Taste Test: Take-away falafels

Emer O Hanlon 11 March 2017

Falafels: what’s not to love about them? They’re gourmet fast-food, deep-frying made acceptable. Cambridge has a large selection of falafels on offer, but which is the best for your taste-buds and your wallet?

The ‘Taste of Cambridge’ van will always be special to me because I got a falafel wrap there when I was doing my interview. My mum and I had looked it up before coming to Cambridge, and were instantly hooked by the menu. There are four fixed wrap options, with a special which changes every month. These consist of four falafels at the regular size (five if you go for large) and a variety of extra salads (hot and cold) and harissa (you can choose to leave this out, or to go up to hot, whichever way the fancy takes you). I must admit to being a fan of the classic (hummus, rocket, grated carrot and red pepper), although I usually get an extra bit of grilled aubergine to go with it. The Fiery Falafel is also delicious. At £4.25 for a regular, Taste of Cambridge’s wraps are definitely the best value.

Mediterranean Falafel in the market offer slightly smaller wraps for £4 (3 falafels rather than 4), but my goodness, the falafel alone is worth it. These falafels are stand-alone the best in Cambridge, and if you don’t believe me, simply go along to their stall. They’re always offering free samples. The salad offerings here are more limited and traditional – lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red cabbage, pickles and gherkins – but the quality of the falafels and hummus is so high that I never feel I want more varied salads. Sometimes simple is best and Mediterranean Falafel have got the basics picth-perfect. This stall is a regular fixture – it’s there seven days a week unlike Taste’s Tuesday to Saturday openings, so it’s dependable for every kind of falafel crisis.

I haven’t been to the Wandering Yak recently enough to really compare properly (although my memory is a very positive one), and being an arts student, I couldn’t quite bear the thought of travelling all the way to West Cambridge, even in the cause of journalism, so I sought an opinion from Bruno Barton-Singer, a regular customer: “The Wandering Yak food van is a bit harder to find than other falafels in Cambridge (their only regular slot is in west Cambridge on Wednesdays, but they often wander closer to the centre) but it’s well worth the search. In their mix and match mezze box, the absolute must-pick is the crunchy Egyptian falafel (made from fava beans instead of chickpeas). Delicate and flavoursome, it’s the kind of falafel you’d be happy to eat on its own, although it comes with a range of delicious sides.” The Wandering Yak is the most expensive takeaway falafel lunch in Cambridge at £6.50, but the quality of the side dishes make it sound worth splashing out on for a treat.

There are, of course, many other falafel places in Cambridge. Gardie’s offers a more Greek version of the classic, and City Kebab on Regent Street is certainly the greasiest. For a fancier experience, you can try Bedouin, Al Casbah or Lagona on Mill Road (the former two being Algerian, the latter Lebanese). The restaurants – especially Lagona – offer a wide and high quality range of other mezze dishes, which are worth trying out in their own right. However, on the basis of falafel quality alone, Mediterranean Falafel wins hands down.