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 +++

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe Revival

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bread – 5/5

Falafel- 2/5

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?

My pitta overfloweth (and not in a good way)

It was a grey Wednesday morning as I woke blearily on the floor of the squat I had been kipping on for the past few nights. The previous night, as I stood rather uselessly watching people impressively craft a bar out of doors that had been acquired from around the building, my friends words had rung through my head – “Apparently it’s the best falafel place in the city. Every lunch time there are queues down the street.” My belly had rumbled at the thought and I reflected on how glad I was that I had taken her up on the idea of trialling such a tempting offer. It was with this in mind I found myself commuting across London at lunch time to meet said friend and head over to try possibly ‘the best falafel in the city.’

As we wandered through the curving little streets near Blackfriars station, right in the heart of belly of the urban beast, we talked at length about previously good falafels we’d had.

I’m not sure I would ever rate anything I’ve eaten 5 out 5,” my friend mused “I would have to know that nothing could ever be better and I’m not sure I could ever know that.”

It was a fair point indeed.

We continued to chat about the best things we’d ever eaten and concluded that really it had a lot to do with the time, the place and what you were actually craving. Wracking our brains back we decided that maybe pizza from a big fast food chain, a chocolate bar and pasta at a central London restaurant had to be the top things on our list for hitting the spot…but here we were, falafel on the brain and hungry rumbling stomachs, were things about to change?

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Falafel House (http://www.falafel-house.co.uk/) was a small little deli with a few high chairs to sit on at the window. We were faced with the choice of falafel in pitta (£4.50) or a falafel salad box (£6.25) – which I suppose isn’t that expensive for the centre of our capital city but still made me wince slightly. Naturally we both went for falafel in pitta and I decided to splash out the extra £1 and get fried aubergines in mine too. The woman serving me did not seem happy with the world today, glowering somewhat at me, but none-the-less filled the pitta up with the multitude of salads they had on offer behind the counter and squeezed a generous amount of chilli sauce over the top.

The first thing I noticed when I unwrapped my falafel from its neat little bag was that the “pitta” it was in looked nothing like any pitta I’d had before. My friend assured me that it was definitely fluffy but still a pitta – I had felt maybe I had just been fobbed off with a large bread roll. The “pitta” was full to the brim and successfully held its consistency and large amount of filling right to the last bite, which is something I feel I can rarely say these days. The falafel, which was actually hard to taste among the multitude of different salads and smotherings of sauce, was fresh and tasty. The salad, of which there was a huge and varied amount, took up most of the wrap and completely swamped the fried aubergine I had paid that extra £1 for (why do I bother?). I feel my friend made the right decision when she opted to not have the bean or lentil salad in hers, I on the other hand had just eagerly nodded when the sullen server had asked if I wanted all salad.

All in all this was definitely not your traditional falafel in pitta but certainly filled us up and left us with a pleasant taste in our mouths. The huge variety of salad, ranging from tabouleh and grated carrot to mixed bean salad to green lentils, would probably have been better appreciated in a salad box and if I go back I’ll definitely be more selective with my choice. Despite not living up to being ‘the best falafel in the city’ it certainly seemed to be the most popular falafel place in the city as a hefty crowd of suits swarmed in and out of the place throughout our stay and I felt very lucky that we’d managed to quickly bag ourselves one of the 4 chairs in the place to munch our lunch. 

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Now here comes the stats!

Falafel -3/5 – Good fresh tasting falafel but nothing to write home about

Bread- 2.5/5 – We both concluded that falafel is best served in a wrap

Salad – 3/5 – The salad selection was vast and expansive (probably would have been good if we had wanted a falafel salad box – but who wants that?) however there were too many different flavours for one wrap. 

Sauce – 3/5 – The chilli sauce had a good amount of spice but could very well have been any big brand sauce from the supermarket

Have you had a good falafel? Or a disgusting one? We need to know! Email us at ratemyfalafel@gmail.com

Many thanks to angel_girl for this excellent summary of  Falafel House!

 

 

a note from our sponsor…

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!

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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.

 

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3 FALAFEL IN 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.

tasty morsel

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!

 

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