Chapter 1: Pilpel.
36, Brushfield Street, Spitalfields | www.pilpel.co.uk | ingested Sunday Oct 18th ’09
It was 2pm already and we were still Sunday brunch-less. Although the original plan for that afternoon was to head west to Comptoir Libanais to quell a craving for good Lebanese and then hit the shops on Oxford Street, the thought of a 20 minute ride on the Central line from Liverpool Street to Bond Street on an empty stomach proved too much to bear. Pilpel is the ultimate pit-stop if you ever find yourself in our shoes or want a quick bite in the Spitalfields area.
Pilpel Falafel Bar @ Brushfield Street
They do one thing here, but they do it well. The falafels are absolute bliss… the exterior crisp and crunchy, the interior moist yet wholesome, testament to the staff here who deep-fry each batch freshly before loading the goodies into white or wholemeal pitta (toasty warm of course). Fill up your pitta with anything you fancy… tabbouleh, chickpeas, tomato salad, carrot, pickles, chilli or homous to order. Uber-value at £3.99 a roll, and for 40p extra, you can load-up some fried aubergine, free-range egg, or feta to your heart’s desire. Yummy.
Fully Loaded Falafel Roll
Chapter 2: Comptoir Libanais.
65, Wigmore Street, Marylebone | www.lecomptoir.co.uk | Sunday 18th Oct ’09
20 minutes on the Central line of wishing I had ordered a 2nd Pilpel later, we made it to Comptoir Libanais, a 3 minute duck off the chaos of Oxford Street. The eclectic, chic deco of Comptoir looks much more Leon than Beirut Express, differentiating this vibrant café chain from its dated Edgeware Road peers. It was buzzing despite the 3pm post-lunch hour… the high counter and barstool area was near-full with happy clientele, sandwiched between the food aisle and walls brimming with Lebanese store-cupboard essentials.
We were seated on diner-style yellow benches and bright red metal stools towards the back, amidst bold, technicolour pop art. Much cosier and more comfortable relative to the sterile shopping mall food-court feel of its pilot Westfield outfit in Shepherd’s Bush.
Eclectic cafe area
The fresh, bold flavours we enjoyed earlier on in the year at Westfield set a high bar, and this newer Marylebone branch certainly did not disappoint on this occasion. A lamb tagine sharer which came with a small mezze platter was great value at £9.50. The fresh lemoni-ness of the tabbouleh, sharp piquancy of the pickles and creamy richness of the hommous continued where Pilpel left off – simple, but fresh, great tasting Lebanese. The lamb tagine with cous-cous was faultless – just the right balance of savoury from the melt-in-your-mouth lamb and sweetness from the cooked down apricots and prunes. Perfectly rounded off by the sweet croissant-like date pastry and pot of fresh mint-tea we had to accompany the tagine and mezzes.
Lamb Tagine Platter to share…
There is much much more on offer here which warrant several visits back for brunch, lunch, tea or even supper. A wide selection of deep-fried sambousseks, falafels, freshly made wraps, pastries, baklavas, cakes and macaroons line the clear-glass food-aisle, all waiting to be pointed at. Other substanstial main dishes in addition to the staple Lamb and chicken Tagines include Aubergine Moussakka and Stewed lamb Koftes with Chickpeas. They don’t have an alcohol license at this particular branch, but the immense spectrum of juices, smoothies, teas, coffees and house specialities (try the Pomegranate and Rosewater cooler) certainly make you forget the need for booze to have a great meal. Even if you turned up absolutely famished without a Pilpel ingested, you would struggle to exceed a tenner a head here in terms of damage.
Comptoir Libanais @ Wigmore Street, Marylebone
With 4 branches in the WestEnd already, I’m sure Comptoir Libanais’ mix of great value and chic appeal will continue to explode across the capital. When o when will the proprietors realise Spitalfields and the EastEnd is where its at? (in the meantime at least, I’ll still have the consolation of dropping by Pilpel on my way westwards!)