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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You are free. Time to eat falafel.

*Many Thanks to our guest writer for this greece-y review.

Ntoneradiko authentikon

Exarchia

Athens

This ‘authentic’ establishment proudly sits itself in Exarchia, the ‘anarchist district’ of

Athens. Even Exarchia’s name conjures anarchism – ‘ex’ denoting getting rid of something (a relationship, a species), and ‘archy’ connoting images of order and power (patriarchy, hierarchy, manarchy). The hierarchies of the racist, patriarchal, heteronormative capitalist world no longer exist in Exarchia. You are free. Time to eat falafel.

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The anarchism of Exerchia can be seen in all the far-left graffiti that plasters every orifice of the area. These are some of my favourite examples.

While not strictly a felafel joint, immediately when I walked in and howled the only Greek word I know (like the lazy colonialist I am), ‘hortophagos’ (vegetarian), the owner responded with ‘felafel!’. I knew we’d get on. Indeed, we got on so much that we came here literally every night of our trip. Sometimes we didn’t even eat here, but we’d established ourselves as such regulars that we could freely use the toilets whilst we drank bizarre sweet Greek cider or super-cheap wine in the main square.

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But this was not merely a marriage of convenience. The falafel is incredible. For some reason, green-coloured falafel always tastes best for me, and this was no exception. Perhaps its delicious nature was boosted by the fact it provided a break from the excessive excess and over-reliance on individual flavours that characterises most Greek food. But seriously, the green felafel has it all. Punch, warmth, depth, passion, rigour, emotion, clarity. The rest of the wrap didn’t disappoint. Greeks seem fond of putting chips in wraps, which is a welcome addition, although by the end of the week I wondered if, in terms of texture, the chips gave the structure of the wrap too much of a burden. The salad was strong: lots of raw onions also help, with their long-lasting flavour. The tahini sauce was unnecessarily harsh, but the tzatziki was incredible, so we got that every time.

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The best thing about this place, and Exerchia in general, is that everything is really cheap. Perhaps that’s my privileged isolation from Greece’s economic crisis talking – of course things will be cheap. But a 500ml bottle of wine is €1, which is about 75p. The felafel, at least compared to London, is really cheap – £4 average in London, but £1.50 here (€2). I was happy at the difference.

One strange thing about this place is the older guy who seems to be the manager. He doesn’t really do anything, just stands around looking vaguely content. We definitely didn’t make any ironic far-left jokes about Greece’s economy failing because lazy Greeks like him don’t work hard. Not at all.

Felafel wrap – 4.5/5

Value for money – 4.5/5

Atmosphere – 5/5 (you’re in Exarchia!)

10/10 would go again