Hummus Bros, 88 Wardour Street, London W1F 0TH
It is a little known fact – outside of University campuses at least – that over a third of the student brain is devoted to the acquisition, consumption and veneration of hummus.
This obsession - which kicks in about halfway through ‘freshers’ week and can sometimes linger for years after graduation - is as powerful for students as the desire to breathe or to switch off the TV when Justin Lee Collins comes on is for everybody else.
You might think this student fixation with hummus is easily explained: After all, it’s practical, relatively cheap, can be applied to virtually anything (I recommend bacon) and is incredibly tasty.
In fact, however, students don’t worship hummus for any of the above reasons: If hummus were to one day lose all of its student friendly properties but retain its hummusy essence, it would be no less revered.
Clearly, strange and powerful forces attract draw those in higher education towards this most celebrated of chickpea based dips.
Whatever the reasons for this obsession, it should hardly come as a surprise that Hummus Brothers, a chain of hummus restaurants scattered across central London, was founded by a couple of students.
A self-confessed hummus addict myself, I headed, hands quivering slightly, to the Soho branch.
The place is relatively small, with two large rows of communal tables and a bench up against the glass outer wall. By comparison to places in central London with a similar turnaround rate, it feels pleasantly laid back.
Things here work slightly differently to anywhere else I've eaten hummus: Rather than ordering an immense vat of hummus to dip things in, you start with a dish of the stuff and pick one or more toppings to be placed in the centre. You then take one of the pieces of warm, wholemeal pitta bread - which is surprisingly thick but all the better for it - mix everything up, and shovel resulting the mixture onto into your mouth.
Conscious of my lack of a companion (no free meal is worth spending an hour or so with me) and the need to try more than one course, I decide to split my bed of hummus in two, having slow cooked chickpeas on one side and chicken with sun dried tomatoes on the other. I also order the falafel salad and a glass of fresh mint and ginger lemonade.
My chickpea and chicken hybrid is a fairly hit and miss affair: Whilst both the chicken, prepared in a mildly spicy tomato sauce, and the chickpeas are excellent, the hummus itself has a strange, slightly musty quality to it. Fortunately this fades almost completely when I apply some garlic and lime sauce – one of a few restaurant sauces I've encountered that I have been tempted to siphon off into a carefully disguised container whilst trying not to look shifty. Though the sun dried tomatoes are very nice on their own, I’m glad they’ve been served to me on a side dish as they don’t compliment the chicken nearly as well as I would have hoped.
Though I feel the need to stress that, overall, my main course was very nice, my falafel salad is an infinite improvement. The salad, dressed in tzatziki and salsa, tastes wonderfully fresh and the falafels are a perfect consistency.
What’s more, everything felt (and was) incredibly healthy: I usually walk back from lunch with the sense of foreboding that accompanies the knowledge that the junk I’ve just eaten will be catching up with me in an hour or so, reducing me to a quivering, MSG saturated wreck.
If anything, walking back from Hummus Brothers, I feel the opposite – the strange and life affirming sensation of having eaten without having done anything to increase my chances of having a heart attack.
On balance then, it’s harder to think of a better place to grab lunch in the centre of town than Hummus Brothers – which is why I’ve been going there on and off ever since.