Staple Foods (Merchants Arch)

Staple Foods is a new little place nestled into the heart of Temple Bar in Merchants Arch. It’s a bright, warm and welcoming cafe/coffee shop with an emphasis on healthy food, fresh salads and tasty coffee. The owner made my falafel and he was a friendly and open guy, eager to chat about the place and the food/drink on offer. Only 2 months old, the business has attracted a lot of positive reviews and looks to be doing well.

StapleFoods Shopfront

Flavour: 7/10 The falafel itself was tasty. Made freshly that morning and with good chickpea and various herbs coming through, it was nice falafel. However, there wasn’t much of it and I found it a little difficult to find under all the other bits. It lacked any crunch and sort of crumbled apart, but that’s due to it being baked rather than fried – healthier!

Fillings & Sauces: 8.5/10 Every bite was absolutely drenched in tastiness. The hummus was delicious and the baby spinach a perfect match for the slaw on top. The slaw threatened to steal the show – a carrot, apple and cranberry slaw with some sunflower seeds for good measure. The falafel was served on a multi-grain roll, which is a first for me! I’m a big fan of this type of bread and apparently it’s delivered freshly each day from just across the river. I can imagine falafel purists being less happy… One criticism – I’d have liked another sauce with the hummus to give the meal a bit more kick!

StapleFoods Falafel

Presentation & Value: 7.5/10 The presentation was simple and clean – a bowl with brown paper and the falafel sitting in it. Not inspirational but nice and tidy! And in terms of value, it was very good – €6 for the falafel and I sat in and ate it there. The place is well designed and there’s some good reading materials too…

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 I really enjoyed the venue, my chat to the owner and the taste of the roll, the slaw and the hummus. My only real complaint is that there wasn’t enough of the main ingredient, namely the falafel. If I’d had a bit more falafel to work with this would’ve got an 8. Still, I’d recommend their salads, the coffee smelled perfectly and it’s a really nice place. Give it a look!

The Cedar Tree (St. Andrews St)

The Cedar Tree is the longest standing Lebanese restaurant in Ireland, having been on St. Andrews St for 27 years now (source). It has a great reputation and  when you go in and sit down for the first time there is a feeling of being in a different time, place and culture. I went in with my brother last Saturday before going to one of the Fringe Festival plays and the place was busy and the staff many and friendly. The people around us had varieties of delicious looking dishes that almost made us try something other than falafel. But, it was falafel we were after (on this visit!) and it was falafel we ordered.

CedarTree Shopfront

Flavour: 6/10 The falafel balls were piping hot, undoubtedly homemade and when we cut them open they looked delicious – full of colour and with bits of herbs, chickpea, broad beans and onion all visible… Unfortunately they tasted a little bland. They’d been overcooked, even by my crunchy falafel standards and tasted okay, but lacked a full punch.

Fillings & Sauces: 6/10 The plate came with a salad of tomatoes, lettuce, coriander and green olives covered in a light garlic sauce. On the side was a ramekin of tahini sauce. Some of the lettuce leaves were dry/past their best and the tahini sauce was as bland as the  falafels. We were both wishing for some spice or garlic but it was missing.

CedarTree FalalfelPresentation & Value: 7/10 The dish was perfectly presented – simply, clean and it looked tasty. The side dish too. As for value, well it was a Saturday night and the restaurant is in a prime location in town, but we found €14.50 for a standard sized vegetarian main course a little on the expensive side, especially given the content of the meal.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 I’ve only heard good reports about the Cedar Tree and I think it would be remiss to base the restaurant on one serving of falafel. I’m going to go back and order a mezze next time as the food all around us looked nothing short of incredible. That said, this blog is about falafel and this time the Cedar Tree really disappointed. As I said before, it was overcooked, a little pricey and most importantly/unfortunately it lacked flavour. A real shame!

Felafel and Kebab (Essex St)

Felafel and Kebab is a colourful little place bang in the heart of Temple Bar on Essex Street. I noticed it just a few days after I began this blog and have since been recommended to check it out by a few of the readers on here. So a few days back I wondered in one afternoon. It’s a clean, bright and open restaurant/cafe with a nice feel to it – shishas in the window, which you can smoke outside on the street, and some Mediterranean artwork on the walls. There’s a lot to chose from on the menu with 8 different types of falafel on offer – yes you read that right – 8! Theres the Greek falafel with hummus and garlic sauce or the Palestinian falafel with rocket, tomatoes, tabouleh, hummus and chili sauce – they even have an American falafel with chips and cheese! I chose the ‘Original’, served with cabbage, red cabbage, tomatoes, hummus, chili sauce and garlic sauce and sat by the window, watching the world roll by.

FalafelandKebab Shopfront

Flavour: 7/10 Pretty tasty, very fresh, homemade but just not up there with some of the other ones I’ve had. Cooked perfectly too so no complaints there, they just didn’t pack a wallop of taste.

Fillings & Sauces: 8/10 Simple but full of flavour. Both the red chili sauce and the white garlic sauce actually tasted of their ingredients, adding a lot to the dish. The hummus was lovely too and all the other ingredients were crisp. The bread was incredible – fresh naan, still really warm and doughy.

FelafelandKebab Felafel

Presentation & Value: 8/10 The plate looked nice and appetising, if unspectacular. That said it’s not a restaurant so much as a kebab shop/cafe, so I wasn’t expecting a piece of art! Simplicity works too. In terms of bang for your buck it’s up there with the best – €5.00 for a felafel, €7.50 for a meal.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 I really liked the place, the staff, the menu and the felafel but it was lacking something. I feel like I’m being snobby or unfair, but I just don’t think it was as nice as the 8s I’ve eaten in, let a lone the 9s. I’ll definitely be back and kudos to them for the variety of falafel – yet to see that anywhere!

