Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to damn organic chickpeas with faint praise

‘You should review’, said a colleague of mine some weeks ago, ‘that new hummus and falafel place that just opened up on the plaza.’

I’m not sure if this was a deliberate challenge designed to cunningly wrongfoot me and my blogpipe, but if it was, I failed at the first couple of attempts. You see, to get to ‘that new hummus and falafel place’ I have to walk out the tower and right past Birley Salt Beef.

Not an easy thing to do of a lunchtime, that. I’m only human.

I mean, what sane person could possibly eschew a sandwich full of hot roast beef or crackling pork belly and walk on by, merely in order to munch on some tasteless chickpea nonsense?!?

Probably only the assorted vegans, crusties, crumblies, hippies, socialists, whale-savers, potheads, students and eco-warriors that I mentally associate with hummus and falafel places - a mental association that is entirely fair and right too, I'll have you know. 

It's both organic and chickpea-y
(And that Swampy fellow who used to protest against motorway extensions. He probably eats falafel and hummus.)

Oh, all right. I'll stop moaning. I guess I don’t mind hummus and falafel all that much, and I actually quite like chickpeas when curried. I just struggle to get even remotely enthusiastic about them.

But this sort of food is just never going to set my palette alight, and I really wasn’t expecting anything much in the way of ‘wow factor’ today when I finally managed to walk past Birley’s without giving in to the lure of hot red meat (having already arranged with Mrs. B-V that we’d feast upon a large pork joint this evening, naturally!) 

(Oh, and Guardian-readers. And people who drive Citroen 2CVs. I'll stop now.) 

Finger on the pulse

The imaginatively-named ‘Organic Chickpeas’ bar is open from 10 until 6, though it’s not really the kind of snack I’d fancy at 10:03 or 5:59. The menu is limited to falafel in bread (about £4.50), a hummus platter or a salad plate (both about a fiver) – in whatever configuration you choose, the core elements seem to be essentially the same though. 

I went for the falafel in brown flat-ish bread, which includes a thin spreading of hummus and tahini and various colourful, cabbagey salads. It looked interesting enough, and I won't contest their claims of freshness and purity. 

It was vaguely hot, vaguely cold, vaguely crunchly, vaguely liquidy and vaguely garlicky, and the (optional) chilli sauce added a nice warming kick, but I knew exactly what I was going to get. Maybe it's me, but the vegetarian/organic/wholefood market does seem to be lacking a little in imagination and tastes exactly as it did when it first emerged in the 1980s.

It was hard to tell because of the purple cabbage juice, but I think there were four little falafel inside the sandwich. I wasn't full and could easily have eaten another. And yet, strangely, it wouldn't bother me if I never ate another.

The little chickpea bar outside the tower does what it does rather well, but unless you're a straggly-haired environmentalist who ended up in Canary Wharf by mistake, it's hard to get excited about it.

On The Wharf...

Organic Chickpeas
Reuters Plaza,
Canary Wharf
E14 5AJ

1 comment:

  1. That Swampy fellow used to eat Pot Noodle. It always struck me as odd that someone who professed to care so passionately for nature should enjoy one of the most processed, packaged and unnatural foodstuffs (if such it can be described as) in existence.


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