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London Spanish Taste

World cuisines converge on London and Spain’s contribution is no exception. The story goes back a long way, to when a handful of immigrant chefs turned up with the intention of staying. That was just the beginning. Nowadays, Spanish cuisine is well established there. In great establishments and in the guise of some great names. Iberian presa and paleta, chorizo and pollo al chilindrón no longer require translation. Similarly, no introduction is required for such names as Juan Mari Arzak, Nacho Manzano, Eneko Atxa or Dabiz Muñoz. Not even Albert Adrià or the Roca brothers, even though their ventures in London have thus far proved fleeting – the former, in the Café Royal and the latter, on the first stop of their forthcoming tour. The present offers bites worthy of nostalgia-free refuge, while the future promises to be equally appetising.

Starred. Ametsa, managed by Juan Mari and Elena Arzak, is the first Spanish restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in London, and just a few months after opening at that. They offer creative cuisine of Basque origin, in the form of a tapa with tea at four o’clock, as well as lunch for just a few pounds featuring a tasting menu with an immaculate parade of dishes. Their wine list shows special sensibilities for wines with soul and Spanish varieties.

With a “barra” (bar counter). Between Nieves Barragán’s different Barrafina – where there’s always a queue to try their regional Spanish tapas – and Donostia, with their pintxos and other nods to the finest Basque cuisine, you will be hard put to choose where to nibble on tasties at a reasonable price. However, if your thing is grills, go for Lurra.

With a history. Boasting four venues in London, and others still to come, Nacho Manzano’s Ibérica restaurants showcase the pull and the consistency of traditional Spanish cooking. Produce with designation of origin, generous helpings and an all-enveloping interior design are key to the success of a label which reaches as far afield as Manchester and Leeds.

Venerable. Boasting a team of chefs trained by the great names in Spanish haute cuisine, Alquimia is a must-visit restaurant for tasting fine rice in London. All of them, including the paellas, are served in portions for two, and there is also an assortment of other dishes on the menu.

Classy. There are very few places where cocktail culture carries as much weight as in London. Hence, Javier de las Muelas and his signature cocktails just had to set up in that city. Dry Martini London, at the Meliá White House - London, boasts an admirable nursery of mixologists who even create themed cocktails in the adjoining experimental kitchen.

In addition to these proposals, keep a look out for the long-awaited opening of the London StreetXo, while the restaurant Eneko Atxa is due to unveil in the One Aldwych Hotel in Convent Garden.

Overnights:
The Halkin By COMO. This hotel is synonymous with authenticity and distinction. Surrounded by embassies, with a siting as tranquil as it is near to the shopping bustle around Harrod’s, this hotel has spacious, sought-after rooms. Their luxury amenities and à la carte breakfast are also among their fortes.

IGH London Park Lane. If you want to sleep like a king, what better than to lodge in this former royal residence a stone’s throw away from Hyde Park? Their bar, restaurant and rooms have enviable views and noteworthy floral arrangements.

Meliã White House. Close to Soho and to major tourist attractions, the architecture of this hotel is an inducement on its own. The renovated rooms and the access to The Level Floor will enliven your stay all the more.

 

Text by Belén Parra of Gastronomistas

Images courtesy of the establishments

 

 

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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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10 Titbits About the Oasis Concert at Knebworth

Knebworth is no more than a village in the north of Hertfordshire, just over a half an hour’s train ride from central London. The original village, known as Old Knebworth, grew up around Knebworth House, a large Tudor country house with a Neogothic facade and a priceless Jacobean banquet hall. The new Knebworth village sprang up in the 19th century one mile east of Old Knebworth, alongside the train station and A1 motorway. But, it was from the 1970s onwards that the village came into the limelight owing to the mass concerts held there. The first groups to draw tens of thousands of fans to the spot were Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. And, in the 80s and 90s, the venue hosted events in the form of a festival, featuring such bands as Genesis, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

But, pride of place goes to Oasis, who in two nights drew a crowd of no fewer than a quarter of a million people. Britain or, indeed, the whole world, had been bitten by the Oasis bug. There had been nothing like it since the advent of The Beatles. The group’s managers realised they were on to a good thing and decided to expose their proteges to as large an audience as possible. And where better to hold the festival than grounds well connected to the City? Thus, in the evening of 10 August 1996, the members of Oasis landed in their helicopter with a flabbergasted look on their faces. We recommend you see the documentary, “Supersonic”, by Mat Whitecross, which recently premiered in Spain during the last edition of In-Edit. The film tells the story of the band as seen through the eyes of its lead members, Liam and Noel Gallagher, covering the period running from their beginnings until the moment these two macro-concerts were held. But, apart from breaking all records, what else took place during those 48 hours? Here are 10 curious titbits that you were probably unaware of.

