The Fresser

Balady for falafel - what's the fuss all about?

Giles Coren's review of this spit and sawdust takeaway has started a NW London stampede. I can't see what he was raving about.

May 09, 2019 16:13

What a kerfuffle! After Giles Coren's glowing review of Temple Fortune kosher falafel bar, Balady, hungry Jews have been lining up to fress on falafs.  

I'm not immune to a feeding frenzy, so rather than fire up the barbie or enjoy a spot of Israeli dancing (which I'm particularly averse to) I opted for a sabra-style meal at the local with a name basically meaning 'local'. A couple of my JC colleagues decided to join me. One (like me) a Balady virgin. The other, living closer to NW11, a previous visitor - bemused by all the fuss.   

Visually, it's stark. The fascia says 'charity shop'. Garish blue background with business-like, white letters. Inside - wipe-clean walls, wooden tables and simple stools with no backs to them. We watched a pair of older ladies grimacing at the seating options before leaving, unfed.

That said, this is a fast food outlet. The aim? To get them in, fed and out. Comfort and aesthetics are off the menu.  

Most of the handful of tables were full when we arrived — Giles effect or usual lunch time rush? A mixture of kosher-eating and Israelis (many in office clothes) were chowing down on standard Israeli nosh. A couple finishing their meal obligingly shuffled up to allow us to sit their rickety bench.

Food is simple - sabich; shakshuka; falafel and hummus served in laffa or pita or on a plate loaded with pickles and various Israeli salads. The Moroccan-style plates got a tick for design. Cutlery is offered in plastic tubs next to the counter. Plastic cups are available to fill for yourself at the sink where you can also wash your hands pre-feast. 

We ordered a range - a sabich plate; falafel plate; hummus masabacha and I took my chances with shakshuka in a pita. For the record, shakshuka in pita is more practical joke than serving option. Not to be attempted unless at home or with forgiving friends. I had to take giant mouthfuls in order to stop it falling all over the table and I ended up scooping it out and eating the delicious, doughy, shakshuka-soaked bread with a fork. That said, it was chunky, rustic and satisfying. 

The sabich, which came up with pickles and salads also got a thumbs up, as did the green tinged falafel. I didn't actually get to taste any of this as my colleagues were enjoying it too much. Hummus masabacha scored points for the amba-laden aubergine slices on top, but I prefer my hummus smoother - less grainy in texture. I'd also expected it be covered in whole chickpeas. Maybe a misorder? 

Everyone around us was seriously focussed on the food. Order, fress and run. Maybe it's in our blood. No one was there to hang out. Different day parts may attract divergent diners. 

My colleagues agreed the food was good and very authentic, but also that you could get very similar standard grub at a number of local Israeli-run joints. This is no better. Maybe Coren doesn't get to Golders Green very often or to eat Israeli street food.

I'd eat there again - it's a nice walk from my office - but I wouldn't make a pilgrimage to go there. Good luck to the boys behind the counter - nine stars from Coren has got to be great news.  

May 09, 2019 16:13

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