Website: http://falafelandkebab.blogspot.ie

Keshk (Mespil Road)

Technically speaking this was my second visit to Keshk on Mespil Road, but I’d been in their restaurant on Leeson Street before they moved, so I know what the place is like. This time I was on my own and it was 1pm on a Monday. The place was almost full (downstairs wasn’t open) and loud, with around 30 diners in for the lunch rush. I took a seat and ordered the falafel on the Vegetarian Dishes section of the menu, which seemed pretty extensive. Described as ‘healthy Mediterranean food’ almost everything on the menu appealed and having been with a group before, I can vouch for a lot of their dishes.

Keshk Shopfront

Flavour: 9/10 These were some of the best falafel balls I’ve tasted. They were cooked perfectly, tasted of spices, chickpea & herbs and were complimented by the sesame seeds on each one. The hummus, tehini and salad all added to their tastiness. The only thing missing was a hot kick of spice.

Fillings & Sauces: 9/10 With the plate of falafel came a simple side salad with fresh lettuce, tomato, carrot and some red onion. Each falafel was covered in tahini and on the side was a small dish of delicious hummus. I could’ve eaten it all day! Fresh pitta rounded off the generous portion.

Keshk Falafel

Presentation & Value: 10/10 As you can see in the photo, thought and effort went into how the food was presented. The dish looked as nice as it tasted and everything was piping hot, ready to be eaten. In terms of value it was superb – €8.95 for a sit down main in a restaurant is practically unheard of, especially when the portion size was as impressive as what I was served.

Overall Grade: 9/10 Up there with Damascus Gate, Keshk is a restaurant I’ll be going back to again and again. The 2 staff were polite and efficient despite dealing with a full restaurant, and the place was warm and comfortable. Most importantly the falafel was pretty much perfect. The only slight issue I had was the lack of spicy punch but every other area was spot on. Highly recommended!

Website: http://www.keshk.ie

Rotana Cafe (Richmond St)

Rotana Cafe is a Lebanese restaurant in Portobello. It has a great reputation for really well put together food, friendly service and good value. As well as that, there operate a BYOB system which appeals to people looking to save money on expensive wine/beer lists. I’ve been there before and had a really tasty meal and for a great price too, so when I went in today I knew what to expect. There’s a little outdoor seating area but that was full so I ate inside. With only one other table there, the service was very fast and the waiter was friendly.

Rotana ShopfrontFlavour: 6/10 The falafel was buried in the bottom of a wrap that had been wrapped so tightly the paper it was wrapped in stuck to it. It wasn’t particularly hot and it tasted okay. There was no blast of taste and it lacked crunch and heat.

Fillings & Sauces: 6/10 The wrap came with some sauce, but not enough to make any impact. There was lettuce, tomato, gherkin and some red cabbage which all blended together nicely and were very fresh. There was also some pickled turnip which I’ve never had before – pretty and pink, they’d been dyed with beets. A nice surprise.

Rotana Falafel

Presentation and Value: 6/10 As you can see from the above picture, there wasn’t much effort with presentation but it was simple and clean at the very least. It was great value for a sit down meal at only €6.90 and if I’d had a starter they have an excellent 2 course lunch deal for €10.90 .

Overall grade: 6/10 After so many people had mentioned the place and given I’d been before and had had a lovely meal this was a disappointing visit. Maybe it was the middle of a Tuesday at lunch time and the evening falafel is the one I should go for. Or maybe I should’ve asked for some sides or a starter. But if I’m honest, what I was served wasn’t near as nice as some of the other falafels I’ve had so it’s a low score. It won’t stop me going back in the future, but I won’t be shouting from the rooftops either.

Website: http://rotanacafe.ie/

Keyif (Blessington St)

Keyif is Turkish for ‘pleasure’, an apt name for this small cafe up off Dorset Street. Run by a friendly Polish man with very little English, the cafe is a bright, clean and welcoming place, if a little bit small! I wandered up there on the advice of Rabble Magazine (or at least the person running their Facebook page!) who swear by the kebabs – ‘in proper Turkish flat bread too’. I was ravenous when I got there so ordered a full falafel meal, a choice I’d later almost regret, and sat at the window to do some people watching.

Keyif Shopfront

Flavour: 8/10 Freshly made and generously sized, the Keyif balls of falafel were delicious. Warm, soft and full of flavour. I like them a bit crunchier but that’s personal taste – these were really well made and ready to be eaten! They came in piping hot kebab bread and swimming in all sort of sauces and fillings. The chips served with it were perfect.

Fillings & Sauces: 9/10 Everything you could want on a falafel and more. If anything, there might’ve been too much! Fresh lettuce, tomato, red onion, white cabbage, cucumber, even slices of cooked carrot! The sauces were simple – a not too spicy red chilli sauce and a regular garlic sauce. Lashings of each made for a messy but really flavoursome meal.

Keyif Falafel

Presentation & Value: 8/10 The presentation was pretty standard – nothing out of the ordinary but not unappetising either. The meal was a bargain – at only €7 for the falafel, chips and a bottle of water it was a steal. It filled me for the day too – large portions and big on flavour.

Overall Grade: 8/10 Great value, really really tasty meal and a decent sized portion too. Very little between this and the top falafel so far. For meat eaters out there the kebabs look immense. I will definitely be going back!

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Keyif-kebab/117606695081879