Spanish food, wine and culture in London

by Aine McCartney

Celebrate London’s trend for all things Spanish by trying out some of the best cultural and foodie experiences the city has to offer

There is no doubt that Londoners have a growing passion for Spanish and Latino culture. The success of the outstanding annual Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells Theatre is a testimony to this. And the culinary options are getting better and better, as they show us the diversity on offer in Spain for both wine and food.

Spanish treats to try in Borough Market

Borough Market (between London Bridge and southward tube stations) has become an iconic food and drink market in South West London, sprawling south of Southwark Cathedral on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Once a working market for the restaurant trade, it now has a fantastic range of stalls selling food to go, as well as produce to buy. There are some great options to taste Spanish food and wine too. Watch out though, despite extensive refurbishments to the market, it still gets incredibly crowded - it is worth getting there early on a Saturday morning for a delicious breakfast.

(8 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TL; www.boroughmarket.org.uk)

Brindisa - the café option

This bustling café is on the corner of Borough Market and is open all week. It squeezes in a number of informal wooden tables, serving fantastic breakfast and lunch tapas plates such as pan fried Padron peppers (£5.25) and crispy pork belly with quince sauce (£8.50). Don't miss the artichoke and chorizo (£8): an incredibly delicious but subtle collection of flavours, whose name does not do it justice. You can also sit in the window with a cup of coffee or a glass of Cava, watching the market shoppers go by.

(18-20 Southwark St, London SE1 1TJ; 020 7357 8880; www.tapasbrindisa.com)

Flavours of Spain - the market option

In a world where we are so familiar with all kinds of cuisines, it is a pleasure to come across food that really is unusual. This stall specialises in foods and wines from Galicia, in the far northwest of Spain, such as seafood, salts, oils, meats, and seaweed. Yes, seaweed. Whether it goes well with the local white wines remains to be seen.

(In the Green Market section; www.flavoursofspain.co.uk)

Bedales - the wine bar option

Although not actually Spanish, this is a fabulous independent wine shop with a good range of interesting Spanish wines. You can also drink your purchased wine in the shop: they have a series of high tables and stools, as well as a bar snack menu, including a charcuterie slate (£8.50).

(5 Bedale Street (under the rail bridge between the two parts of the market), London SE1 9AL;  020 7403 8853; www.bedaleswines.com)

Experience Flamenco in London's theatres

The diversity of the theatres in the West End is incredible and the range of shows in offer reflects this. The London Coliseum's latest offering is no exception when Ballet Nacional de España comes to town. Flamenco has always been one of the most magical dances to see on a visit to Spain, particularly around Seville. The almost mysterious sound of the guitar, the wonderfully over-the-top outfits and the passionate movements all captivate the onlooker. More than that: they are enough to get under your skin and make you feel it.

(Tickets are £15 - £55. Box office: 0844 412 4310; London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4ES; or book tickets online at www.sadlerswells.com)

Learn to speak Spanish in London

Maximise your enjoyment of Spanish food, wine and culture by learning the basics in Spanish. A good place to start is the Friendly Spanish School based in Clapham, South London. They have great eight week courses for groups, regular conversation and cultural classes. They will get you talking naturally from the start whether about football, Gloria Estefan's songs or your tasting experiences in London.

(A course starts at £135. Book by calling 020 7193 9707 or online at info@friendlyspanish.com. For more information, check out www.friendlyspanish.com)

Two of the best Spanish restaurants in London

Cigala - for dinner with friends

What a treat! Situated on the corner of this cobbled street, it is bright and airy, with white table cloths and a vibrant atmosphere for lunch and dinner. The food is great too - you can choose between tapas plates, starters or main dishes. A combination of starters works well for a group (two dishes per person is plenty). Try a classic Spanish omelette (£4.50), lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce (£5.50) or for mains a rib steak Spanish style (£17.60) or salt cod (£13.70).

(54 Lamb's Conduit Street, London WC1N 3LW; 020 7405 1717; www.cigala.co.uk; Tube: Holborn or Russell Square)

Fino - for a romantic dinner

You are pretty unlikely to find Fino without trying: it is tucked away just off Charlotte Street with its numerous bars and restaurants. It is worth it though - you descend down to the basement and a little Spanish paradise, all warm Mediterranean colours and the buzz of intimate tables enjoying great food. The menu is mostly generous tapas dishes, such as marinated quail (£7.80) or octopus with capers (£7.50). Although they have an extensive selection of wines designed to match every dish, they are expensive: try some of the little known areas such as Rueda for whites or Jumilla for reds for best value for money.

(33 Charlotte Street (door on Rathbone Street), London W1T 1RR; 020 7813 8010; www.finorestaurant.com; Tube: Tottenham Court Road or Goodge Street)