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
It was my last night in Berlin and falafel was needed to celebrate the end of….Let’s say a trying week. Trying to work on a budget I had booked myself an airbnb for my 7 nights holiday. I lasted only 4. This airbnb housed a child who threw epic tantrums at 6am that DROVE ME MAD. I was tired. Grumpy. Tearful. I was Over It- and this was by day 3. After being woken up again by the sound of harmonicas being played (really?) screaming, vacuuming and more screaming, I had had enough. I scoured booking.com for the cheapest deal (I wasn’t going to put my trust into airbnb a second time). Here I landed in, according to wikipedia, the most famous avenue in Berlin: Kufurstendamm. I was surrounded by wealth. My hotel greeted me with a chandelier and had its very own haagen-daz restuarant (no use to a vegan, but I appreciated the luxury). The day before I had spotted FalafelMe from the other side of the road. It looked bright and friendly and its sign boldly stated it was vegetarian.
It was decided then that for my last night I would go there! All day I had rehearsed how I would ask if it was vegan and for them to omit the cucumber (keine gurke!!!). As I walked for what felt like forever (15 minutes) past all the designer shops my self esteem slightly diminishing with every display of wealth and beauty I finally spotted the bright welcoming signage! They had a number of sauces to choose from. I naturally went for the one named vegan and successfully conveyed my distaste for cucumber. The service was fast and before I knew it I had a bulging falafel pita sandwich. The falafel was crisp and rich and the salad was colourful and crisp. There was even a chilli on top and some bright purple thing that tasted of nothing but made it look great. Unfortunately there were no seats and I was forced to walk past the high end shops, the likes of Chanel, Gucci and bvlgari with bits of lettuce falling down my top and sauce getting in my hair. I managed to find a nice small park to devour the falafel. And it was goooood! )
Falafel – 4/5 (to be honest I’m pretty new to the falafel game so my references are few)
Level of intoxication- 0/5
Many Thanks to Lil J, our social media organiser and today’s Guest reviewer!
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?
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?
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.
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 email@example.com
Many thanks to angel_girl for this excellent summary of Falafel House!
Many thanks to our guest reviewer this week: Jonny!
Brent Cross shopping centre is known for its shops. There are loads of them. 120 to be precise. There’s even a pop up beach in the summer, where literally 350 tonnes of sand and 100 palm trees are plonked into the North West London car park.
More importantly, since its opening last month, it’s now home to CHICK ‘falafel bar’.
Healthy (ish) fast food, CHICK sell German and Middle Eastern foods. Brilliantly simple, their menu is split into pittas and salads, and there are six items, starting from £5.60. See the full menu below – including a great selection of extras and vegetarian options.
Luring you in, you smell the waft of CHICK’s fresh falafel before you reach it, and it’s really good. Unlike it’s restaurant on Leather Lane though, this branch (number two) is more of a kiosk than a sit-down restaurant, but there is a small seating area for eight people.
Whilst queuing we glanced at the menu but knew what we were going for. The falafel in pita, a classic. The first bite was everything we expected and more. The pita was soft and fluffy (they offer white and brown pita), and the falafel was hot, crunchy on the outside, and soft inside. They were SO fresh, they must have literally been out the fryer for less than 60 seconds before being slipped into the pita. Green in colour, and flavoursome, the pita was filled to the brim with six balls. Unlike some falafels, CHICK succeeded by not having a soggy bottom. Even with two spoonful’s of smooth hummus, tahini and salad it pretty much held together. We experienced a minor hummus leak, but it didn’t fall apart and there was no grease. Whole chickpeas as part of the salad was a nice surprise too, and along with the couscous added texture and extra flavour.
The eating experience and atmosphere is busy, but in all honesty what do you expect when you’re in the middle of a shopping centre? Having said that, it’s not hectic at all, the queue for the food went down very quickly and the staff are friendly. There wasn’t anything negative about the visit other than a limited selection of drink options, but as it’s only their first month perhaps there will be more to come.
Most importantly, the falafel was unbelievably fresh and much like their strap line ‘Simple. Honest. Delicious’, we agree. Word on the street is there may be more branches opening soon, so watch this space…
Check it out, or should that be CHICK it out!
CHICK, Lower mall, Brent Cross Shopping Centre, NW4 3FP
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