International Cuisine in Zagreb: Falafel etc.

Total Croatia News

© Falafel etc.
Falafel etc.
Falafel etc.

July 24, – Zagreb’s food offer has grown considerably in quality and choice over the last decade, with Michelin stars galore and an exciting range of international cuisine options. We continue our look at some of the best new outlets offering meals never previously available in the Croatian capital, getting the story behind these businesses and their food. In this installment, we look at the fresh take on vegan-friendly falafel offered by Falafel etc.

If you’re hungry or thirsty, you’re not short of options on Kaptol, the city centre section of Zagreb’s upper town. But, judging from the queues snaking down Opatovina, leading to the door of Falafel etc, something was clearly missing. Open for less than a year, the informal restaurant and takeaway has established itself as provider of the city’s finest falafel, just as popular with health-conscious meat eaters as it is with their loyal vegan and vegetarian following. Deep-fried balls made from minced chickpeas, spices and herbs, this middle-eastern snack has long been one of the best lunchtime options available in neighbouring Belgrade. With the arrival of Falafel etc, Zagreb finally has an outlet easily as good as the best of what’s on offer in the capital city next door.

image2.jpegAntonija Kraljičković (right) and staff outside Falafel etc. © Total Croatia News

My name is Antonija Kraljičković and I’m from Lekenik, a small village near Sisak, roughly 30 kilometres from Zagreb. For the last 15 years I’ve been living in Zagreb. I went to university here and completed a degree in journalism. Towards the end of my studies, I started to have the feeling that journalism wasn’t for me and my hobby was cooking. When I was younger, I’d always wanted to have some little restaurant, but back then it just seemed like a daydream. But, I was working in one job and I wasn’t satisfied and I decided I really wanted to do something with cooking. So, now I’m here. We’ve been open for less than a year.

I wasn’t so much inspired to learn cooking by a family member. I had to learn more out of necessity. I started living on my own when I was 18. It was only then that I realised that I love to cook. Once I’d made up my mind that I wanted to work doing cooking, I had to think of something to do. I’ve always loved falafel and I couldn’t find anywhere in Zagreb that I thought made it as good as I’d tried elsewhere. Zagreb is full of pizzeria, burgers, grill places, so I thought that falafel would be a good idea. I think I made a good choice.

Sometimes falafel can be quite dry and quite hard in texture. I wanted to make authentic falafel, in its original flavour, but I didn’t want to make it like that. I wanted it to be more appetizing. For almost a year I was doing taste testing and experimenting in my kitchen, trying different ingredients and additions, trying to get a consistency and texture that I was happy with. I narrowed it down to the top ten options, then I chose the best three – an original falafel, flavoured with coriander, one with beetroot and one with sweet potato. The next one I hope to introduce is a falafel filled with vegan cheese.

IMG_20200229_140213.jpegFalafel etc. © Total Croatia News

It’s not been difficult to convince people to try our falafel, even though it’s not been easily available before in Zagreb. We see the same people coming back here all the time, so I guess they like what we do. We have an area for sitting down and eating in the restaurant, but many more people come at lunchtime for takeaway and we use the delivery services too. Judging by their enthusiasm, I think people in Zagreb really like falafel and maybe they were waiting for a place like this to open. It’s a healthy meal option and you really don’t miss having any meat in this dish.

I think if I’d have opened this business ten years ago, maybe it would have been a lot more difficult to succeed. But, in recent years, Zagreb has welcomed more and more international visitors, tourists. Except for this year, of course! I think Zagreb’s food offer has got bigger in order to satisfy such visitors. Maybe these visitors have also helped to change our perspective? I still think that we’re missing out on some options. Some of the new places which open here, the prices can be quite high. These are restaurants you might go to once a week or for a special occasion, something fancy. Some people get their lunch from Falafel etc. every single day.

IMG_20200229_140137.jpegFalafel etc. © Total Croatia News

I get almost all of our ingredients and vegetables from local OPGs. I place an order with them and they bring it to Dolac with them in the morning and I collect it from there. It’s just a couple of minutes walk from the restaurant. Every dish we make is vegan. I’m not vegan myself, although I do love vegetarian and vegan food. With falafel, it really wasn’t difficult to offer a fully vegan menu instead of just a vegetarian choice. We buy dried chickpeas and soak them overnight in order to make the falafel and hummus the next day. We make all of our sauces and dressings ourselves. We also make our own bread. I hadn’t planned to, but I tried every tortilla and flatbread available from the shops, bakeries and wholesalers and I wasn’t satisfied at all. I didn’t like the taste or the texture. So, I decided we had to do it by ourselves. For me, the bread is such an integral part of our falafel sandwiches. I had to get it right. For me, this dish is only truly complete when the bread is perfect.

I had been thinking about expanding the menu, with soups and something like vegan burritos. But, it has been a difficult period for such a young business, with Coronavirus. Luckily, the deliveries kept us in business and, even more lucky, we’d managed to get a really loyal customer base in just our first few months, people who wanted to order lunch from us several times a week. Thank you! That meant I was able to pay my costs and my staff. Now that the restrictions have been relaxed, they are ordering less, but they are instead coming themselves for takeaway. In the back of my mind, I wanted to maybe set up an outlet of the business somewhere on the coast, maybe on one island. But, many of these plans will have to wait for now. Maybe in a year or two. I first need to survive in Zagreb before I can think of opening on the coast.

NEW ADDRESS: Falafel etc. is now located at Andrije Žaje 60 10000 Zagreb.

Falafel etc. © Total Croatia News

You can read the introduction to our series on Zagreb international cuisine and the first installment here

To follow our whole series on international cuisine and to follow the Croatian restaurant and gastro scene, keep an eye on our Gourmet pages here


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