Saturday, 7 May 2016

London Falafel Festival




Need I say more?

It is precisely for epic things like this that I LOVE living in London.

As soon as I heard about the first ever London Falafel Festival, I knew I was going to be there. And apparently I wasn't alone, as last Sunday's event sold-out.

It was a sunny afternoon that my dear old friend Lucy and I made our way over to Borough Market with the intention of stuffing ourselves silly with falafel.

And that, lovely readers, is exactly what we did.

Oh sweet Lord, I've never eaten so much falafel in one sitting in my life! And I have eaten a lot of falafel before.

But this wasn't just falafs (get it? for laughs? oh never mind), this was serious business. The festival was, shall we say, a falafel-off. A battle between four of London's finest falafel-makers. Only one would be crowned the falafel champion on London, and the hungry public would decide.

At £20 a ticket, said hungry public could expect a fair amount of falafel, wouldn't you say? Luckily, we got a lotta 'lafel.

I found it interesting to observe that there was no one type of people amongst the munchers - young and old, families and friends, all different races. I liked that.
There were four falafel masters competing for votes and each serving a different type of falafelly goodness: Zooba (from Egypt), Pilpel (London Israeli), Hoxton Beach (Lebanese), and Origins Of (London Palestinian). Despite considering myself something of a falafel fiend, I'd never eaten any of them so was super keen.
We arrived about an hour into the festival (having come from another food festival, you know how it is) and I was shocked to see such long queues at all four falafel stalls - they were ridiculous! But there was a fun atmosphere so we joined what seemed to be the shortest of the four and sipped drinks as we waited.
There was a bar serving a limited selection of drinks, and they weren't included in the ticket price.

Upon arrival at the festival, each person was given a card which was then stamped by each falafel-maker to ensure no one could keep going back again and again - goodness only knows how anyone would have had room for that anyway!
Lucy and I ended up trying Hoxton Beach falafel first.
So, the Hoxton Beach falafel is half chickpea, half fava bean, served in a wrap with tahini, aubergine, tomatoes, gherkins, pickled turnip (made with beetroot, hence the fab colour), parsley and mint.

But if you'll know me, you'll know that I highly dislike mint (it's just behind coriander), and - bless him - the Hoxton Beach man started trying to pick the mint out of the herb mix for me. I told him I'd be fine sans herbs but appreciated the gesture. They obligingly granted my request for extra aubergine too. Man, I love that aubergine.

Interestingly, there is no houmous involved as Hoxton Beach believe it can blur the other versions of chickpea and sesame. Now, I'm someone who has always believed falafel without houmous is like Ant without Dec. But. But but but... I can actually see their point. It is chickpea on chickpea really.

And how did it all taste?
Bloody delicious. I realise it does not look appetising in my picture, but it was super tasty. The falafel was really soft and so easily flattened down when wrapped up with all that goodness. Hoxton Beach had set the bar high!

And on to competitor number two: Pilpel.
Pilpel's offering was the traditional spiced chickpea falafel we all know and love.

I'm talking pitta bread stuffed with houmous, falafel, cabbage, gherkins, cucumber, tomato, tahini and chilli sauce.

Lucy loved it.
 I loved it.
The falafel was nice and soft again, but interestingly (yes, I find falafel interesting), it was green...
Falafel just isn't photogenic, OK? But it was so so good. A classic combo that's a classic for a reason. Boy, did it fill us up though. And we were only halfway! Luckily the other two falafel offerings were smaller...

After a digestive pause, we made our way over to falafel number three: Zooba. And, pleasingly, the queues had diminished by this point.
Actually, this one's more of a looker, wouldn't you say?

You are currently feasting your eyes on fava bean falafel drizzled with the prettiest beetroot-hibiscus tahini, alongside tomatoes, peppers and flatbread.
It was beautifully spiced and soft inside yet with a crunch on the outside thanks to those sesame seeds. Not huge, but utterly delicious. I am now a big fan of fava beans. You might even say they're my faves. Ahem. (That was awful. It's not even a pun. I'm so sorry.)

And although we were way past full at this point, we felt it was our duty to try falafel number four too: Origins Of.
I don't know if it was just because I'd eaten so much falafel, but to be perfectly honest, I wasn't a big fan of this one. It was very different.

Called a "tri-lafel", Origins Of make theirs by blending chickpeas, blackeye beans and red split lentils. Not only was the falafel a bit too crunchy for my liking, but I didn't love the texture created by the lentils in there, nor the spicing or the dips. But hey, you can't like everything, can you?

So, we cast our votes. It was very tense. I couldn't decide who to vote for as I'd loved the first three all so much. Ican't even remember who I voted for - I made an impulse (OMG, impulse! I am on fire today) decision as time was running out.

And the winner was...

Egyptian Falafel master, Moustafa Elrafaey of Zooba Cairo! (The one with the pink drizzle.) What fun.

The festival was put on to celebrate International Year of Pulses (what? had that passed you by?) but I hope it happens EVERY YEAR! More falafel pls.

It was such a fun afternoon, everything was utterly scrumptious and just another reminder of how inferior supermarket falafel is to the freshly-made legit stuff.

OK now I'm really craving falafel. Anyone else?


  1. I can't think of any more falafel based puns; I fala-fell short this time...
    Another brilliant post, and you even managed to make mashed chickpeas look appealing! Love all the bright colours esp the purple drizzle, beetroot is underrated.

    1. Haha, excellent work, Hannah. Thank you so much! And yes, all hail beetroot! x


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