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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Maybe if I had been drunk, it would have been better

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But I’d only had one beer. And it wasn’t. Let me set the scene. I had made the unusual move of going out (and on a Wednesday, no less). The Canteen, on trendy Stokes Croft where we found ourselves, was teeming with drunken youths, some of whom (well, one) asked for our advice on places to go out because we looked ‘cool’. Riding high on that smug feeling, we stayed at least an hour before yawning our way home. Remembering in fury that our cooker is STILL bloody broken, we popped in to Big Bite, a Stokes Croft take away that I usually use for their iconic free cash point. I strode in and ordered a falafel wrap. While waiting for our food to be prepared, we hung about outside with the youths who were littering the porch way, strumming guitar and wailing to the Beatles classic ‘Because’, and swigging glasses of red wine. Opposite, we could see the Telepathic Heights ex-squat, scene of the 2011 riots – the hated Tesco Express lay just a few doors down. Settling onto the cold floor we sang along, the smell of weed wafting in the March air.

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After a while I grew bored and wandered inside, to observe the making of the falafel. I was distracted slightly by seeing a man wrapping up his bloody hand in a bandage in the kitchen out the back. Pushing this out of my mind, I focussed on the falafel. “Which sauce would you like?” questioned the friendly staff member. “Chili please. And hummus, of course” I laughed. “I will have to charge you extra for THAT” he shook his head. I made a very slight protest at which point they agreed to give it to me for no extra cost- they really didn’t put up much of a fight. After choosing from a disappointing array of salad (no olives, for example) they handed me a large wrap, comparable to some sort of baton.

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Plus points-friendly staff, good location, large wrap, free hummus (though it really should be free anyway) Other comments include “salty- in a good way” and “tasty falafel”. This, unfortunately, is where the positives end. The bread was standard, wrapped haphazardly. The onion was overpowering, but despite having both chili sauce AND hummus, the falafel wrap remained ACHINGLY dry. Half way through what felt like a bit of a slog towards the end, the wrap totally fell apart.

Bread – 1/5

Salad – 2/5

Falafel – 3/5

Service – 3/5 (minus for the bleeding)

Intoxication – 1/5

UPDATE!!! Since writing this post, it has come to my attention (thanks angel_girl322) that Big Bite do a vegan pizza with vegan cheese and topping, 12 inch for £7! Got one whilst drunk recently, was great!

 

 

 

Mr Falafel

London. The Big Smoke. Mr Falafel.

After a grueling couple of hours in the Science Museum, where we had seen Tim Peake’s actual space craft (v. disappointing) and learnt that scientists do lots of weird shit to mice, enough was enough. None of this learning and ‘culture’ malarky. We needed to get down to it. It was time for a falafel. Mr Falafel, of Shepherd’s Bush had been on the ‘list for years’, according to one of my esteemed colleagues, who had joined me for a jaunt in our nations capital. So we pottered along to Shepherds Bush, ruthlessly ignoring 2 other falafel stalls as we went (sorry Falafel King and Abu’s Falafel, maybe next time). On arrival, we were greeted with this sign:

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“we speak falafel fluently”- a welcome relief for tired falafel reviewers

Not only was it a Palestinian run cafe, it was Vegan society approved, multi-lingual in all things falafel. Inside, the cafe/takeaway was pleasantly understated with metal chairs and tables, but with brightly coloured walls which matched the Palestinian flag. Kitsch, retro even- but in a humble, not trying too hard sort of a way. “Authentic- for London” one friend commented.

The Menu contained an alarmingly varied selection of falafel wraps – 11 in total. This meant we spent a good 10 mins worrying about which one to get, as to be quite frank, they all looked amazing. We opted for 3 different ones so we could maximise the reviewing process. W went for the classic falafel wrap. Q went for the Falafel and Makdoos Wrap- which contained spicy walnuts as well as pickled aubergines. I, myself chose the Falafel and Ful Medames Wrap, which has seasoned broad beans in it in addition to the hummus and aubergine and salads.