1. Two and a half million people applied for tickets

Over four per cent of the population of England applied for tickets to see Oasis at Knebworth, the largest ever demand for concert tickets in British history. Some 250,000 fans actually saw the band on those two nights – another record – but, incredibly, Oasis could have sold another 18 shows at Knebworth.

2. 7,000 people are thought to have been on the guest list

This figure has proved impossible to verify, although it is known to run into the thousands. But, what is really striking are the eye-witness accounts, which paint a picture of unimaginable indulgence backstage. A huge marquee was apparently full of bars, with well stocked bar counters. Drinks were on the house for both days and there were also free sweets and ice-creams. Additionally, a number of magicians and caricaturists were brought in to liven up the pre-concert wait.

3. 3,000 pro technicians were needed to organise the concert

No wonder, though, as the equipment included 11 loudspeaker towers set up increasingly further afield to make sure everyone would be able to hear Noel’s chords and Liam’s growling equally intensely.

4. The concerts had their own radio station for the occasion

Radio Supernova broadcast on 106.6 FM for a range of 20 miles. For the days it was on air, it blared out the Oasis signature tunes non-stop, followed by songs by the support bands. The station also broadcast information about the concert, accesses and transport to the grounds.

5. John Squire had the flu when guest player of “Champagne Supernova”

For many, a highlight of the night was when fellow Mancunian John Squire appeared on stage. The guitarist had split off from The Stone Roses just a couple of months before that and he showed up to sprinkle a touch of magic over the performances of “Champagne Supernova” and “I Am The Walrus”. A few days later, Noel Gallagher revealed to NME that he had been performing while under the effects of a severe bout of flu.

6. Oasis brand binoculars were handed out to all VIPs

A touch of irony, as the VIP area was the only vantage point from where the concert could be clearly seen without binoculars. But, to top it all, the Manchester boys had the visual aid of the largest video wall on earth at the time. Oh, well – who hasn’t been given some superfluous gift at some time in their lives? The Gallagher guests were not to be outdone.

7. The Charlatans supported Oasis just three weeks after the death of their keyboardist, Rob Collins

For The Charlatans, Knebworth was a bittersweet event. On the one hand, it acted as a launching pad for a band which was a standard-bearer of the early-nineties Madchester scene. But, on the other, they had to perform without their charismatic Rob Collins, who had died in a car crash three weeks earlier. An endearing moment came when Liam Gallagher dedicated the song “Cast No Shadow” to the fallen Charlatan.

8. Only 10 arrests were made during those two days

Which is quite surprising, given the huge number of festival-goers. How did they manage it? While it may seem unlikely to some, the fact is that Oasis fans are mostly law-abiding citizens.

9. Noel remembers nothing

As the saying went at the time, “If you can't remember anything about Britpop, it means you weren’t there”. And Noel’s recollection of that period is very sketchy. On occasion, he has even remarked that “even now, if I close my eyes, I can’t remember the moment I was on stage”.

10. One Oasis member thinks they should have split up immediately afterwards

“I always thought we should have retired after the second night at Knebworth”, said the guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs to The Guardian in 2009. In hindsight, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that Oasis would never better what they had achieved at Knebworth. But, who’s the brave guy that dares leave the group when it’s riding the crest of the wave? Bonehead finally quit in 1999 and became an ordinary person again.

Now you know a bit more about the legendary concert performed by Britain’s last great band. All that’s left is to discover the area where it all took place. Well, then, get “supersonic” and check out our flights here.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Wikipedia Commons

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Cardiff For Newbies

Cardiff is hosting the 2017 UEFA Champions League final on 3 June. Although the city is overshadowed by the likes of Britain’s most popular destinations, namely London, Manchester and Liverpool, Cardiff, an ancient Roman fortification, is currently experiencing a moment of splendour. Indeed, it has a plethora of allurements to warrant you visiting the city, whether or not your team is due to file onto the pitch at the Millennium Stadium. In the following we reveal the most iconic spots in the Welsh capital.

Cardiff Bay
This is one of the city’s nerve centres and the economic driving force behind its development in the early 20th century. However, when the coal trade slipped into decline, the Cardiff docks turned into a derelict, forsaken precinct. In the 1990s, the Cardiff Council decided to revive Cardiff Bay, converting it into an area open to the public. It is now the favourite haunts of many a Cardiffian and is one of the most attractive areas in the city, boasting some of the best leisure and gastronomic amenities.

