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.
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.
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?)
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).
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.
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?
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.
Falafel – 2/5
Hummus – 5/5
Bread – 4/5
Service – 2/5
Ambience – 4/5
As I bit into into Biblos’s ‘Veggie Challenge’ with a sigh of satisfaction on Friday, I couldn’t help but ruminate on the last ‘meal’ I had had.
Let me set the scene. 24 hours previous to the falafel I was waiting for my prison issue food. Yes, I’d been nicked, again. This time for the hideous crime of ‘chalking on the pavement’, which was almost as ridiculous as the time before when I had been arrested for standing near the police whilst owning a mobile phone.
I was starving. I’d eaten one crumpet with olive oil (the only food in the house) at 8 am, after which I had worked on my essay for an hour, briefly attended a protest against Barclays (who fund fracking) and then been unnecessarily arrested in the process. Apparently writing in chalk in front of a bank is enough to get you manhandled by 3 cops and detained for 10 hours.
Naturally, I was very hungry when they eventually gave us some food at 6.30pm. “It couldn’t be worse than the Spanish prison food” I’d thought, as I remembered that particular delight. I seem to remember a weird mushy green ‘energy’ bar and some dry crackers, 3 times a day. This time I was given the choice, ‘veggie chili’ or ‘beans, wedges and mushrooms’. I considered the question for a while then pumped for the beans, thinking that even prisons can’t get beans too badly wrong. Veggie chili has too many variables.
It was the most exciting thing that had happened in hours, having spent all bloody day in a cell with nothing to do and no-one to talk to and no food. It’s lucky I can see the funny side of things otherwise I would have been FURIOUS.
The ‘food’ was delivered to me through the slot without a word and I took it eagerly (minus points for service). I took my time, looking at it from various sides and taking it all in (there was really nothing else to do). The beans and ‘wedges’ came stacked up in 2 separate trays, served straight from the microwave. Nestled either side were 2 cereal bars. I opened up one of the trays, shaking slightly from the low blood sugar and poked around with the wooden cutlery to see what I could make out. A singular mushroom bobbed up at me and I lunged at it with a spoon, savouring the weird rubbery texture. “Probably one of my five a day there” I guessed and got stuck in to the rest of it, reluctantly sampling the wedges first and then finally the beans. The wedges were soggy as they had been boiled up with the beans, but at least the beans were OK. You really can’t mess up beans.
Other highlights from the day included when one of the policeman took my camera away and photographed his own crotch, and getting moved into a cell that didn’t have poo in the sink.
So, as I sank my teeth into a real meal on Friday, the falafel flavoursome and warming, I couldn’t help but think to myself “this is what freedom tastes like”.
For more information and a hilarious video see this Bristol Post article http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/three-arrested-after-four-hour-44459
It had been a weird day and it was only 3pm. I had woken up early to get some work done on the millions of essays I had to give in (6 actually) but got instantly distracted by checking our Twitter. I was disappointed to see that our high of 65 followers had dwindled to 59 – what did we do??? Just as I was about to log off and begin work in earnest, I found out that none other than Theresa May, our gracious (and fashionable) ruler, was to come to Bristol for a ‘rally’. Maybe Twitter does have a purpose after all! Well, the next few hours were spent trying to find out where exactly she would be, but it was really well hidden. I gave up, faffed around, then got ready to give away my blood.
Not in a weird ritual for May Day or anything, just the local blood drive thing had come to town and I had made an appointment years (felt like) before to donate some of my lovely healthy falafel fuelled blood. After waiting for AGES, they took a little sample to check my iron levels (I failed that particular test last time I tried) and this time I made it! My iron levels are fine. Take that, vegan critics! And I take no supplements, just in case you were wondering. Ha.
Anyway, to cut the monologue short, I waited for hours more (felt like) and eventually got sat in the chair. But to my horror, 3 professionals failed to find a decent vein! One of my arms has like, no veins apparently and the other one was ‘far too small’. The nurse said ‘normally we suggest you try again in a few years but, in your case, there’s really no point.’ I felt dejected, and as usual, hungry.
Falafel beckoned to me. It was 3pm. I needed to do some uni work really (an MSc don’t write itself) so I headed off to a cafe I knew on Corn Street, checking in the windows of all the posher hotels on the way just in case Theresa May was hiding in one of them, but no cigar. All I wanted was to wish her well, pay my respects, see what she was wearing…alas.
