Falafel. Fa-lof-ful. Falla-fel. There seems to be as many variations in pronouncing the word Falafel as there are variations in each different restaurants recipe. Some are a bright green colour, others a light, afternoon in the sun, tan colour, some contain seeds in the crust, others just trust the deep frying to bring all the flavour and crispness needed. Whatever your preference, you can feel safe in the knowledge that when walking the streets of Soho your ideal falafel is not far away. However with anything that is popular, disappointing incarnations quickly arrive. Before you know it you have purchased some falafel that are not only flavourless but also dry and crumbly. A quick peruse of this guide will hopefully put you on the the right track.
Let us begin at 59 Broadwick Street. This isn't an easy place for me to go. Food Secret used to live here, it no longer does. The wounds are still raw, I may never get over it but I will try. In its place lives Comptoir Libanais. A Lebanese restaurant and deli, offering mezze, tagines, wraps and salads and of course falafel. The falafel here is a little pricey £4.65 for 3, and if wanting to mix that with a salad then its likely to set you back £7.50 to £8.50 depending on which salad. Even the wrap is £6.75. In my book that's expensive for a wrap. The old adage that you get what you pay for is often true in the food industry, unfortunately it is not here. The falafel though not dry, is not packed with as much flavour as I would like. Very few herbs to speak of and only a delicate lick of spice. Fills a hole in your stomach but doesn't leave a lasting memory. Rating: 3/5
Sticking with the authentic Lebanese restaurants, next stop is Yalla Yalla at 1 Greens Court. I have already reviewed them, so if interested in what they offer besides falafel click here. The falafel here is similar in appearance to that offered by Comptoir, a light tan colour, not very heavy on the herbs, but the flavour is a little better. The mix of spices come through much more and they are cheaper too - £4 for 3. Add a side salad of tabbouleh or fattoush and you are looking in the region of £8. The falafel wrap on the other hand is £4, much better value, but for me there needs to be more flavour in the falafel otherwise it is all a little bland. Rating: 3.2/5
Next we move to the melting pot of cuisine that is Berwick Street market. Italian, Vietnamese, Indian and Mexican food can all be found here, and thankfully so can falafel. The market stall in question is called Falafel No.1. Not one to be duped by clever marketing, I shall decide for myself whether this is indeed the No.1 Falafal. The menu is limited, probably due in part to the lack of space. They are functioning out of a small converted garden shed. An impressive conversion but a little limiting when it comes to menu options. Your choices are a small or large wrap. Three, hand made and almost cooked to order falafels in the small. Five in the big. Each come with the usual suspects - houmous, aubergine, salad etc etc. £5 for the large. Don't ask about the cost of the small, no one's interested, why have three when you can get five. The falafel is good, flavoursome and moist. An excellent falafal wrap worthy of bracing the wind that gusts down Berwick street market. A few more menu options, such as the chance to just have falafal and salad would be a bonus. I guess we will have to wait until they can expand, maybe into a converted summer house or large gazebo. Rating: 3.5/5
Fourth on the list is Maoz, on Old Compton Street. A vegetarian fast food restaurant specialising in falafel. Maoz claim to be world experts when it comes to falafel. A bold claim. A claim that needs to be investigated. An investigation that I will happily take on. Entering Moaz and trying to leave with food items which are not falafel is nigh on impossible. You could plump for a Moaz sandwich - pita with falafel or you could choose a salad box this also come with falafel and obviously salad, as much salad as you can cram into your flimsy cardboard takeaway receptacle. That is pretty much all your options, pita or salad. Sometimes only having two choices makes life easier. True, but it also makes life dull. All those negatives aside, a positive is that the falafal is good. Almost the best, but not quite. Although they are abundant with herbs they are a touch greasy, not much but a touch. And while we're being picky they are also a little small, barely a bite, one chomp and there gone. It's a delicious mouthful mind, just short. Rating: 4/5
Last and by no means least is Hummus Bros, 88 Wardour Street. This too has already been reviewed but I did not take into account the falafel. Due to the obvious fact that if you go to Hummus Bros then you should really try the hummus, which I did. This time round though, it's all about the falafal. I'll give you a clue, it's good. I will go as far as to say it's the best falafal that Soho offers. It wins on two points. First and most importantly is taste. A crisp crust, containing a smattering of spices gives way to a succulent full flavoured herb heavy interior. This is falafal how I like it, packed full of taste while bringing texture to the table too. Second is variety. How you have your falafal is entirely up to you. Perhaps you want nothing but falafal (5 for £1.75) or perhaps you want a falafal salad with Tzatziki and tomato and coriander salsa (£3.20) or maybe you want individual falafal but with a salad on the side: a Greek salad (£3) or possibly tabbouleh (£2.50). No not enough choice well could I tempt you with a falafal wrap (£4.95). The possibilities are endless, it is only your imagination that will hold you back. So Hummus Bros may specialise in hummus but they seem to be mighty fine at producing falafal too. Hummus Bros seems to be the Westminster Abbey of the chick pea world, they all want this to be there final resting place. It is a honour for chick peas to be turned into falafal at Hummus Bros, and it is a privilege to eat them Rating: 4.5/5
So there we have it. Soho's best falafal can be found at 88 Wardour Street. Go there in your droves. But not on weekends when the prices go up.