Places that sell falafel usually display a bold statement in the stall/shop saying that their falafel is the best.
But only one gets the crown of the best falafel wrap in Winky’s good book.
This stall only opens 4 days during the week (plus Saturday). It closes at prayer time on Fridays, the exact time varies between summer time and winter time. Sometimes, you have to queue for 5 to 10 minutes before you can even make an order. And from then, be prepared to wait for another 5 minutes before you can get the food. Despite this ‘inconvenience’, it is always busy at lunch time. This shows its special status.
In fact, most people do not mind waiting as they know the reason why they have to wait is because Jamal, the owner of the stall, makes the falafels fresh upon order. This, according to my friend from the Middle East, who has had many falafels in his time, is one of the reasons why Jamal’s falafels taste so good.
Most regulars simply factor this ‘extra time’ in as their social time and chat to each other in the queue. Some make their order and collect the wraps later. Jamal, owner of the shop, puts them near the stove to keep them warm before the hungry customers return. It is like a community.
Jamal warms the bread before putting a layer of salad (lettuce, raw onion and tomatoes) on top. This is followed by the chili sauce. If you are feeling adventurous, you can ask for one extra secret ingredient- freshly chopped green chilli. I highly recommend this as this little ‘kick’ adds an extra dimension to the experience!
He then puts the freshly cooked falafel in a row on one side. A small falafel wrap (£2.50) has 4 falafels. A large one (£3) has 6. This is the best combination in terms of size and quantity. I know it because a while ago Jamal tried putting 3 large falafels in a big wrap when he was busy. The wrap did not taste quite as good as 3 large ones had a smaller total crispy surface area than 6 small ones (geeky i know!) The middle part of the big falafel just felt a bit too ‘starchy’ and they did not quite fill up the wrap as nicely as the 6 small ones. I am relieved to find that he has since abandoned this policy.
Jamal puts fresh mint in his falafel wraps. This is refreshing and it goes very well with the falafel. Some customers love it so much that they ask for extra mint. I am not a fan of raw onion so I usually ask for it to be taken out. Not only is Jamal accomodating to all customer’s special requests, he remembers them by heart. As soon as I arrive, he knows how I like my falafel wrap. It is a special personalised service which you do not always get these days!
The last step is to add home-made peanut butter sauce before wrapping up. You can choose to have it ‘open’ (which means the paper is unwrapped on the top for you to eat now!) or ‘closed’ (for you to take away).
If you don’t fancy falafels in a wrap, Jamal can replace them with melted halloumi instead. It is equally tasty but I suggest that you ask him to give you a cup to catch the melted cheese as it leaked out all over my sleeves last time I had it.
A general note: Falafels contain chickpeas- you might find yourself farting a little afterwards if your body cannot digest them.Jamal’s falafel stall It is at Portbello Road, near the Office Shoe Shop. There is no number, just look out for the green tent which says ‘Falafel’ in yellow. It is open Monday to Saturday, excluding Thursday.