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Food review: Moorish Falafel Bar, Lower Goat Lane, Norwich

PUBLISHED: 16:24 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:24 22 August 2018

The pulled jackfruit burger, served with slaw and fries. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

The pulled jackfruit burger, served with slaw and fries. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

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This pocket-sized venue in Norwich’s trendy Lower Goat Lane shows off the versatility of the Middle East’s most famous culinary export in all its glory.

The Mexican falafel pitta and side order of three dolma. Picture: STUART ANDERSONThe Mexican falafel pitta and side order of three dolma. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

You can have your falafel as part of a traditional meze, a versatile wrap, an overflowing pita or a slightly messy burger.

There’s a Greek version with hummus, tabouleh and pita, but I went for the Mexican pita special with guacamole, salsa and jalapenos and didn’t regret it for a second.

The pita was packed to brim – not like a suitcase after you’ve lazily thrown all your clothes in without folding them up and have to sit on it to make the zip get all the way around, more like an Ikea display room where every nook and corner has been made use of and filled out with maximum efficiency.

As well as the Mexican-style contents, you get a decent lump of that famous falafel as well as grated carrots and cabbage. The vegetables gave the package a crunchiness that nicely complemented the softness of the falafel, with the jalapenos lending the meal a nice, hot buzz.

The Mexican falafel pitta. Picture: STUART ANDERSONThe Mexican falafel pitta. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

Although I picked a couple of sauces to go with it (you can have up to three) the pita didn’t become damp or messy and I’m happy to report my hands remained clean after the meal had been swallowed up.

As a side, I took a small plate of three dolma – little rolls of rice wrapped up in grape leaves.

In the past I’ve found they tend to divide opinion due to their oily texture and despite their overall shape it’s a lot safer to use a fork than pick them up with your fingers.

This trio was typically oozy, but they were also about the freshest and nicest dolma I’ve ever had.

The Moorish Falafel Bar in Lower Goat Lane. Picture: STUART ANDERSONThe Moorish Falafel Bar in Lower Goat Lane. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

If you’re up for a burger but ground up chickpeas with herbs and spices don’t take your fancy you can opt for a quinoa and beetroot patty, a roasted squash and quina one or even a burger made with ‘Latino bean’.

They also do one with jackfruit – a large, spiky ball of a beast known for its strong, musky smell. Someone, somewhere once somehow discovered a similarity to the look you get with pulled pork, when you, well, pull your jackfruit.

My partner, Becca, picked this out and I can confirm it was delicious, and not at all funky.

Like the other burgers, it was served with a tub of yummy fries jazzed up with what looked like little bits of fried onion and an ungarnished carrot, cabbage and onion commingle they call slaw.

Three dessert options, veganaire's shortbread, vegan rocky road and baklava. Picture: STUART ANDERSONThree dessert options, veganaire's shortbread, vegan rocky road and baklava. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

We picked one of each of the deserts they had available to take home carved them up in our kitchen. I found the ‘veganaire’s shortbread’ quite all right, although Becca found the peanut caramel overwhelming.

The rocky road, rich with cherries and vegan marshmallows, suited us better, although the soft vegan chocolate topping both cakes took some getting used to for someone who likes a bit of crunch in his cocoa.

But my favourite was the baklava – the biggest slice I’ve ever had – with its syrupy, almond-filled interior providing a sweet kick with every mouthful through its fine layers of crumbly pastry.

Drinks-wise, the highlight has got to be the homemade lemonade – a soothing glass of freshness served with a couple of mint leaves floating around.

Inside the Moorish Falafel Bar in Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: STUART ANDERSONInside the Moorish Falafel Bar in Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

There’s no booze on the menu, but you can bring your own for a small corkage fee.

We also got the vegan hot chocolate, a yummy treat with little marshmallows which are perhaps a bit chewier than the non-veggie version. There’s a range of coffees, soft drinks and spiced chai latte on offer.

Setting and ambiance

The Moorish Falafel Bar is partway down Lower Goat Lane, one of the showpiece thoroughfares of the Norwich Lanes. This part of the city is an eclectic mix of art and gift boutiques, hair salons and iconic eateries such as Biddy’s Tea Room, the Grosvenor Fish Bar, and Moorish.

The Moorish Falafel Bar in Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: STUART ANDERSONThe Moorish Falafel Bar in Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

Most of the trade here is lunch-related but they stay open till 9pm from Thursday to Saturday, so it’s a dinner option you might not have thought of if you find yourself out and about at that time.

There are a couple of stools you can perch on near the counter, some tables just outside, and an upstairs seating area which was closed when we went.

We sat downstairs which has the feel of a typical city snack bar - not big on romance but alive with bustle and things to look at. There’s music playing and sound of tasty things frying away in the background.

Another solid option would be to take your wrap or whatever to either the nearby Memorial Gardens overlooking Norwich Market or to the even closer St Gregory’s Green - falafel is meant to be portable, after all!

Service

We went in the evening, and there were just two staff behind the Bar who were both were friendly and efficient. They really seemed to love their jobs. Business was erratic and I got the impression an extra pair of hands would been welcome during the busier spells, but the duo managed to take it all in their stride and did their best to keep everyone in the know about how long they would have to wait for their food.

Accessibility

There’s no steps getting inside or up to the counter, but of course the toilets and seating area upstairs are a different matter. The outside seating area is almost certainly more comfortable than the stools.

Toilets

I didn’t feel the call, but apparently they’re on the very top floor, not uncommon of older city centre buildings such as this.

Parking

Lower Goat Lane is pedestrian traffic only. The nearest places to park are the St Giles Multi Storey around the corner, and a little further away, St Andrew’s Car Park down the hill or the Forum Car Park. There’s a busy taxi stand on nearby Gaol Hill.

Price

Really decent – you can get a salad pita or wrap for as little as £3.60. The burgers are £7-£9, and the meze dishes range up to the Latino sharing platter, which feeds four for £18.95. Cakes and other deserts are all £2.30.

Highlight

No offence to the pulled jackfruit, but my falafel pita was sensational.

In summary

Although I can’t claim to be a vegetarian I do find myself being increasingly drawn to meat-free options. Spots such as this prove there’s a plethora of cuisines to sample which give you a satisfying feeling of fullness without the bloat, of say, a 16oz rump steak.

This little place has got to be a highlight of Norwich’s snack bar scene and it’s well worth your attention if you already love falafel, or if you’re up for trying something new. It’s certainly a spot I’d return to the next time I’m looking for a quick lunch when on the go in the city.

3 great dishes to try...

1. Moorish falafal wrap or pita - the classic dish served with hummus, slaw and the option of either chili, tahini or yoghurt and mint sauce, or all of them together.

2. Latino sharing platter for two - A lovely meze mix of bean fritters, guacamole, salsa, jalapenos, vegan slaw and homemade chilli tortilla chips.

3. Vegan rocky road - A thick and rich block of chocolate goodness with cherries and vegan marshmallows.

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