London: the international scene

One of the great things about Lon­don is the fact you can bor­row drink­ing expe­ri­ences from just about any­where.

We’ve enjoyed tak­ing part in tapas crawls, albeit with a bit more of a walk between stops than we’re used to from Madrid or Seville.

If you want an authen­tic Ger­man beer gar­den (indus­tri­al sausages and all) you’ve got Stein’s, although for much of the same atmos­phere with bet­ter food and beer, try the Mean­time new­com­er, The Old Brew­ery.  And while it does­n’t have a much of a gar­den, Zeit­geist con­tin­ues to be a live­ly place, pro­vid­ing a haven for Ger­man bankers and native Sarf Lon­don­ers to watch the Bun­desli­ga togeth­er.

For rainy, win­try days, we find that the Dove in Hack­ney is a good sub­si­ti­tu­tion for our all time favourite Bel­gian pub, the Poech­enellekelder.   Odd, con­sid­er­ing the bray­ing Shored­itch clien­tele and the some­times too-kool-for-skool barstaff – we think it’s the wood­en decor, mul­ti-floor lay­out and cosy nooks.

On the down­side, the Aus­tri­an imbiss is sad­ly no longer with us.

Defying the English weather

As every­one knows, the weath­er in Eng­land is rub­bish. Even when it’s sun­ny, you can be fair­ly sure there will be a show­er just as you’ve set up your pic­nic.

In May, we were faced with a long bank hol­i­day week­end where the rain did­n’t stop in Lon­don, but we decid­ed to ignore it and go on anoth­er tapeo (tapas crawl). Sod the rain. We were going to pre­tend we were in Spain.

If you treat a crap­py Greene King pub like you would a Span­ish bar, it’s not half bad. The tourists just added to the atmos­phere, and our two halves of cold Kro­nen­bourg did­n’t taste any worse than Mahou does in Madrid. And they had some decent olives to nib­ble on. Result.

Next up, the Queen’s Head and Arti­choke. As a pub, it prob­a­bly would­n’t be our cup of tea, but as a tapas bar, it was great. They let us sit at the bar to drink our Bit­burg­er and had a prop­er, con­vinc­ing tapas menu, which we ordered bits and pieces from over the course of an hour or so.

Final­ly, we head­ed for the Nor­folk Arms. It’s more of a restau­rant than a bar despite being (we think) some­how relat­ed to the pre­vi­ous place. They were a bit sniffy because we did­n’t want a table and a full meal but they put up with it. We put away some ser­ra­no ham, a few Estrel­la Damms and, final­ly, a cou­ple of glass­es of sher­ry.

When we left, it was still rain­ing, but we’d very suc­cess­ful­ly ban­ished the bank hol­i­day blues.

Jamon and frozen beer

sagres

Our sec­ond attempt at a Lon­don tapas crawl was less suc­ces­ful than the first, which you can read about here.

Our first port of call was Fer­nan­dez and Wells in Soho which was crammed. Nor did it seem to offer any beer, and what point is there in eat­ing tapas with­out a cold lit­tle lager?

We thought we’d nev­er find our sec­ond des­ti­na­tion but it was worth the schlep. Iber­i­ca is pret­ty posh but the cheery staff made no effort to force us into a sit down meal. We sat at the bar, drank Mahou (ter­ri­ble in itself, but evoca­tive of hot Andalu­cian after­noons) and enjoyed a per­fect­ly engi­neered Span­ish omelette, some pimien­tos de padron and cro­que­tas. Not cheap, but worth every pen­ny.

Next, we head­ed for some­where much more down-to-earth – Bar Gansa in Cam­den. The sev­er­al mile walk stretched the def­i­n­i­tion of a ‘crawl’ and the Eng­lish weath­er had us trapped under a bridge for near­ly an hour while it rained and hailed with awe-inspir­ing feroc­i­ty. When we arrived, we were no longer feel­ing very Andalu­cian at all. For­tu­nate­ly, more chilly beers and some very cheap, very decent Span­ish ham put us back in the mood. There was music, there were peo­ple, they were young and alive. Good moods restored, we set out to our final des­ti­na­tion.

Bar Camino was very trendy a year or two back and when you walk through the door, one thing is clear: no expense has been spared on decor, fix­tures and fit­tings and staff train­ing. Again, we sat at the bar (buck­ing the trend, this time) and nib­bled. Sagres is Por­tugese and pret­ty bor­ing but, on a humid after­noon, the freez­er-fresh han­dled krugs it came in worked won­ders. Tacky, we know, but very, very refresh­ing.

In search of the authentic tapas bar experience: (1) North West London

Olives and Estrella Galicia in a shady bar in London
Olives and Estrel­la Gali­cia in a shady bar in Lon­don

En espanol

We tend to go to Spain around this time each year. How­ev­er, due to start­ing new jobs etc we haven’t been able to plan any­thing, and so we start­ed think­ing about how to repli­cate some of the best Span­ish expe­ri­ences in Lon­don. In par­tic­u­lar, we’re on a mis­sion to iden­ti­fy all of the authen­tic tapas bars in Lon­don, ide­al­ly gath­ered togeth­er in con­ve­nient tapeos (tapas bar crawls).

Let’s make it clear: we’re not talk­ing about restau­rants that serve tapas or Span­ish food. We’re talk­ing about places where you can have a nice chat over some drinks and a tapa or two. Ide­al­ly, we’re look­ing for places where you can sit up at the bar and lis­ten to old men bick­er­ing in impen­e­tra­ble dialects, to get the real feel of being in Spain.

So, after a bit of inter­net research, we put togeth­er the fol­low­ing tapeo in north west Lon­don, an area we bare­ly know. Con­tin­ue read­ing “In search of the authen­tic tapas bar expe­ri­ence: (1) North West Lon­don”

Buscando tapas auténticas en Londres (1): El Noroeste

Eng­lish ver­sion

Sole­mos ir a España en el otoño. Por des­gra­cia, debido a nuevos puestos de tra­ba­jo, no hemos arreglado nada este año. Como echamos de menos España tan­to, hemos empezan­do a pen­sar cómo podemos replicar algu­nas de las mejores expe­ri­en­cias españo­las en Lon­dres. En par­tic­u­lar, queríamos iden­ti­ficar todos los autén­ti­cos bares de tapas en Lon­dres, para plan­ear tapeos vari­a­dos.

No esta­mos hablan­do de restau­rantes que sir­ven tapas o comi­da españo­la. Esta­mos hablan­do de lugares infor­males donde se puede char­lar sobre algu­nas copas y una tapa o dos. Esta­mos bus­can­do espe­cial­mente los lugares donde se puede sen­tarse en el bar, hablar con el dueño y escuchar a los viejos dis­cutien­do en dialec­tos impen­e­tra­bles…

Así que, después de un poco de inves­ti­gación por Inter­net, planeamos el sigu­iente tapeo en el noroeste de Lon­dres, una zona que ape­nas cono­ce­mos.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Bus­can­do tapas autén­ti­cas en Lon­dres (1): El Noroeste”