|Scene of the sadwich (sic)|
I am glad to return to a routine of swimming regularly at the
refurbished Camberwell Pool in Artichoke Place, which means that I have
thoroughly renewed my acquaintance with sarf London’s premier falafel purveyor, ‘Falafel’, the pertinently-named
Lebanese fast food counter at 27 Camberwell Church Street.
Words can barely
express my love for this place and its falafel sadwich (sic), which costs
only three quid and goes down especially well with a cup of carrot
juice, spiked with ginger, costing another pound, for the perfect après swim snack. You would find me there every other
day, soon after 4pm, but I am trying to reduce my sadwich (sic) ration to
no more than two per week.
The Camberwell Falafel is easily the best of its breed on this side of the river – unless you know better? – but for my money it’s every bit as good as the fabled falafel wrap of Ranoush, the juice bars of the mighty Maroush empire (which includes Beirut Express). Maroush has run the West End falafel trade for decades, Maoz notwithstanding.
I briefly ran a falafel stand myself, not too long ago, at the Pullens Yards Open Studios event in the Summer of 2010. I persuaded mi amigo, Carlo, to scoop chick pea paste into balls and deep-fry them in the fryer I inherited from Shaun Thomson, R.I.P. I deep fried my falafel in memorium Shaun. If I recall correctly, wily Carlo firmed up & filled out the chickpea paste we made with polenta.
We offered five golf-ball sized falafels, freshly fried, plus humus, crisp shredded white cabbage salad, with a judicious squirt of the crucial garlicky tahini sauce that is what everyone really loves about a McFalafel, all in a pitta pocket, for £4. Additionally, I ran a masticating juicer, churning out whole watermelon and strawberry juice for a further £2. Or a fiver for the combo. Which proved popular.
Believe it or not, one snarky neighbour complained about our prices, compared to Ranoush, but he didn’t recognise my business benchmark, which was Falafel King. The King – or Shlomo, as the grumpy cabbage patch king of Portobello Dale is also known – serves his pitta pockets, judiciously-stuffed as above, for a fiver. And he gives good pickles. It is, however, more of a meal in a pitta – similar to the one Gaby Elyahou, the godfather of London felafel, has been proposing at Gaby’s Deli on Charing Cross Road since 1965 – than a simple sadwich (sic).
The Camberwell Falafel sadwich (sic) does not purport to be dinner, but is more substantial than the Maroush model. It all begins with the falafel its good self and here the eponymous stars of the shop are displayed on a platter under the glass counter upon which you are advised not to lean. They are plump and perfectly-formed (as if pressed into shape by some contraption designed for the purpose) and have been deep-fried in back, beforehand, to be warmed in a microwave before getting wrapped into the sadwich (sic).
|Camberwell’s happiest after-swimming snack.|
You get three falafels, crushed, and wrapped up with chopped lettuce and onion, creamy humus/tahini, optional chilli + garlic sauce (never say no to more gravy!) rolled into a flat bread, then put into a sandwich press. Mario, on www.yelp.co.uk gets it bang on in his recommendation of adding a scoop of aubergine salad, 50p extra, into your standard £3 falafel wrap and washing it down with a cup of fresh carrot juice with a tinge of ginger, £1. That’s £4.50 for the combo. I give ’em a fiver and feel like a prince.
And, Mario, m8, you don’t need to be hungover for Falafel. It is right around the corner from the leisure centre & swimming pool, where the men’s changing room has been closed for months. So we are obliged to use the family facilities, which invariably
means the place is flooded with squealing eight year-olds in school uniform when one
arrives and shouty mums with scads of snot-nosed tiny tots when one goes to leave.
This may not be the place to vent my feelings about Southwark’s
Fusion leisure facilities, but I stand as much chance of being heard
here than if I complained through the official
channels. I mean, how do you break a changing room? Well, obviously, you first must spend millions of quid on ‘refurbishing’ it.
Consider: Shlomo, the Falafel King, advertises his product as bursting with happy energy, yet he rarely smiles. Falafel’s overhead menu describes their product as a ‘sadwich’ and yet I have never left there not smiling. And I go there all the time. One day, that typo is going to be corrected and that will be the day this place puts its prices up, but I will forever delight in Falafel.