London doesn’t show the best version of itself as I rush along Chalk Farm Road in Camden on a windy day. Rain falls, soaking those caught off guard, but a yellow oasis calls out, the newly opened operation: Falafel.
Dubai Export has so far expanded its wings to Riyadh and New York, and recently added London to its portfolio of delivery and catering locations.
The setting isn’t exactly cozy, with a more industrial vibe designed to provide a quick place to mock your meal before heading to the busy streets of North London. But with food served in under five minutes, it doesn’t have to be glamorous, just clean – and it’s sparkling.
Customers encounter the O:F slogan that “street food is for everyone”. A man and his son devour pitas as a stuffed iguana – the boy’s toy – looks on, and two men head to Camden’s Roundhouse event space to order takeout. But the majority of restaurant customers will never meet the chefs, as they order online.
It’s a shame, as the team are friendly and accommodating, making sure everything is made fresh to order.
Now I have eaten at the original O:F in the UAE so my expectations were high. On days when office life was too busy for a lunch break, I would order a chicken or falafel pita to eat at my desk.
So how does he compare to his older brother?
It’s in the name, but the star item on the menu is the falafel. Diners can experience it in a variety of ways: in pitas, salad bowls, or simply glorious nuggets of goodness served with nothing but a to-die-for tahini dip or a choice of others. sauces.
Many falafel joints in London and the rest of the UK prepare their falafel earlier in the day and reheat it for customer orders. But at O:F, the green balls of crushed chickpeas are molded and fried to order, and it really shows.
Smooth and chewy in the middle, with that unmistakable crispy crunch on the outside, they were gorgeous. Served in servings of four, eight, or 12 with a variety of dipping sauces (my favorite being the classic tahini dip), they were so delicious I had to order some as a gift for a friend.
For the more adventurous, there are also stuffed falafels, topped with sesame seeds with onions and sumac inside.
With a nod to those wanting something a little healthier than garlic sauce and bread, O:F also offers salad bowls, a popular choice for lunch in the UAE which is starting to gain ground in the UK.
I wasn’t in such a pious mood, so I added sujuk fries to my order of chicken shawarma pita and falafel. It was exactly the sort of thing I imagine eating at 2am after a night on the tiles, but didn’t provide the expected lethargy that fries with cheese and a meaty topping should.
The chicken pita was tasty enough, but lacked the punch and heat of the shawarma served in other parts of the capital and, indeed, the UAE. There’s also less on the menu in London, with favorites like missing manaeesh and a smaller selection of dips.
According to staff, the first three months since opening have gone well and there are plans to operate a “dark kitchen”, without a facade, in the west of the capital.
Manhal Naser, group managing director and co-founder of AWJ Investments, Operation: Falafel’s parent company, said London was an obvious choice for the brand to expand after the UAE, Riyadh and the United States. .
“Operation: Falafel is a brand based on a mission to share the true taste of Middle Eastern street food with the rest of the world, which is why we have always had a global focus, and will continue to do so,” says- he. “We know that London has a thriving city [food and beverage] market with great acceptance and demand for Middle Eastern cuisine.
“Also, Londoners are familiar with the tastes of hummus and falafel, but they crave originality and authenticity, which we strive to provide.”
Updated: November 11, 2022, 6:02 p.m.