I'm not really one for camping or festivals. I like a good solid roof over my head, and I like to be able to stand up and switch on the lights within my accommodation. The thought of trudging off to the shrubbery with a shovel send shudders down my spine. I do have wellies, but I bought them from Marc Jacobs so I'm not sure they count (not bad for £12 and where else can you find wellies in a last minute panic in Soho?). As for feasting off paper plates and cups, that's all well and good so long as the sun is shining and I'm not paying so much that its costing me an opportunity to eat wagyu beef laced with gold leaf and truffle at The Fat Duck*.
So I'm not often seen at food festivals. However, the sun was shining, and I still haven't booked that trip to Madrid I've been hankering for. So, it was that TPG and I ventured to the foot of Tower Bridge on Saturday for the FREE event, Rioja Tapas Fantasticas.
While taking in the views over the Thames and the Tower of London, we tasted white, rose and red riojas from a large number of wine makers (such as Marques de la Concordia, Marques del Atrio and Vina Salceda), while feasting on thick tortilla rolls (from restaurant Barcelona), a hearty rabbit paella with spinach and asparagus (from Number 22 Restaurant and Casa Catering) and creamy Iberico hams (carved to thin, melt in the mouth perfection by Tozino - a company with experience carving for the likes of Ferran Adria and the Spanish Royal Family).
Taste from the tapas stalls of some of London's Spanish restaurants, such as Barrica, Camino and Paellaria (serving huge pans of inky arroz negra) or try Picota Cheeries which are exclusively grown in the Spain's Jerte Valley and only available from mid June to end of July each year. Fellow blogger and the woman behind Catalan Cooking classes, Rachel McCormack, is also there with her Rachel's Bunuelos stand.
Entry is FREE, and you only pay £3 to purchase a tasting glass and 4 tokens to exchange each for a small (ok, teensy) sample of 4 wines of your choice. (Call me what you will, but the samples could be bigger.) After that, you pay £1 per sample, or you can buy by the glass at good prices - I had a lovely (and big glass of) spicy, vanilla-y Reserva for £3.50. Our food was mostly priced between £3.50 - £6. There are also wine workshops, cooking demonstrations (eg from Jose Pizarro) and Spanish bands.
Tapas Fantastica runs over one weekend in summer each year (look out for it in 2012) and is a low key, hassle free way to have a taste of Spain in London. And it won't cost you the tasting menu at Le Gavroche.
Thanks to Phipps PR for the press pass.
* Ok, so I'm not sure The Fat Duck does this dish, but you get my drift.