There’s a new addition to Madrid’s well-established Middle Eastern corner. Fun Falafel is a simple, no-frills eatery owned by a lovely couple from Lebanon and Morocco, and it’s open 24 hours a day. All their food is cooked from scratch – everything from the falafel and stuffed vine leaves to the baklava and fruit smoothies, and it all tastes amazing.
It wasn’t actually Fun Falafel’s catchy name that brought us in, it was the kanafeh in the window display. This dessert’s popularity spans the whole of the Middle East. It’s made with soft, stringy cheese wrapped in pastry and then soaked in a rose and orange-flavoured syrup.
The first time I had this sweet pastry was in Antakya – a place on the Turkey–Syria border which is no longer safe to visit. As the sun set that evening during Ramadan, and the main square began to hum with the hungry evening crowd, cafes dedicated entirely to this dessert put out their terraces, and families came out in the hundreds for their nightly kanafeh expedition.
With a nostalgic image so vivid in my mind, I was thrilled to see pan kanafeh right here in Madrid, and it inevitably led me straight to the falafel. Cooked fresh, this crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside falafel rivals that of Iraqi restaurant Leyali. The tabbouleh was packed full of flavour from such simple ingredients. The hummus was exactly how I’ve had it in Middle Eastern countries – silky smooth and down-to-earth in flavour with a crater of olive oil and chickpeas in the middle. We also had manakish, an unleavened flat bread carpeted in za’atar – a herb, sesame seed and sumac (dried sour fruit) mix found throughout the Middle East (and some spice shops in Lavapiés).
The whole time we were there, everyone who came in spoke in Arabic. As I’d hoped, it’s one of those places where people from other countries come to get familiar home-cooked food.
So next time you need a falafel fix, no matter what time of day it is (lunch/dinner/when you get the munchies after a notoriously late Madrid night out), head here and order the falafel, and also everything else on the menu.