Pilpel

Without doubt, Pilpel has to be the best falafel that I’ve tried in London. It’s even on About Time Magazine’s top London falafel (http://www.abouttimemagazine.co.uk/food/top-10-best-falafel-in-london/). Having luncheoned and dined(!) here on numerous occasions, with friends and even Partners at a City law firm, a review is in order.

Describing itself as “Fresh, Healthy Food”, Pilpel is certainly fresh; falafel are prepared every hour and even handed out in the long queues snaking around any Pilpel at lunchtime, for this eatery is incredibly popular with City workers, who now expect a cheeky freebie tasting whilst waiting. The staff are really friendly and serve very hearty portions. You’re welcomed with truly Middle Eastern enthusiasm here.

Pilpel’s falafel recipe was created by the founder’s grandfather over 60 years ago. The chef used to work in his grandfather’s restaurant where he was inducted into the secret recipe, and gained an insight into how to make the falafel so perfectly crispy on the outside, but succulent on the inside. And had any City workers tried the original, I’m sure they’d agree that Pilpel continue to serve falafel just the way their grandfather used to make them, keeping his legacy alive.

Pilpel serves Falafel Pita (white or wholemeal) or better for me, Falafel Container, which is essentially falafel in a salad pot, with an optional pita at the side. At around the £6 price mark, it’s worth every pound. Both options are bursting with flavour and goodness, with every falafel made from 100% chickpeas and served with a choice of salads and sauces. The falafel are certainly the star of the show and are deliciously authentic, tasty, and brilliantly grass-green – suggesting that they must contain some iron-rich spinach. They have a crispy exterior and are well seasoned. The team apparently test dozens of varieties each year to ensure they use the pick of the crop.

The crunchy salads, meanwhile, bring the falafel alive and lend a fresh and healthy note to the whole lunch, as well as added texture, depth and tart flavours. They’re also very generously served and range from green salad, tabouleh and red and white cabbage, to carrot, onions, chickpeas, and my companions’ favourites – pickled cucumbers and jalapenos. The sauces are an absolute must, particularly the tahini and the spicy red/green chilli. Indeed, Pilpel means “chilli pepper”.

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I’m yet to try their “Houmous”, which is humous served with olive oil, lemon juice, chickpeas, sauces, a choice of toppings (aubergine, guacamole(!), feta, hard boiled egg (not so appealing) , sun-dried tomatoes, and/or falafel), salads and a pita on the side. Houmous and aubergine definitely stand out for me. But I can’t fathom why you’d brave the queue and go to Pilpel without feasting on the falafel themselves!

As mentioned above, Pilpel claim to be a “healthy” falafel and houmous bar. Although I say that the salads make otherwise “naughty” falafel healthy, I’m pleasantly surprised to discover I’m wrong in this presumption. Falafels are actually very high in protein, complex carbs and fibre, and contain lots of iron, magnesium and calcium. They’re also apparently fried in “healthy oils” and they don’t contain breadcrumbs as fillers and so are very suitable for wheat-free diets.

Pilpel is certainly the best vege lunch and street food in the City, and is perfect wholesome fuel for an afternoon of work. If you’re looking for a spot to sit and people-watch, opt for the St. Paul’s branch, which has a reasonable amount of wooden stools, but if this is a lunch on-the-go, join the Fleet Street queue and grab one to take-away.

Pilpel, Fleet Street, Spitalfields Market, Spitalfields (Brushfield), St. Paul’s

Website: http://www.pilpel.co.uk

Rating: *****

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