Feria de Londres celebrates Spanish culture and cuisine on London’s Southbank
The Southbank went through a Spanish makeover for the late May Bank Holiday weekend. Feria de Londres brought a splash of Andalusian colours, flavours and joy to the banks of the Thames. Set in the cosy Bernie Spain Gardens, between the eclectic Gabriel’s Wharf and the grand Oxo Tower, the festival invited Londoners to enjoy three days of carnival, get on the dance floor and try as many dishes as possible from the Iberian Peninsula.
With the sun high and Mediterranean smells flooding across the crowd, the good vibes were up in Southwark, making the area an appealing place to be on a warm afternoon. The official sponsor, Tio Pepe, offered a series of sherry tasting workshops, while under La Caseta Tent various family activities and entertainment numbers alternated one after the other throughout the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, Rumbaba played some of the best rhythmic pieces from their repertoire, featuring guitar and shakers, with some of the audience enjoying the music from the lawn and others trying out a few moves.
For those new to the music and dance of the Sevillanas, in the Dance Floor tent flashmobs, displays and workshops, organised by Ilusión Flamenca, offered a taste of the graceful steps and pair choreography from Southern Spain. Amateurs and professionals alike mingled and swayed in the cheerful atmosphere.
Alongside the lively arts programme, the food stalls offered visitors an array of palatable treats. And what was better than enjoying Mediterranean delicacies and street food in the cosy gardens with a view over the Thames?
With more and more shops popping up in almost every corner of the capital selling them, churros are not new on the London scene. Deep fried and ready to be dipped into liquid chocolate, the sugary pastry by Churro Garcia was a pleasant surprise, something quite different from the heaviness of more commercial products. Not far from the sweet snack stands were the gigantic pans of the Paella London School. Their yellow rice dish was probably the most savoury, with all the richness of the mixed ingredients, and fish basis that we expect from this Valencian recipe.
Ana’s Croquetas served different types of the fried rolls with their creamy fillings – and they were not to be missed. We couldn’t recommend the chorizo and wild mushroom options more: crispy on the outside and delicate at the heart.
For the veggie lovers and vegans, Quinoa Food presented festival-goers with an interesting trio of quinoa arepa rolls to try. We went for the vegan option, which combined tasty grilled kale with soft avocado and pulpy plantain. A little pricey but still worth trying for those curious about Peruvian gastronomy.
And if the drinks on offer were not enough, refreshing glasses of the Spanish classic, Gazpacho, were also ready at hand. The beverage is made simply of tomato, onion, olive oil and salt, although other varieties can be found around Spain. The strength of the natural ingredients was an important winning factor for Mar de Olivos.
For a multicultural city like London, it may sound rather commonplace to have a festival celebrating the cultural and culinary heritage of one of the ethnic groups present on the territory. But the warmth of the culture, the rhythm of the music and the unvarying lure of savoury Spanish food made the magic new, and London’s Southbank was transformed into a sunny, sparkling celebration of Andalusian flavours.
Photos: Maria Dolores Barrios
Feria de Londres is at Bernie Spain Gardens from 25th until 27th May 2018. For further information visit the festival website here.