Falafel, which are deep fried nuggets of pureed chickpeas are popular streetfood across the whole of the Middle East. They are even considered a national snack in Israel. Israelis serve falafel in a pitta on a bed of salad. The salad is usually garnished with hummus, a hot pepper sauce called Schug, and a mango pickle called amba, which is quite similar to the Indian version but has bigger bits of mango.
Pilpel serves up tasty vegetarian pittas filled with salad, hummus and falafel homemade on the premises. A must try are the sabich, an Israeli speciality pitta filled with aubergine, boiled eggs and salad.
I heard on the Israeli grapevine that there was an excellent hummus and falafel bar in Spitalfields called Pilpel. They are apparently renowned for being one of the few places in London to serve Sabich, an Israeli speciality pitta filled with grilled aubergine and hard boiled eggs. I decided to try the Sabich out. Pilpel, which is Israeli for pepper, is located on a corner on Brushfield St, behind Spitalfields market. I arrived around 12.30pm on a weekday, prime hustle time for restaurants and cafes close to the city’s financial district.
The falafel bar is small but they have made effective use of the space, having two long ledges attached to the glass walls, where customers can eat their purchases on high stools. Even though the queues were long, they moved quite swiftly. The chilled out reggae music and friendly counter staff also helped compensate for the wait. The most popular meals seemed to be falafel in a pitta (£3.99) and falafel in a container (£4.99), which looked more practical to eat and appeared to have more salad crammed into them. I ordered a sabich (£3.99) and a portion of falafel balls (90p). The girl at the counter was kind enough to say that the sabich was more than enough, but for tasting purposes I went ahead and got both. The falafel were satisfyingly crisp on the outside, and the chickpeas filling was delicately spiced. There was such a high turnover of customers which meant that my batch had just arrived fresh from the kitchen. The sabich was incredibly good. The quality of the toppings were incredible. Unlike your average kebab house’s rather unspectacular salad bar, Pilpel had a massive selection of vibrant flavoursome salads. I asked for the whole shebang which came decked with grated carrot, cucumbers, chickpeas, pickled cabbage, and gherkins. In the mix was also the free-range boiled egg and grilled aubergine, which made it the sabich. If you want Amba, you have to order it as an extra. Laced over the salad was some creamy hummus and a dash of spicy Schug. If only vegetarian food was always this tasty! My only complaint was that it was too big.
If you go to Pilpel, be sure to try out the sabich. Falafel is pretty ubiquitous across the whole London, however the quality of Pilpel’s produce and their great customer service make me want to go back for more.
www.pilpel.co.uk 38 Brushfield Street, London E1 6EU. 0207 247 0146.