4 May 2015

Streets of Spain Food Festival

It seemed like a good idea - a bit of tapas, a spot of Campo Viejo wine - a nice way to pass a Bank Holiday weekend Sunday afternoon with a couple of friends. We headed off to the Streets of Spain festival, accessing it from Embankment and crossing the Hungerford Bridge. As we approached we could see that the Southbank was bustling with people and stalls, steam from the cooking wafting up into the air.

We'd arrived a bit early, so wandered around a little, past the book stall under Waterloo Bridge and the skateboard park. All of the restaurants along the path were also heaving, despite the presence of the food stalls. As well as tourists the place was also teeming with photographers; not a bad little spot for some people-watching and street photography. I was using my 50mm f/1.2 lens - always a good challenge, being unable to zoom in or out without moving my feet.

We realised that we didn't have much cash, and assuming that the stalls would all require cash, we went in search of an ATM - something it turns out don't exist along that stretch. Nothing inside the National Theatre either, so we had to walk to Waterloo station, where the first ATM was out of order and the second had a queue of 30 or 40 people. We went into M&S Food and queued up there, knowing that they gave cash back. Cash eventually sorted we returned through the crowds to find our friends along the river.

We wandered around, deciding what we might try. Each stall that had anything of interest had a massive queue, so we moved along to the next one. The only ones without queues were selling popcorn and olives, something none of us was interested in getting. We decided that getting something to drink would be a good start, and found the main place to get wine and sangria - Campo Viejo only, as they were sponsoring the event, behind the Hayward Gallery. Opposite there were a few more tapas stalls and we got some empanadas without having to queue. They weren't quite like the ones I remembered fondly from Argentina or Chile, but they weren't bad.

We then joined the queue for wine, paying twice what we could have paid to drink the same wine out of plastic cups if we'd bought it at M&S Food - had we thought about it earlier (they took cards too, which was annoying!). We had to leave a £5 deposit for a plastic jug that the wine was decanted into. We wandered back to the river, sipping our wine out of plastic cups, and watched some interesting characters go by, including a blonde woman who was clearly desperate to get noticed, and was managing well. She could have been a celebrity, for all we knew - she was certainly acting like one.

A more exciting spot than her was a ragged-looking dog across the path, so I went to investigate - turns out she was a Hungarian Puli dog. You learn something new every day.

Once the wine was finished hubby went off to queue for some more and we went off to queue up for some paella. The queue took forever, mainly because the paella wasn't actually ready, so dozens of people were crowding around waiting for it to be cooked. I watched the guys finishing off the preparation in the most enormous pans I'd ever seen.

Eventually the paellas were ready and people went to the front to get their polystyrene bowls full of it. We had the chicken one, which was okay for a fiver, but not really worth the wait. We went off to find Murray in the wine queue, who was only just nearing the front. We decided to cut our losses and I got the deposit back for the jug without any further queueing. The place had got even busier, so we decided to head home, given that it was going to take ages to get anything more to eat or drink, and we were all a bit over it! It was a nice spot for people-watching, but now I understood why people were eating in the restaurants and caf├ęs along the pathway - it was the only way they were going to get something decent to eat or drink without having to queue for ages to get it!

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