingredients in a falafel, that not even their hardest and most insane efforts, will stop the tories ruining my lunch.

Chick Falafel, Brent Cross Shopping Centre: North London
NW4 3FP Hendon, Barnet, United Kingdom.

https://www.facebook.com/chickfalafelbrentcross/

Price- £6.50 for a giant pitta falafel with salad and pickles – pricey but huge and easily feeds two people.
Customer Service – Nice people.

(Anti) Fascist falafel?

 

So. We moved to Italy. We were travelling around Italy for our honeymoon, seeing all sorts of beautiful things and it seemed like as good as any place to rest our heads. We were a bit tired of moving around all the time and having to re-pack the f**king car every 5 minutes. So, Nettuno it was. A lovely sea side town not too far from Rome. The apartment we rented (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sea view) was cheaper than what we were paying in Bristol for literally a shoe box, and my partner was able to find a job teaching English in a nearby town of Latina almost instantly. Everything was going swimmingly, and in fact I was swimming in the sea most days.

 

Then. Winter hit. It was suddenly too cold to swim in the sea. And I couldn’t help but notice all the fascist graffiti. It hadn’t been at all obvious with our rose-tinted glasses on when we first moved in, but more and more swastikas and ‘fasci’ symbols appeared as if from nowhere, not so much in Nettuno but in all the neighbouring towns. I took it as a personal mission to ‘correct’ as many as possible with my trusty spray paint and paint pens, that I took to keeping on me at all times. The bizarre thing was that some of it was written in English – ‘support your local fascist crew’ – when Italian fascism is based on ‘Italy for Italians’ – why reach out in English?

support your local fascist crew

The message has now been changed to ‘support your local anti-fascist crew’

Latina, where my partner worked, turned out to be a man-made town built upon drained swamp land, designed by none other than Mussolini himself. In fact, the inhabitants didn’t seem to have a bad word to say about the mass murderer. But we didn’t know this at first.

Hungry, we were in Latina having gone into the nearby mountains for a day with our good friend QUAID who was visiting. Where could we grab a bite to eat? Naturally most places were shut as we were once again not hungry in the designated dining periods, but we managed to find somewhere with lights on and piled into the café. We sat down and waited for the waiter to come to us. Looking around, suddenly I realised that there was a familiar bald looking man staring at us from a bottle of wine on a neighbouring table. It couldn’t be?  I nudged the others. Taking a furtive glance at the walls of this otherwise sparsely decorated café, I realised they were covered in pictures of il Duce himself. There were about 20 photos of Mussolini. Horrified, we scuttled out, taking refuge in a kebab place. Kebab places can’t be fascist, we reasoned. Anyway, I was sick of ‘pizza rossa’ and marinara by this stage and welcomed the idea of a hearty falafel wrap. How had we ended up living in an overwhelmingly fascist area? Apparently, the region where we live, Lazio, is well known to be full of fascists. It would be funny, 2 anti-fascist activists accidently living in the heart of nationalist Italy, if it wasn’t so bloody depressing.

 

Istanbul Pascia Kebap, Latina.

As previously mentioned, falafels in Italy thus far are pretty hit and miss. So, I wasn’t holding out for anything particularly special with this dining experience. I was just happy that the walls were covered in random pictures from all over the world rather than a stern-faced dictator. No Erdogan in sight either (it was a Turkish kebab place). Once again, the falafel had the option of coming with chips inside the wrap, which pleased me and were able to choose from a variety of sauces and salad.

falafel 2

The falafel was fried and had a satisfying green colour when bitten into. It was well wrapped, and was massive. The chili sauce was actually fairly spicy, and the staff were very friendly. Another positive was that it was actually open for business, you were able to order and enjoy food at the disgusting time of 6.30pm. I know, madness. However, all in all, it did lack something. It was OK, but it didn’t have quite what I was looking for. Not a bad falafel, but nothing special. It was also quite expensive – 6 euros for falafel, chips and a drink.

 

[UPDATE] On a second visit, my husband was given a discount for wearing his Kurdish scarf, by another woman working there who was Kurdish herself. Win.

Review

Falafel – 4/5

Bread- 3/5

Salad – 3.5/5

Customer Service – 4.5/5

Intoxication 0/5

 

 

TRIGGER WARNING

 

The worst falafel wrap I have ever had

This falafel left me feeling really sad. I purchased it at the Cobham service station from the ‘Tossed counter’, for a ridiculously high price. It was dry, with the tiniest smear of hummus in a tiny strip, teasing me. It had barely any falafel in it all! No picked veg as promised, but a huge amount of red cabbage. It was basically a red cabbage wrap. It was the most disappointing falafel I’ve ever eaten.

0/10

red cabbage falafel

Many thanks to our guest reviewer for this blunt and insightful post. I’ve been wanting to try a service station falafel for a while as they always look alarmingly bad, but I’ve never worked up the courage. 

Do you have review? Let us know –  ratemyfalafel@gmail.com