Cheltenham’s new street food restaurant that people were lining up for around the block

A new cafe in Cheltenham serves fresh, community-driven falafel.

Habibah is a newly opened restaurant in downtown Cheltenham aimed at bringing fresh Palestinian street food to the townspeople – and at the same time creating a community center.

Opened by Sleiman Habibah, a former computer scientist, the restaurant has already had a successful month and plans to open its doors on Monday 23 August.

READ MORE: We tried one of Tripadvisor’s top rated Cheltenham cafes – but had to wait

According to Sleiman, the restaurant fills a gap in the city’s fast home food market.

“There is a need for fresh, quality homemade food in the city,” Sleiman said. “Food is such a big part of my culture, and that’s what I wanted to bring with this restaurant.”

Sleiman said he had “always” been passionate about food and grew up seeing it as the primary way to connect with family and friends.

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Even after he and his family moved to Hong Kong for his IT job, he says he always had the dream of someday opening his own restaurant.

But it was only after his job was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, when his hours fell to part-time, that Sleiman had the momentum to make his dream come true.

“This is the sign I was waiting for,” he said. “I was like ‘OK, now is the time to do it!”

A queue forms in front of the new Habibah falafel restaurant in Cheltenham

After growing up around food, Sleiman says he has acquired a knowledge of flavors that will give his coffee the edge.

The flatbreads are freshly baked with spelled flour and can be filled with falafel as well as salad and marinated roasted vegetables, with halloumi and hummus for toppings.

It is clear that Sleiman is excited to focus on family and community, with his daughter currently working at the cafe during her summer vacation.

“She takes great pride in her work at the cafe,” he said. “I think she’s getting a great education on how to run a business – I wish there were more of it for young people.”

Inside the new Habibah falafel restaurant
Inside the new Habibah falafel restaurant

Sleiman added that he wanted the cafe to be a “center for the community” where people from the area can come together and talk, with the aim of creating a common atmosphere.

“Hospitality is an integral part of my culture,” he said. “I think it’s a warm and welcoming place where people can come in and have a chat.

“I grew up in a large family and when I moved to Hong Kong for work I lived in a community where people meet and share regularly, so the mentality runs very deep in me.

“Especially in this climate where we have been exhausted by the pandemic, social ties are so important.”

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