Girl in Bristol meets the Falafel Queen herself at their branch on Cotham Hill …
The Falafel King is a pretty well known food vendor in Bristol. Although many know it because of their pitch on the harbourside, not their venue on Cotham Hill. Until last week, I fell into the former category. However thanks to Cannoli and Gun, I was given the opportunity to tag along and try some of Falafel King’s signature dishes at their branch in Cotham Hill.
On first impressions, The Falafel King looks relatively small with a limited amount of seating available at the front and a large bar taking up the back left corner with the kitchen just behind. But if you go downstairs, there is a huge dining/lounge area filled with an assortment of middle-eastern themed furniture, throws, pillows and lighting. The manager Clare told us that everything originated from somewhere different whether it was from her old kitchen or a jumble sale in Bristol. There was even a Moroccan looking couch in the corner which was fashioned by her husband from an IKEA baby bed!
The shisha garden outside trumped the lot though. An intimate area embellished with woven reeds, vintage ornaments and flowers, I could have curled up in that small backyard space for hours. There was something mystical and different about it, the décor setting it apart from any shisha garden I had seen before.
From the menu, which was listed on blackboards because it changes often, Clare recommended we share a mezze plate (£8) which included a variety of different dips, stuffed vine leaves, falafels and Moroccan cigars – the edible phyllo pastry kind! We were also brought a generous portion of hot abunoor pitta chips (called such because of their shape) and a humous plate topped with parsley, lemon juice and olive oil (£4.50). All were completely vegan. I also noticed there was Shakshuka (£4.50) on the menu, a middle-eastern breakfast dish which beforehand, I assumed was only available at the Souk Kitchen. Will definitely be returning to try it and compare.
Oh dear readers, the flavours that came from that middle-eastern feast I cannot begin to put into words. Though I will try. Everything was so fresh and exciting to taste that I couldn’t pack it away fast enough. It was as if my stomach had taken over. The hot pitta chips seasoned with thyme and sesame seeds, were crisp outside but soft inside, corresponding well to the smooth and subtle-tasting humous which I eagerly dunked them into. The pickled beetroot and red cabbage brought a slightly sour note to the meal; the couscous was invigorated with a mixture of herbs and the falafels were addictive and gluten-free, made with chickpea flour, spices and chickpeas. It truly was a rainbow plate, inclusive of nearly every vegetable you could think of which were all cooked in different ways.
But it didn’t stop there. Next we were brought Falafel King’s take on dessert, Baklava and cardamom-spiced ‘mud’ coffee. Sourced from Birmingham, the Baklava was sweet and moist, oozing with honey and sprinkled with roughly chopped pistachios which were visible from the outside. I would recommend sharing a portion of Baklava if you’ve just had a mezze plate as it’s pretty rich but between two of you, it will end your meal on a gloriously sweet note. The cardamom-spiced coffee was a much more acquired taste. Unfiltered, the mud coffee gets it’s name because the coffee is simply ladled out of a large container where the coffee sinks to the bottom looking a lot like mud. Cardamom is used to enhance the coffee’s flavour and it gives you a strong caffeine hit.
The Falafel King on Cotham Hill is always buzzing with activity from belly dancing classes to intimate live music sessions. It’s probably one of the most quirky venues I’ve been to in Bristol so far and it will certainly get the wow factor from any friends you bring down there. Sourcing Edna’s Kitchen and Eat a Pitta with some of their ingredients, The Falafel King have clearly mastered middle-eastern cuisine. Keep a look out on the Cannoli and Gun Twitter feed too, they’ve been hatching some exciting plans with Falafel King which will be revealed soon.
Top marks from me!
6 Cotham Hill, Bristol BS6 6LF
(Please note: Whilst the food was complimentary all opinions are my own.)