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Lost & Found in London

My Vueling City and Mondo Sonoro will be joining forces over the next few months to focus on the music and pop culture aspects of some of Vueling’s destinations. It couldn’t be otherwise – the alliance made its debut in London, the cradle of pop music. For this premiere we decided to spend a weekend accompanying Joan S. Luna, chief editor of this established music magazine. It was a heady few days during which we found time for everything – culinary variety, from Spanish gourmet drawn through an English filter, to fusion to fast food of dubious excellence, to comics and long strolls along Bankside, Oxford Street and Dalston, the district that is chalking up points to become the British capital’s new Soho. We often got lost in the maze-like network of public transport, and also ended up at the odd party, of course. Here, then, is what we did over the 40 hours we spent in London.

The Warm-up

We hit the megacity on a Friday afternoon. What with the time change, however, it was more night than afternoon. It was a typical London day – cold and rainy to different degrees. But, that was of no consequence to us. We had planned to meet the Mondo Sonoro crew at the magnificent Ibérica Victoria restaurant, the latest to be spawned by the family of Ibérica establishments, the talk of the town in London and Manchester. This is where we first met Joan S. Luna, the protagonist of this post. For him it was “a pleasure to savour the fantastic menu offered by Ibérica. Friendly service, great food and a decor that impacts from the outset. The interior design is really striking”. Indeed, the reception counter is crowned by a sort of cloud made up of all kinds of kitchenware. The restaurant was designed by the architect, Lázaro Rosa Violán, from Barcelona’s Estudios Contemporain. Here you can delight in the finest Spanish cuisine, but with an English flourish, considering that 95% of the guests are local. The head chef is none other than the Michelin twice-starred Nacho Manzano. Prevalent among his offerings are the meats and carefully crafted tapas. Make sure you try their croquettes – Marcos Fernández, Ibérica’s Managing Director, revealed that their secret lies in having a chef dedicated exclusively to tapas. We can also recommend their “twice cooked lamb”, marinated in cherries, tomatoes and red peppers from the Bierzo region. Once we had eaten to the full, the wisest thing was to retire to build up our strength for the Saturday, which we knew was going to run well into the early morning hours.

Just Another Hipster Day

London has been at the forefront of grass-roots European culture since the seventies. The length and breadth of the city is graced by neighbourhoods that operate as veritable incubators of trends. Here it is decided what the “in thing” for the next few weeks is to be. A short while ago it was all the rage to grow a beard, return to a traditional lifestyle and submit to vintage interiors. So, who knows what the trend is now? Maybe stamp collecting will suddenly become the hipster fashion.

We decided to begin with a bit of pop culture, so we spent the morning at the Tate Modern where we saw the exhibition, The World Goes Pop. “More than the exhibits themselves, it was quite an eye opener to discover the somewhat hidden face of the Pop Art boom, or how its shock wave yielded fruit in such countries as Spain, Poland and Japan”, remarked Joan when we emerged from the stunning building, a former power station dating from the forties. We then took a stroll through Bankside, where we came across one of the city’s numerous Christmas markets. “For me Bankside is one of the most attractive areas. You can roam its streets and end up wondering whether you are actually in a big city or a small coastal town”.

Motley Afternoon

After lunch, we set off to indulge one of Joan’s great pursuits – manga, comics and sci-fi. We got to Tottenham Court Road station and, after getting lost for the umpteenth time (along Oxford Street, on this occasion), we managed to locate that temple of cult entertainment, the nerdy store par excellence, Forbidden Planet. “This is obviously a landmark for enthusiasts of comics and fantasy literature. Once a compulsory reference point, it may have lost some of its clout to the slew of similar establishments that have popped up in other cities across the world. Despite that, it is an entertaining venue where time really flies”. And indeed it did. We then headed along Denmark Street and were taken aback by the sight of so many music shops – there were even some specialising in basses. After that we made for Dalston, the city’s new wicked precinct. Dalston is an ugly street, so don’t expect a pretty sight. It is full of Turkish restaurants touting döner kebab. However, it is well known for its night scene and for being one of the gay areas. “It was surprising to see how a suburb – or small satellite town – like Dalston has grown into a burgeoning hub of nightlife with noteworthy cultural offerings”. It boasts loads of sleazy joints consisting of narrow basements and endless lines of revellers queuing up to get in. After ambling about, we decided to whet our whistles at The Victoria. “It was a real surprise, set in the heart of Dalston. A grand programme hosted by DJs of diverse styles and some underground concerts to write home about”. We were also splendidly chaperoned by David García, the floor manager.

Experiencing London’s Nightlife

We then went to dinner at The Richmond, “a restaurant where everything works to perfection, from the delightful before-dinner cocktails to the assortment of unusual and highly elaborate dishes”. In effect. Impressively, some of the cocktails were named after groups. The one we liked best was the Sage Against the Machine, based on Wolfschmidt Kümmel, Cocchi Americano, fresh lime and sage. Of the dishes we tasted we can recommend the Galloway beef sirloin matured for 35 days with brine-soaked onion rings and marrowbone. After the tuck-in, and the excellent service dispensed by Vanita Prasad, the locale’s head waiter, we rushed off to The Scala, “one of the most emblematic multi-purpose venues in London offering a balanced set of diverse events in the various areas. The concerts I saw there are still fresh in my mind”, Joan recalls. Incidentally, that is where the last Mega Spanish Party of 2015 was held, organised by Rock Sin Subtítulos Productions Ltd, a promoter dedicated to hosting Spanish artists in London. Joan S. Luna was actually billed to DJ the best hits from here and there at the party. The night went off well, with a packed venue and the satisfaction of having made the most of our short stay in London.

Recommendations

Above all, we advise you to have a map handy (preferably an analog map, to avoid having to frantically search for free wi-fi areas to follow Google Maps from your mobile). London is a colossal city with – shall we say – an unusual urban layout. If you want to use public transport, you need to first take out a diploma, as understanding its workings is for advanced users only. We recommend you take your time moving from A to B, as you are likely to get lost at some stage or spend some time getting your bearings. If you’re going for a weekend or just a few days, the best thing is to take out an Oyster Card. They can be topped up and this is undoubtedly the fastest, most comfortable and economical way of funding single rides by bus, underground, DLR, tram, Thames Clippers, Emirates Air Line and most National Rail services. Another economical and efficient way of moving about the City is by Uber London, a more flexible alternative to taking taxis. Using their mobile app, you can located the nearest vehicles and calculate the estimated waiting time, fare and journey time. And, you have it all recorded, in case you need to file a complaint.

This, then, is the first of a series of joint experiences between My Vueling City and Mondo Sonoro. Our next stop will be in 2016. Music will of course be the pretext for our forthcoming post. But, where are we headed – Paris, Manchester, Berlin, Ibiza…? Stay tuned, and you will soon find out.

Oh! I nearly forgot – it you want to enjoy all these fun spots in London, check out our flights here.

 

Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación, Wikipedia Commons, Ibérica Food & Culture Ltd.

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