On to the review. Each falafel came with a decorative jalepeno on the side, which we all agreed was A- a nice touch and B- surprisingly tasty and fresh. Some comments during the rapid eating process:

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the wrapped article

W: I Love It.

Q: It was Thrilling/Filling

C: Mmmmmn.

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the classic falafel wrap

W: You can  really taste the parsley.

Q: It’s bursting with flavour!

C: It’s really big.

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the makdoos

I’ll be quite honest here. This was possibly the best falafel I had ever had in my long career of falafel review, and that is considering mine was a little bit drippy and messy. I think this was because mine had more sauce in in from the ful medames dressing. However, we all agreed that the falafels were amazing, that we would definitely come back and try everything on the menu. We even bragged to the friendly staff that we would get the XL next time- though the mediums really were enormous anyway. The aubergine which made an appearance in all the falafels was delicious, and it is not often that you find both fried aubergine and hummus in  a ‘classic falafel wrap’.

Starting at a price of £4.50, for London I would say that it is very good value for money.

Intoxication Levels – 0/5

Dressings- 5/5

Bread- (Standard, 3.5/5)

Falafel -(5/5)

Extras – (5/5)

Over all a near perfect score. Well done Mr Falafel. You can visit their website at http://www.mrfalafel.co.uk for more info.

 

 

 

 

 

Biblos Bristol

I finally did it. After living in Bristol for over a year, I finally decided the time was right to splash out on a falafel from the famous Biblos, a Bristol institution, or so it seems. There are rave reviews on the internet, people mention it to me as a falafel eater all the time, it’s on Trip Advisor as if tourists should head there before they visit the SS Great Britain or whatever. So it was time. Technically, not actually my first time, I definitely had one a few years ago, but was far too drunk to do any kind of review. So here it is.

Let me set the scene. I was very hungry. I’d accidentally done a 2 hour gym session, and was on my way to a pub quiz. I had to act fast. I spied the take away over the street on Stokes Croft and veered over there. The alarmingly high price of £5.20  for a medium (£6.90 for large) didn’t put me off this time, I was THAT hungry.

It was a high price to pay, I think we can all agree. I remembered that you could ask for a combination – half of the wrap one thing, half another filling. I decided to take up this offer as, to be quite honest, I am becoming increasingly fed up of falafel. It’s not easy reviewing falafels’ on a regular basis. It’s not easy being me. Anyway, I went for half falafel and half roasted vegetables.

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It was possibly the best decision of my life. But before we go into the taste and textures of this particular wrap, a little note on the shop itself. The menu was displayed on a chalk board surrounded by a gold frame, very classy. Fake flowers were placed on each table (very easy to knock over) and there was a range of newspapers to peruse. I was pleased to note that all the employees were female, a refreshing change from the usual male dominated take-away profession. I would say however, that the wooden benches could do with a cushion or two- my bony bum was very uncomfortable as I waited for my wrap to be made.

I reluctantly handed over the money and rushed out onto the always far too busy streets of Stokes Croft and resisted the temptation to rip open the wrap and eat it then and there.

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However, I waited until I got home and savoured it, like any good reviewer. I’ll cut to the chase. It was amazing. Maybe it tasted even better because I was as previously mentioned, hungry, but this was the best falafel and roasted veg wrap I had ever had. The veg included sweet potato, giving it a lovely sweet taste, and it also had some sort of Chinese tasting sauce along with a generous dollop of hummus. The falafel itself was flavoursome and not too crunchy, and the salad was wide including the weird red vegetable you get in a falafel that isn’t cabbage or beetroot.

Criticisms include it being a bit sloppily rolled, and the bread was bog standard.

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Bread – 3/5

Falafel – 4/5

Salad- 5/5

Service- 4/5

Price – 3/5

Intoxication – 2/5 (high on gym).

Plus points for hummus and delicious sauce.

All in all, worth it. I was full from the medium size but a larger appetited person may want to try the bigger one. Here is a link to their menu for more info. https://biblos.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/biblos-cafemenu-2016-v1-web.pdf

They also seem to have a deal on Fridays called Falafel Fridays which I am eager to check out.

My faith in falafel has been restored. Thanks, Biblos.