View from a professional – Mezze Palace

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).

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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.

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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?

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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.

The Ratings

Falafel – 2/5

Hummus – 5/5

Bread – 4/5

Service – 2/5

Ambience – 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

chips teresa may

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?

ASDA Vs “Second House Products”

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).

asda falafel

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.

salad prepared

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.

me scared packet

380 degrees. horrifying.

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.

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making the mush

ASDA* AKA WALMART

Texture – 2/5

Flavour – 1/5

Ethics –  minus points x million

 

Second House Packaged Stuffed

Texture – 1/5

Flavour- 2/5

Ethics- unsure of this company. the little fruit and veg shop we bought it from are lovely tho- 3/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Rate My Falafel Does Social Media

Two years of RATE MY FALAFEL has passed. Two glorious falafel-ly years. It was time to go SOCIAL MEDIA. That’s right, we at RATEMYFALAFEL.COM have got our very own Twitter and Instagram!!!

Now, I’m not one of those old fashioned stick in the mud type people who REFUSE to move with the times, but as I don’t even own one of those smart phone malarky’s, I thought I would delegate my social media presence to my younger and cooler friends. I simply don’t have time, when there are falafel’s to be eaten and scathing reviews to be published.

To celebrate this new modern take on the takeaway, we decided to treat ourselves to…yep, you guessed it. A falafel wrap. Well, when I say we, I am actually just talking about myself. It’s the royal we. I wonder if the Queen eats Falafel? #Falafel #queeneatsfalafel?

As you can see, it may take a while to get to grips with the modern media. Anyway, I was in Cardiff, I was on Twitter, and I was ready for a falafel. Our no.1 choice (Falafel Wales) was shut, and my well to do friend turned up her nose at another one down ‘chippy alley’, so we ended up at Atma Cafe, a Hare Krishna place which does a range of vegetarian and vegan food. For Cardiff, £4.95 was a bit pricey for a falafel wrap, but falafel must get eaten and it was special treat. It was, the menu boasted, a ‘quinoa falafel’. I was confused, but intrigued. How would it stay together? What would it look like? I mused these questions and more as I took in the details of the cafe, the smell of incense, the spider man quotes  ‘with great power comes great responsibility..’

atma falafel angle

It came, and fast. And it was red! Not the normal brown crispy outside with the luscious green interior, no! It was red. And I have no idea how they made it, as I didn’t ask but had beetroot in it that I suppose/hope gave it the lovely red colour. It was really delicious. It came with a little side of sweet sauce, sort of plum like or something and it was very nicely decorated on the plate. At first I was quite jealous of my friend with her tasty looking pie, as I am getting more and more tired of always having to choose falafel, but this was a new experience. Falafel with a twist. The salad was fresh and the bread wasn’t that great, just that typical wrap bread you get everywhere- but in general it was very filling, very flavoursome and, as mentioned before, a great colour. Check out their menu here http://www.atmacafe.co.uk/menu/

 

Falafel -5/5

Bread- 2/5

Salad – 2.5/5

Sauce – 4/5

 

  • Note to self – I must go somewhere really nasty soon and rip it to shreds, as all the recent reviews have been far too nice. I had been hoping it might be a bit preachy and spiritual, but the staff were pleasant and helpful and didn’t smirk at me in disdain or anything, dammit.
  • p.s please like and share and improve our online social media presence. Thanks!

 

 

 

CHICK CHICK BOOM!

Many thanks to our guest reviewer this week:  Jonny!

by @falafelboys

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.

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note from editor – why would you add a boiled egg???

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.

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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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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

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