One of my (many) food quests over the years has been to track down the best falafel in town. After a bit of digging, i narrowed down my shortlist to 6 of the ‘supposedly’ best falafel vendors in London & then set out to put them to the test. The ‘Falafel Fight’ ensued and results are as follows …
*** THE WINNER ***
Pilpel falafel comes with houmous & salad and you can either have it in a pitta (white or wholemeal) or in a container with the pitta on the side. Check out the full menu here.
I had: The container, generously spread with houmous, then topped with a choice of salads/pickles, 6 freshly fried falafels and finished off with chilli sauce and tahini (£5.65). Pilpel’s salad range is very good: green salad, grated carrot, chickpeas, red & white cabbage, raw white onions in a cumin dressing, tabouleh, pickled cucumber & gherkins. *Warning*: I tend to hold off on the onions because they pack a serious punch and you just can’t get rid of that taste in your mouth for the rest of the day!
The verdict: Pilpel is an easy winner in my book. The falafels are cooked fresh every few minutes and they’re perfectly crunchy outside and moist inside. The flavour is brilliant and incredibly moorish – their recipe is pretty much perfection in my eyes. The pitta is lovely and soft and i particularly adore their awesome chilli sauce. I’d highly recommend Pilpel for a filling & utterly scrumptious lunch in town. Don’t miss out!
P.S. Lunchtime queues at Pilpel can look intimidating, but rest assured staff work at an incredible speed so the wait is never too long (not to mention you often get free falafel while you wait which is a nice little touch).
www.pilpel.co.uk Locations: St Paul’s, Spitalfields, Spitalfields Market & Fleet Street
*** 1st RUNNER UP ***
Similar to Pilpel, Organic Chickpeas serve their falafel in either a salad bowl or in pitta bread (white or brown).
I had: The salad bowl with houmous, green salad, red & white cabbage, grated carrots, cooked white onions & couscous with a brown pitta on the side (£4.75).
The verdict: A delicious falafel. The pitta was nice & soft (although not as soft as Pilpel), and their falafels were extremely tasty & moist (just lacking that tiny extra bit of flavour that Pilpel has). Organic Chickpea’s cooked onion filling was brilliant, and a heck of a lot nicer tasting than Pilpel’s raw onion option. I also enjoyed their chilli sauce which has a decent kick to it. Overall, Organic Chickpeas probably provides the better value for money (given it’s almost £1 cheaper than Pilpel), but Pilpel wins the overall taste test as far as i’m concerned.
http://canarywharf.com/eating-drinking/directory/organic-chickpeas/ Reuters Plaza, Canary Wharf, E14 5AJ
*** 2nd RUNNER UP ***
I had: Their signature sandwich, the ‘Pocket Pitta’ filled with houmous & falafels. What’s unique about Maoz, is that you get to stuff the pitta pocket yourself with fillings & sauces from their salad bar.
The verdict: I really enjoyed the actual falafel balls – they were crispy, hot & full of flavour. The pitta bread was also nice and soft (similar to Pilpel). However, i didn’t enjoy the choice of salads – huge chunks of carrots and cucumber and sloppy cooked mushrooms don’t make the greatest filling for a pitta which already comes two thirds full. I also didn’t enjoy Maoz’s 3 sauce options which initially looked really appetising, but were actually a let down and certainly not as spicy or strongly flavoured as expected.
http://www.maozuk.co.uk 43 Old Compton Street, W1D 6HG
*** THE LOSERS ***
I had: Falafel in white pitta (no wholemeal option) with houmous, green salad & tomatoes.
The verdict: I very much like the cute and quirky decor in this falafel joint on Portobello Road, but the end product disappoints. Poor quality bread meant the whole sandwich fell apart before i’d even started tucking in – I ended up eating it using a combination of my fingers & a fork. The falafel are small in size & lack a depth of flavour. Their tasty sauces only served to make it half enjoyable.
274 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 1LR
I had: The ‘Classic Original’: falafel, cucumber pickles, turnip pickles, parsley, mint and tomatoes with tahini dressing.
The verdict: The tortilla bread wrap was extremely dry and the falafel were just OK (no way near as tasteful as Pilpel/Organic Chickpeas/Maoz). Overall it was a disappointing, unexciting falafel which lacked any real flavour punch.
http://www.justfalafel.com Locations: Hammersmith, Covent Garden, Charing Cross & Baker Street
I had: The ‘Deluxe Falafel Wrap’: houmous, fried aubergine, fresh tomatoes, pickled turnips, pickled cucumber, lettuce, parsley, fried cauliflower florets & potatoes.
The verdict: A terrible falafel and easily the worst of the bunch. The wrap was dry, the falafel were pretty tasteless, and the fillings were just mediocre – the whole combination was totally boring and plain. Mr Falafel claims to be the best Palestinian falafel in London…if that’s the case, i dread to think of the worst one.