Love letter to Lodge Lane
Falafel yourself senseless
Dear members — today we’re talking about food. Not your glitzy city-centre eateries, your Time Out-recommended superstar chefs or bistros of Lark Lane. No, today we’re talking about the food of Lodge Lane in Toxteth. Over the past two decades, the once lifeless lane has become a hub of food from countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with falafel snacks, Ethiopian stews and mega-sized charcoal grills. Hungry? Tuck in.
As has become customary at Post HQ, we are sending this Thursday email to our whole list, both to those attractive and charismatic gods amongst wo/men (paying subscribers), and everyone else (those on our free list). Unfortunately, those who have not yet treated themselves to a paid sub will only get a mouthful of the prose champagne on offer today before the paywall hits. If you believe that high-quality media should be a priority in this city, we hope you’ll reach for your wallets. Our work is entirely funded by our paying subscribers — thanks once again to them.
First things first, your Post briefing, including a new bishop for Liverpool and a film festival from the future.
Your Post briefing
West Derby MP Ian Byrne wants Hillsborough to be taught in schools, and is seeking a meeting with education secretary Kit Malthouse. Following Liverpool’s weekend victory over Manchester City, during which “vile chants” were heard being sung about the disaster by sections of City supporters, Byrne tweeted a letter to ministers saying that only through education “we will be able to put a stop to the disgraceful behaviour of some fans”. Byrne’s appeal is one element of the Real Truth Legacy Project, a campaign to “educate all generations” about Hillsborough.
Operation Crossbow — a large-scale police crackdown on drugs — has seen hundreds of cannabis plants seized across Merseyside, as well as large quantities of crack cocaine and heroin. Since the killing of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, for which 34-year-old Thomas Cashman has now been charged, a greater light has been shone on drug-dealing criminals across the city. 700 cannabis plants were seized in just two raids in Liverpool, and £40,000 in cash, crack cocaine, heroin, a lock knife and a knuckleduster were found in another. In total, 25 people were arrested in Liverpool and Wirral on Monday.
Liverpool has a new bishop. The Right Reverend Doctor John Perumbalath, hailing from an ancient Christian community in Kerala, South India, will step up following the retirement of Bishop Paul Bayes in February. He moved to England in 2001 and has been Bishop of Bradwell since 2018, alongside chairing the Churches Refugee Network. In a statement, he discussed the “anxiety, fear and anger” resulting from the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis and the need for a message of “hope, peace, and justice”. Bishop John will begin at Liverpool Cathedral early in 2023.
📽️ Calling all lovers of parallel universes and intergalactic tomfoolery, the Birkenhead International Film festival are hosting “an evening of science fiction short films” on Saturday night. All the films being shown are shorts by independent directors, with submissions from 14 countries. The festival is at the Pilgrim Street Arts Centre. Tickets are £5, popcorn and sweets are (of course) available.
🖼️ The Sophie Hayes Freedom Quilt, made by the graduate’s of Sophie’s Foundation — which she set up in 2011 after having been trafficked to Italy for sexual explotation when she was 24 — is on display at the Walker. Each square is crafted by a different woman, 100 in total, to create “a poignant message of unity”. Details here.
🏞️ Take inspiration from Jack Dulhanty’s beautiful Post article earlier this month and head to Hilbre Island on Saturday or Sunday for an “Autumn Wonders tour,” lasting about two and a half hours and letting you say hello to seals and migrating birds. Sensible shoes and snacks both recommended. More here.
Love letter to Lodge Lane
By Jack Walton
When I first moved to Liverpool I needed to find somewhere reliable and cheap to eat. I was alone, a shit cook and hungry. I’m not one for fine dining — certainly not solo fine dining — but I also felt like sitting in my cardboard box-sized apartment eating Dominos in bed every night didn’t hew to the image I had cultivated of myself as a man about town, embarking on an adventure in a new city.
Of course I could’ve tried to cook, but when your culinary repertoire ranges from pesto pasta to pestoless pasta (or pasta senza pesto as I call it) you’ll eventually find yourself scraping together your shrapnel and Googling the words: “food cheap close”. Around the city centre (where I live) there are a few passable “food close cheap” options, but not that many, so gradually I began traipsing further afield (“food cheap quite close”) in search of the holy grail of takeaway-restaurant hybrids.
Emerging out of Crown Street Park one night, Lodge Lane lay before me like some kind of deliciously-scented fever dream. Was it kismet? It had to be: I ate falafel and hummus and it was glorious and cheap.
For a week or so I trekked up there every day, like a hungry pilgrim devoted to this cathedral of falafel. It had it all: five-a-side football teams drinking Budweiser in bus stops, seas of chefs chain-smoking in doorways, and restaurants from Ethiopia, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and countries all across Africa and the Middle East (plus Fat Joe's Pizzeria).
To dispel any building fears: don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a patronising diatribe about the hangover of the Toxteth Riots and newfound racial harmony, but I will say that Lodge Lane and more broadly the surrounding streets of Toxteth still have their issues. Crime rates are higher than average and deprivation more common. But this is a lane with a pulse, a culinary universe grander and richer than most in Merseyside.
In the end I falafelled myself silly, but after something of a hiatus I returned to the lane this week for the purpose of a two-day victory tour of its delights. Here’s that.
Standing outside Safari Cafe, which is packed out as a high-octane snooker game plays out inside, a Somalian man named Yussuf tells me he remembers when this was a “nothing road”. Now, he says, “it’s the road”. He’s dressed brightly and talks loudly as people huddle around. “20 years ago,” he says, “it was a depressing place and none of these restaurants and places were here. Now —” he opens his arms towards the lane like a magician doing a big reveal. “Look.”
I ask Yussuf for food recommendations and he launches into a long list, naming practically every eatery on the lane. I tell him it’ll be a challenge to eat in 20-odd restaurants in two days and he laughs and says he didn’t want to leave anyone out.
I start at Sakoon Cafe, which sits on a corner and promises “Middle Eastern food”. There’s no tablecloths, no unnecessary gimmicks, not even a functioning website. Speaking of the latter, on attempting to visit their homepage, I was greeted by the news that I was the one millionth customer that month and, as such, was entitled to a Rolex watch. I’ve yet to claim the Rolex, but I’ve enjoyed a daily bombardment of strange viruses since, ranging from the benign (“Warning! Your phone is infected”) to the explicitly pornographic.
Explicit pornography notwithstanding, Sakoon Cafe is great. It has a refreshingly logic-free menu which blends a core offering of genuinely Middle Eastern food with cameo appearances from anything you might find on the menu at a seven year old’s birthday party. Qozi lamb? Check. Curly fries? Also check.