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 +++

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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polish falafel(s)

Mc Falafel

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I had been in Wroclaw (vrotslarv??) for 3 days, still completely unable to pronounce any words, remember how to say thank you, or work out the price of anything. I had been thinking about McFalafel all day, ever since I had spied it in on a quick run in between talks. Perhaps I should explain. I wasn’t in Wroclaw on holiday, oh no, I was a very important and grown up person attending a week long international library conference (IFLA). I was also, stupidly, trying to train for a half marathon that I had foolishly signed up to in the spur of the moment the previous week, giving me just over 4 weeks to train. This, combined with the confusion of travelling, the Eurovision song contest style welcoming session, the copious amounts of free champagne (I had 5 glasses in 2 hours) and a complete lack of vegan food at the conference did not lead to a promising result on my run day and definitely not in Wroclaw. I had also managed to somehow confuse myself so much that all my various devices said completely different times on the screens that I accidentally missed the session for ‘newcomers’ as I had gone with a time 2 hours back instead of one hour ahead. I had managed to get lost 5 times on my first day and at least once on all the subsequent days, and I spent the conference considering throwing my devices in the many rivers that run through and around Wroclaw. It really is very pretty, and totally FLAT, unlike this godforsaken country. I had been to a particularly boring talk about Hungarian archiving, which was making me hungary, and I found my thoughts drifting to how polish falafel would compare to other attempts by European countries. Berlin had excellent falafel, and we were not too far away so my hopes were fairly high. I could have stayed to ‘network’ after the talks, but I know who I am and where I come from.

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It took me a while to find it again, I felt like I had been walking down the same street for hours until I finally strode into the brightly lit interior. (When I checked my google fit, it had actually been 7 minutes, I swear that thing isn’t right). There were 3 types of falafel to choose from ‘Zestaw Falafel’- no idea, ‘Pita Falafel’, and ‘Falafel’. Thank the lord ‘Falafel’ seems to be the same in all languages. I tried to remember the word for hello but reverted quickly to the tried and tested British way of ordering food in other countries – louder. FALAFEL? I shouted, gesturing to the board. The slightly bored server (there was a man and woman, which pleased me, normally falafel takeaways have a labour force of men) asked me in perfect English what type I would like and I gormlessly stared at him until he explained the options. I went for the standard wrap.

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I pondered on my experience so far as I awaited my food. It was interesting being in a country where I had absolutely no idea what anyone was saying, any of the time. Most times I visit somewhere I have a vague sense of what is going on, I can understand the tone of voice, read a few signs. Here, nothing. I did have an entire conversation with a Polish lady who was giving me directions to my hotel/apartment – she spoke in Polish and I spoke in English, but we seemed to get along OK. Trying to pretend to be a real person all week was also very tiring- I felt completely exhausted at all times. How must the people with English as a second or third language feel listening to all these talks (the conference was in English, naturally) in English? It hurt my brain just listening, and having one conversation in Spanish, with my only friend.

When my wrap arrived I was wary. There was far too much sauce, I thought “this will not be pretty”. However, the wrap managed to keep its form in a way that in fact the tahini sauce did not drip too much at all. The falafel had an almost floral taste to it, with hints of parsley and a generous amount of hummus. I was also very happy to note gherkins in the salad as this ticked off the ‘polish food’ eating part of my agenda. Actually, I had had a freezing cold gherkin for breakfast the previous day as well, I think I accidentally put it in the freezer section. It was disgusting.

Below is an example of some of the fish soup they tried to give me at the conference.

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I packed up the other half of the wrap for later with my every present tuppaware as it was very big and as I left I was pleased that the staff didn’t laugh at my attempt to say thank you – jenko ya?

Bread – 3/5

Sauce – 4/5

Salad – 3/5

Size- 5/5

Service 4/5

I also went to another vegan restaurant (Ahimsa?) on my last day. I had a singular falafel for a starter. It was a bit dry. They also had 2 pieces of vegan cheesecake on display but apparently they had ‘been reserved’. I left furious.

 

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If any one wants to sponsor my half marathon, it is for Libraries Without Borders who do loads of great work all over the world to get people access to library material and technology. https://gogetfunding.com/im-running-the-bristol-half-marathon-for-libraries-without-borders/

 

 

Shake, Wrap and Roll

After walking past this particular cafe on an almost daily basis. wondering if they included falafel in their wrap ingredients, I finally decided to give it a go. I was hungry from an anti-austerity demo I had just attended, as part of the ‘Libraries Bloc. My favourite chant was ‘Libraries, should be free! Not just for the bourgeoisie!’

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I was also striking from cleaning up the kitchen, which had slightly backfired in that now, I couldn’t use the kitchen without feeling sick. No-one else seems to care. So, to the falafel shop it was. ‘Shake Wrap and Roll’ lies just minutes away from my house so I took the plunge and entered the small, understated premises.

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Now, the price was quite hefty, but the falafel was hefty to match. £5.50 for a large and you could choose more than one filling. In a daring move, I went for falafel, hummus, and aloo gobi, fried up and toasted with the bread. The salad array was varied and included olives and pickles, and you could have your choice of sauces. I went for the Sicilian chili, which lead on to a 10 minute conversation about the unification of Italy and the North/South divide. Before the wrap was done, we also discussed our favourite foods which for the lady was Indian, the bloke Vietnamese or Japanese. I nodded along. At this point, I just wanted my falafel. I enjoyed the ‘banter’ though, and left feeling welcomed into their lives for just a few small minutes.

I hurried home and got my other taste tester to share the wrap with me and learn a little of their impressions. ‘Its got potato in it’ he said with an oafish smile. ‘Its got chili…it’s balanced’. We both agreed the salad tasted fresh (especially the juicy red peppers) and that the toasted bread was a nice touch. I found it slightly dry- it could have had more sauce and also, the hummus was concentrated at the bottom, which was a nice ending but could have done something to make it less dry if it had been spread evenly.

It was massive, so it would have been far too much for one person. Split between two then, the price becomes a little more reasonable.

Bread- 4/5

Falafel- 3/5

Salad- 5/5

Service -5/5

Sauces- 3/5

Hummus gets extra points and so does aloo gobi.

All in all a successful if expensive venture.

To submit your own falafel review or suggest a new falafel restaurant, please email ratemyfalafel@gmail.com

We encourage international contributions.