Thursday, July 20, 2006

Beetroot Munchers of Budapest

Buff up yer muff girl, it's beetroot for tea
Falafel Faloda provides a venue for the aggressive veggie gang

A FourBees review

Oh, bitter irony of life, my ailing, twinging gall bladder prescribes a totally fat-free diet.
In Budapest, I might just as well wave bye bye to fine dining, local restaurants and any form of fast food.
Well almost.
Judging by the crowds packed into Falafel Faloda every lunch-time, you would think all of Hungary had gone completely vegetarian and had never heard of the word zsír.
The most delicious and healthy concoctions are there, waiting to be blended together.
Falafel Faloda manages to squeeze an awful lot of vegetables, fruit and customers into a tiny space.

Upstairs is a green balcony where you can eat your salad, if you have managed to successfully teeter up the wooden staircase, balancing your salad, pitta bread, real fruit milkshake and deliciously naughty pudding on a tiny oblong tray, while negotiating all the healthy eaters on their way down.
For those of a nervous disposition, I would not recommend a visit during the Hungarian lunch hour of noon to 1pm.
During these moments, you are likely to be squashed under a marauding horde of Magyar secretaries who want their salad and want it NOW – elbows at the ready, it’s every gal for herself.

And I thought only carnivores were supposed to be aggressive.
Having queued for quite a substantial amount of time, you place your order at the counter and receive a glass bowl or pitta bread for filling and eating on site or a plastic container to take away.
That was the easy bit.
You must now attempt to fill the said container with some of the most mouth-watering salad combinations in Budapest, while at the same time fending off a score of ravenous salad-hunting grannies who stock up on healthy veg and then, feeling so virtuous, order a Somlói galuska (sweet dumplings covered in chocolate, rum and cream) and a gesztenyepüré (wormy strands of chestnut purée topped with whipped cream).
The selection of salads available is second to none – raw spinach, orange and sesame seeds in a mustardy dressing is a particular favourite, but then there’s the gorgeous Greek salad with feta cheese, olives, lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes, sliced and diced beets, broccoli, turnip and carrot shreds, soya beans, pasta, rice, curried flageolets, a cabbage, walnut and mushroom melange, sliced apple, bean sprouts, csalamádé and the perennial favourite – fried carrot and pumpkin.

In two corners are the metal dishes containing falafel – fried spicy chick pea balls which perk up any veggie creation and don’t hang around long.
There is so much to squash onto your plate, the atmosphere of desperation is palpable. There is even a message above the counter, requesting that customers refrain from helping themselves to a ‘púpos adag’ –with a púp or hunch-back, another way of saying a piled up serving.
Perhaps there were incidents as over-zealous vegetable hunters attempted to balance yet another falafel on the top of a salad mountain.

There is also a wide selection of sauces to ladle onto the salad featuring horseradish, blue cheese, chilli, humus, garlic and mustard, dill, walnut, thousand island and French dressing.
The salad selections are freshly cut and prepared by a team of young people, beavering away in the back room.
They fill up the metal dishes as fast as they are emptied again.
Salads to eat in cost Ft320 for a big one, Ft265 for a small and pitta bread is Ft25. Takeaway is cheaper and you can take home a giant salad for Ft660.
Having consumed such a healthy lunch, the Falafel Faloda staff catch the customer at a weak and susceptible moment and offer temptation nobody can resist.
Puddings are of the definitely sinful variety – an enticing-looking rice pudding topped with fresh fruit (Ft185), Hungarian aranygaluska (golden dumplings - Ft210) and madártej (floating islands – Ft120 ) chestnut purée (Ft160) and everyone’s favourite Somlói galuska (Ft180) are the rewards for finishing up all your greens.
The only rather disconcerting element is all the mirrors lining the downstairs room, where you can eat, standing up, at chin-high shelves.
I know they create a feeling of space, but it is most unnerving to look up and suddenly catch sight of yourself cramming in mouthfuls of rice pudding as if your life depended on it.

Falafel Faloda
Budapest - Distrct VI
Paulay Ede utca 53
Getting there: Metro 1 (little underground - kis földalatti) to Opera
Tel: (+36 1) 351-1243
Open Mon-Fri 10am -8pm, Sat 10am-6pm, closed Sun

Décor 6/10
Cuisine 8/10
Service 7/10
Milkshake List 8/10
Ambience 7/10
The Bees' Knees 8/10


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