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Original Falafel at Just Falafel, Covent Garden

17 Jul

LOCATION: Just Falafel, 1 Monmouth St, London, Greater London WC2H 9DA [map]

PRICE: I can’t remember and there are no prices on the website. Weird.

BREAD: Saj (that’s a Lebanese flatbread).

FILLING: Falafel, cucumber pickles, turnip pickles, parsley, mint, tomato, tahini dressing.

PROS: I’ve been sitting here fretting over this sandwich. Just Falafel are a chain, and an incredibly successful one. They’re huge in the Middle East. Huge. The reason I’m fretting is because it is precisely these chainlike characteristics that make me at once like and dislike their sandwiches. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been invited by the PR. He is there. He tries to push the healthy fast food angle on the falafels. I tell him I don’t care about that. He looks puzzled and orders baked falafels rather than fried. No. I’m thinking ‘has he actually seen my blog?!’ at which point he says that he hasn’t actually seen my blog.

The baked falafel, is, predictably, inferior to the fried. They’re crumbly and soft and obviously lacking in the essential and most endearing quality of falafel – biting through the freshly fried crust. A fried falafel is duly ordered. And you know what? They’re not bad, actually. Not bad at all. The herbs are perky fresh too, as is the salad. The pickled turnips have that brilliant purple/pink hue that make me think I must be getting radiation poisoning; this uses the same logic as the reasoning behind my not standing next to the microwave at work because it ‘makes a funny noise’ and I fear it may make me infertile.

CONS: There is a condiment ‘situation’. We order a side of hummus; always a good test of a place. It’s silky smooth and actually really bloody good, except there’s nothing to dip in it. I end up eating hummus with a plastic spoon. There are pots of other dips and spreads too, and I wonder if I’m supposed to put these in the sandwiches? That’s impossible though, because the wrap is very tightly wrapped, which is obviously a good thing when it comes it being just a sandwich, but when it has become an exercise in finding new ways to eat hummus, well, somewhat of a hindrance to say the least. I think perhaps you can buy the falafels separately, or with fries and then…dip either the falafel or the fries in the hummus? I dunno.

You could do a lot worse than a falafel from Just Falafel ( the ‘original’ – I’ve not mentioned the ‘Greek’, ‘Japanese’, ‘Italian’, ‘Indian’ etc. variations – hold me) but then really, what kind of endorsement is that?

SCORE: 4/10

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Classic Falafel Wrap at Mr. Falafel, Shepherd’s Bush

18 Jun

LOCATION: Mr. Falafel, Units T4 – T5, New Shepherd’s Bush Market, Uxbridge Road, W12 8LH [map]

PRICE: £5.00 (for the XL size)

BREAD: Hollyland flatbread

FILLING: Five falafels, hummus, fried aubergine slices, pickled cucumbers, pickled turnips, lettuce, tomato, green chilli sauce, red chilli sauce, tahini sauce, parsley. Phew.

PROS: I am forever chasing the perfect falafel. I thought I’d found it once, unexpectedly, at um, Bestival, in um, some year or other I can’t remember, they blur into one. Festival food in general is rubbish and expensive as I’m sure you know but this falafel wrap…sigh. I probably hadn’t eaten in a while, granted and it was the middle of the night in the middle of a field but it was just so perfect at that point in time, not to mention restorative. Mr. Falafel is also very good, but I fear he does live somewhat in the shadow of Festival Falafel. Unfortunate really because it can’t possibly have been all that.

Anyway, Mr.F is serving really good and proper Palestinian falafel, definitely some of the best I’ve had in London. The place is a little hut, really, right on the end of Shepherd’s Bush Market. There are a few shabby tables and an incredibly lovely, friendly man cooking. I watched as he used his nifty little scooper thing to mould balls of chickpea mix and pop them out into the fryer. Five of those in the XL size wrap, really light (as falafels should be) with lots of flavour from good quality chickpeas. This means they’re not over-spiced to compensate. The hummus is as smooth as Marvin Gaye dressed in silk stroking a baby’s bottom. Eww. Sorry. Mr. Falafel also spoils us with not one kind of pickle but two, cucumber and turnip; as a pickle fiend this pleases me. Also, everything is just so damn FRESH. We just can’t stop banging on about how flippin fresh tasting the whole thing is, me and my mate and believe me, the word fresh can really make a mess if spoken repeatedly through mouthfuls of mashed up chickpea. The tahini sauce is good too, not bullying and cloying as it can be. The fried aubergine slices are obviously a stroke of genius and a generous gesture, I think, considering this is the standard wrap and it’s massive. The liberal use of fresh parsley is a nice touch and something I now consider essential; it really does make the whole thing rather um…rifles through list of adjectives…oh fuck it, fresh.

CONS: I used to live in Shepherd’s Bush and yet I never discovered this place (actually I used to live in West Kensington but I never came to terms with that so I always lied and said I lived in Shepherd’s Bush, partly due to the fact I was terrified I’d end up calling it ‘West Ken’ like a massive tosser). Yesterday it took me an hour and a half to get there from Peckham, although I did discover that the Hammersmith and City line genuinely exists as part of the tube network. All this is not Mr. Falafel’s fault of course, I’m just having a moan. His hot chilli sauce isn’t hot however. I asked for this first but then decided I had to have both hot and mild, yet still picked up barely a prickle. Next time I’ll ask Mr. Falafel (he has a real name I’m sure and I wonder if he is this man) to put one of the pickled chillies that come as garnish inside the wrap. He’d do that, because he’s very nice. I know this from his general demeanour and the fact that he invited me behind the counter so I could more easily take the picture you see above. ‘Wasn’t he nice?’ We kept saying, me and my mate. ‘Wasn’t he a lovely nice friendly man?’ It took him a good, what, 7 minutes or so to make the sandwich, what with it being all so erm, fresh and all, and in that 7 minutes he really made an impression on us. He just had the air of someone who is a genuinely happy person and it made the whole experience even more enjoyable. He wished us a good day and he meant it. Awesome guy,  kick ass falafel.

SCORE: 8/10