It’s easy to miss this restaurant from the outside. In fact it seemed almost as if wants to remain a secret, visible only to the in crowd. The nondescript entrance blended in perfectly with its surroundings, brown and dull paint on its walls and a signboard located too high and too white to stand out. Despite being in the centre of the hip Södermalm district this was a quintessential hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
The name of the restaurant was Falafelbaren and they are reputed to sell the best falafels in Stockholm.
I’d heard of them a long time ago, heard is not the right word read is more like it, but the opportunity never arose for a visit until a former colleague came to town for a visit. A message notification popped up on whastapp, do you have time for lunch this weekend?
“Let’s try falafels. If there’s anything that’s part of modern Swedish cuisine, it’s falafels. I know a place.”
Falafels are deep fried balls made from grounded chickpeas, fava beans or both. The deep fried balls are usually served as a sandwich with a pita bread wrap. It’s a middle eastern originating first in Eygpt and the dish arrived in Sweden around the late 1970s (with the Iranian Revolution) and gain popularity gradually. Falafel was street food and only got elevated in Stockholm at least when Falafelbaren was opened in 2013.
The website to the restaurant was modern, functional chic and to the credit of the restaurant, the site and stall had a consistent message. I pushed past the door and opened up to a tiny dining area.
The walls were decorated with monochrome photographs and barely much else. The dining area complemented the look with a few wooden tables and high stool. It was minimal and modern.
The most popular item on the menu was falafels with halloumi cheese served with pita bread. The mains were stuffed together in a pita pocket with cabbage, mint leaves and pickles a a dollop of tahini sauce (a sesame seed based sauce).
My lunch partner had a salad for her meal. A falafel salad with mint leaves, tahini, tomato, red cabbage, tomatoes.
The star of both dishes was the falafel. They were moist on the inside (something not always easy to achieve with a deepfried dough ball of chickpeas, which tends to dry out quite easily) with a light sweetness and extremely herby to the bite. The vegetables served with the dish helped to take away the oiliness of the deep fry and the pan-seared halloumi gave my pita bread a savoury flavour.
It was simply put, the best falafels I had had, better in my memory than the few I tried while in Jerusalem – when I went into random shops and by Stockholm standards, it was a steal. The only drawback (which isn’t really a drawback considering what a great deal it already is) is that you can’t stay too long at the place after you are done – not when turnover is high and many other people are waiting for a seat (that’s just being an impolite douche).
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