Llandaff Cathedral
One of the most emblematic examples of religious architecture in Wales. Built in the 13th century, Llandaff Cathedral is a huge, mesmerising Gothic construction, although some corners reveal vestiges of the Norman and later periods, notably the stunning “Christ” modelled by the American sculptor, Jacob Epstein, which hangs in the central nave. For those interested in paranormal phenomena, Llandaff Cathedral has spawned all manner of ghost stories, to the extent that they now run a “Ghost Tour” on which visitors are shown the spots where ghost sightings have taken place. Interestingly, not far from the Cathedral lies Llandaff Cathedral School, where Roald Dahl studied.

Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle
is a must-visit spot for all newcomers to the city, just as the Colosseum is in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Built on the site of a former Roman fortification, its origins go back to the 11th century. Although much of the original structure is still intact, in the 19th century the Marquess of Bute commissioned the architect, William Burges, to undertake extensive remodelling works, based on the Victorian and Neogothic precepts in vogue at the time, which turned the castle into one of the most opulent contemporary constructions.

Cardiff City Hall
Flanked by Cardiff Crown Court and the National Museum of Cardiff stands Cardiff City Hall, one of the most stunningly beautiful buildings in the city. Built in the early 20th century, even its exterior features extraordinary architectural beauty in the purity of its white limestone facings. However, don’t let its formidable appearance stop you from going inside. You can double check in reception, but usually you can visit all the rooms you find open. If you’re in luck, you will be treated to such sights as the Marble Hall with its collection of sculptures of illustrious figures from Welsh history, the Assembly Room and the Council Chamber.

National Museum of Cardiff
Next door to the Cardiff City Hall is the National Museum of Cardiff, the most important museum in the city. Like the neighbouring Cardiff Crown Court and Cardiff City Hall, this is a stunning Edwardian building on which construction began in 1912. Building work was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I and could not be completed until 1927. Admission is free (like virtually all British museums) and the interior houses a variety of exhibitions, ranging from different natural science disciplines to art – the highlight is their collection of Impressionist paintings, featuring such geniuses as Van Gogh, Monet and Cézanne.

Wales Millennium Centre
At the entrance to Cardiff Bay you will come across the Wales Millennium Centre, home to the Welsh National Opera. Opened in 1912, this modern building presents elements in slate, metal, wood and glass, all sourced in Wales. Inscribed above the main entrance are two poetic lines, written by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. The first, in Welsh, reads “Creating Truth Like Glass From Inspiration's Furnace” and the second, in English, reads “In These Stones Horizons Sing”. Housed in the interior is the Donald Gordon Theatre, with a seating capacity of 1,900, and two adjoining rooms, which host opera recitals and extravaganzas, symphonic orchestras, ballet, theatre and contemporary music throughout the year.

Techniquest
Techniquest is the largest museum of science, technology and knowledge in the United Kingdom. Located on Stuart Street, a stone’s throw from Cardiff Bay, it stands out for its characteristic glass and steel structure. Striking a balance between education and entertainment, Techniquest is home to permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as a theatre which hosts various science-oriented events, a planetarium and a centre of knowledge and technology dedicated to educating visitors in scientific principles through playful experiments.

Y Mochyn Du
After so much sightseeing, you will need to replenish your energy at some stage. And, where better to do so than in a typical Welsh pub? None comes more highly recommended than Y Muchyn Du (Black Pig, in Welsh). It lies some 20 minutes from the city centre, right at the entrance to Sophia Gardens and alongside the city’s main cricket stadium. However, once you get there, you will realise your journey has been worth it – walls plastered in rugby memorabilia, a Welsh-speaking clientele, traditional Welsh cuisine and a good assortment of local beers. In short, one of those venues that breathes authenticity.

The Backdrop for the Final
Football will be king on 3 June, but the National Stadium of Wales, also known as the Millennium Stadium, is one of the great temples of rugby, a sport about which the Welsh are passionate. The pride of Cardiff, the stadium was built in 1999 in time for the Rugby World Cup, and was the venue for the opening ceremony, the first and the last game, when Australia took the honours. With a seating capacity of 74,500, it is one of the world’s largest stadiums with a retractable roof, as well as one of the most striking and architecturally elegant anywhere on earth. Home to the Welsh rugby and football national teams, it is here that the new champion of European football clubs will be crowned.

Text by Oriol Rodríguez

Images by John Greenaway, David Ip, Michel Curi, John Mason, Jon Candy

 

 

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