Amidst the recent broadsheet brouhaha surrounding thinking person’s kebab shop E.Mono, I found myself in need of a particular type of sustenance one Sunday evening.
Returning from a 1-year-old’s birthday party with a 40-year-old’s bash yet to come, it was high time for something more than watermelon and Prosecco. The children’s event had observed a strict ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar’-inspired buffet. (Those familiar with the pre-school culinary classic will remember that our protagonist eats fruit, cakes, meats, and a token cheese course.) As a vegetarian well versed in token cheese dining, it had left me hungry…and high as a kite on sugar.
‘Just eat any old rubbish that will Fill. You. Up,’ pleaded my 4 year old Mini Kentishtowner, who had just about had enough of her father’s fructose-induced tantrum. ‘I don’t want to hear your meat-free moaning all the way home.’ And so it was that the veg option on E.Mono’s famously minimalist menu was given the most stringent of road tests.
A bite of a really good falafel should include an explosive crunch of fresh salads, the sharpness of lemon juice, pickles and chilli tempered with tahini and warm, slightly crisp chick pea patties at its heart. It must be the sum of its parts. The art is in the melange, as it were.
E.Mono wisely offer wraps, always so much more civilised than a gaping pitta impaled with near useless plastic fork, spilling from a foam tray.
Mini Kentishtowner was pleased to see that its substantial girth effectively helped me ‘put a sock in it’, but even with the interesting salads and quality sauces the actual falafels were too soft, bland and below average. Disappointed, but with a much improved mood, the birthday schedule marched on with tensions eased.
But if on-trend E.Mono doesn’t dish up the best falafel in Kentish Town, who does? Strong High Street kebab contenders Kentish Delight and Kentish Kebab have both produced fairly lacklustre efforts on recent visits. Generic salads, pasty houmous.
I’m certainly a guilty fan of King of Falafel next to Underworld/World’s End in Camden. They are certainly specialists with piles of lovely springy falafels always on display and something in those sweet, sweet sauces that’s so wrong it’s right.
Citywide, the game has been upped by exciting newcomers like Comptoir Libanais, who do a stunning herby number and even a prawn falafel which, I’m told, is equally delectable (when are you going to open a branch in North London?), while Leon broke new ground with their now much copied sweet potato ‘falafels’.
We have innovation right on our doorstep, of course, with the dynamic rice ball wraps served at the popular Arancini Brothers, but the ultimate local destination must surely be Phoenicia. Their in-house café offers beautiful meze salads to lend each bespoke wrap a totally fresh twist.
The recent addition of loads more sofas in the back couldn’t be better to accommodate passing sugar-addled vegetarians, and the range of falafels is unsurpassed including all those home options.
Pulling a weary Mini Kentishtowner through the aisles, we chanced upon the sofas and carefully selected untried combinations of salads to grace our favourite wraps.
‘That’s what the Very Hungry Caterpillar eats,’ she said, pointing at a delectable roast aubergine number.
If only he bloody did.
Words & Pics: Tom Kihl