Of all the many genres of eating, there is one that sits or stands above all others. Not candlelit dining, or sea view calamari scoffing… but handheld inhaling. There’s already something uniquely satisfying about eating with your hands. Maybe it’s something to do with being physically connected to the thing you’re consuming. But sometimes it’s because the rules can go out the window: hummus on your chin, chilli sauce on your t-shirt, waving a bus driver on because, no, you’re not sitting at this bus stop to travel, you’re sitting at the bus stop to dive mouth first into a falafel pitta the size of a bowling ball.
The pitta in question is from Pockets, a little weekend-only falafel stall in London Fields that gets it. What ‘it’ is always tends to be pretty nebulous, but hugely important. In this case they get handheld foods. They get that a pitta needs to be metronomically layered in the most mesmerising fashion. And they get that one item, done perfectly, is all you need in this brilliant genre of eating.
It starts with a crisp still-hot falafel, cabbage salad, hummus, zhoug, a drizzle of amba, tahini. And then it’s repeated. And repeated. No one thing is hidden, no one perfect bite combining the falafel, the sauces, the tart crunch of cabbage and the hit of (essential) pickled chilli is rationed. All snugly packed inside a soft steamed pitta pocket unlike any you’ve had before. The bread is a wonder in itself and its filling is the full shebang 100% of the time. And, in case you’re in any doubt that this is amongst the best £7 you can spend in London, then let us tell you what the finishing touch is. The proverbial cherry on top of the cake. Or rather, the deep-fried potato slice on top of the falafel.
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photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Watching a falafel pitta be made at Pockets is like watching Neo believe at the end of The Matrix. There’s a natural hypnotism to it, of seeing someone at the peak of their powers, seeing robotic movements and actions mix with the nonchalant, the complex, and the precise. It starts with the bread. Taken out of the steamer with one hand whilst head and body looks the other way towards the fillings dashboard. Freshly-made falafels. Wafer-thin cabbage salad. Sumac here. Sumac there. Velvet smooth hummus. Fruity, tart amba. A parsley green sauce. Tingly zhoug. Tahini, of course. And then they start. Grabbing. Drizzling. Layering. Expertly placing and manoeuvring inside the most pillow-like of vessels. You’ll watch mouth agape as what appears to be the work of a multi-limbed creature is done without breaking sweat. And then the final touch: the deep-fried potato. But before you hold your hands out, ready to cradle this creation and say your thanks, remember: say yes to chilli.