The good thing about Cafe Revival is that it has what is known as a ‘snug’. This is a little alcove at the top with sofas and stuff. Hardly anyone goes in there, this time the only other person was a furious looking woman eating some sort of nut. When my falafel came I thought it looked presentable, with a little side salad and mustardy dressing. The bread was impressive, toasted pitta but with some sort of herbs and tomato in it, a nice change from your typical standard falafel bread. I was alarmed when biting in to find courgettes in it. Then I remembered that it was a falafel with roasted vegetables, which made much more sense. The hummus was plentiful and the roasted vegetables very nice with aubergines and peppers, but the falafel itself was bland. It was even bland in colour – had they forgotten the parsley or coriander? It was like, pale beige. The texture was soft and lacked the crispiness we prefer. It was also quite dry despite the hummus, and the author suggests some chilli sauce could have improved this falafel.
I got a bit bored of eating it half way through to be quite honest but valiantly struggled on to the end. On the whole though, it was big and it filled a hole, and considering I was planning to stay there for hours to do my essay a £4.75 price wasn’t that bad. However, I didn’t stay there, growing distracted by the spelling mistakes in the snug – its book swap not swop! Was it intentional? A joke? If so, I don’t get it.
Bread – 5/5
Intoxication – 0/5
Service – 3/5
Salad – 3/5 (no olives)
On returning from town, I found out where Theresa May had holed up for the afternoon, but it was far too late. Damn my smartphone-less life. Next time, T. Or should I say Mummy?
Times are tough in the ratemyfalafel.com household. How were we to know that not paying our council tax bill since October would result in us having to pay a massive amount all at once? We had to tighten our belts. It was packet bought, value falafel for us.
We decided to have a falafel off, a taste comparison between #ASDA* value frozen oven baked falafel (18 for £1.50) and a packet ‘just add water’ malarkey (also priced at £1.50).
Initially the idea was to have a simple wrap with a bit of hummus and the falafel, plus chili sauce. However, as more guests turned up for what was initially going to be a casual affair, more effort was put in and we made an elaborate salad. Possibly the best salad I have ever had! It had walnuts and the like- guests provided the salad ingredients, we are, as previously mentioned, very poor.
But first, to the falafel. We were horrified to read on the pack ‘just add water’ type that it required an oven temperature of 380 degrees Fahrenheit, almost double what our oven reached. After much deliberation, and discussion over frying them instead, we just chucked them in with the ASDA ones which had much clearer instructions.
They both tasted crap, but to a varying degree. The packet stuff was really hard, like, rock hard- imagine if we had turned the oven up even higher? Something not right there, think we. And, on carrying out some quick investigative journalism, we discovered that “second house” are a company from Lebanon, specializing in Mediterranean foods! Why wasn’t it better designed? BUT, it had a bit more flavour than the Asda ones, which were softer but really quite bland. What can you expect really, from ASDA? I don’t think I have ever had anything from that beast of a multinational corporation that didn’t taste like total shit. Even the Linda McCartney sausages that must be same in every shop, taste wrong when bought from ASDA. It’s like their lack of morals and total bastard-ary leak into all the food, sucking up all that is good in the world and spits it out again. Luckily the delicious salad and homemade hummus disguised the taste.
ASDA* AKA WALMART
Texture – 2/5
Flavour – 1/5
Ethics – minus points x million
Second House Packaged Stuffed
Texture – 1/5
Ethics- unsure of this company. the little fruit and veg shop we bought it from are lovely tho- 3/5
As social media manager of rate my falafel.com I have a confession to make. I’ve only ever had falafel from a supermarket. So instead of continuing somewhat fraudulently in my new job I decided I would have FALAFEL! From somewhere that wasn’t Tesco’s!
Lucky for me I had already arranged to try out the new vegan (to)fish and chip shop Matter Fast Foods in Bristol with my parents. My poor mother had been away abroad on business and apparently where she was, FISH (eww), is a vegetable! So we needed to get her somewhere vegan ASAP.
And they had falafel!
As I approached the shop I realised this was the place to be in Bristol. The small shop was filled to the brim with hungry people! There was a queue which gave me slight anxiety (as someone who is non-British born) but it moved quickly and the service was friendly and the atmosphere was great!
Now having read and reread the reviews on ratemyfalafel.com I had expected the falafel to come wrapped in things like bread and hummus. But no….I got three falafels in a bag.
I was confused.
But I was not deterred!
So i made my way back to the car and tucked in!
The falafel was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and it was beautifully spiced … overall it was a good falafel.
I did however feel that I had failed in my attempt to have a full on falafel experience. No hummus or bread to rate. I wasn’t drunk because I don’t drink. I felt somewhat disheartened that I couldn’t deliver a review to the usual ratemyfalafel.com standard.
Next time I’ll stick to slowly building our social media empire!
And on that note… If you don’t already. Follow us on twitter. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on instagram. We need to be validated!
A note from the editor – rumour has it that Matter Foods Fish n Chips is very nice indeed- so don’t judge them just by their slightly lacking falafel!