Winterville,billed as London’s alternative festive destination, returns to Victoria Park, E9, from 26 November to 23 December. It’s got live music, food, drink, circus, cinema, stalls, funfare, a great vibe and is run by truly lovely people.
The food & drink file
Winterville is awash with food and drink. As well as the main food hall housing numerous street food stalls, a massive bar and music, the site is dotted with tasty treats: diners, dogs, pie shops, sweet shops and fudge stalls, and plenty of room for drinking, including Bar Humbug and the Home Comfort lounge, sponsored by Southern Comfort.
LDN Life’s advice: forget dieting to fit into the new party dress, go and pig out. If you’ve got children, be prepared to hose them down after they’ve plunged face-first into the display at Bad Brownie.
Reviewing such a festive spread is a herculean task but, believe me, this correspondent tried. As ever with street food vendors, everyone has a story that’s as quirky as the food is tasty.
Joe Taylor, a Brummie lad now resident in Finsbury Park, was fed up with the crappy veggie choice at festivals. “I knew I could do better than the stuff on offer, so I thought I’d make the kind of food I’d like to eat,” says Joe. “And I love halloumi.”
Last year’s Winterville was Moony Halloumi’s first outing. They’ve done a season of festivals and now they’re back at Winterville one year on from their public debut with a range of ‘world-themed’ halloumi wraps: Mexican, Indian, Italian, BBQ and traditional Moroccan. Now Moony’s is looking for a daily site to spread halloumi goodness to the masses.
We had the Barbeque Big Bang (£7). This is not a wrap for the shy, delicate veggie. It’s a fist full of cheesy goodness that weighs in heavier than a race jockey and will fill you for hours. Who would have thought halloumi and barbeque sauce would go together so well?
The future, according to Moony’s, is popcorn halloumi, small chunks or strips, battered and deep-fried. Halloumi-shaped insanity.
Why Moony’s? “Well the moon is made of cheese, so why not halloumi?” explains Joe.
Paellaria [ @paellariauk ] is the Spanish-themed brainchild of Mike Wetherilt, a veteran of the restaurant trade since the age of 14 who hankered after the nomadic life of a street food vendor. Well, when you have a celebrated Bloomsbury eatery, who wouldn’t? Nevertheless, haute couture’s loss is our gain. We sampled the excellent veggie paella, light and fragrant with a spicy kick.
For the last couple of years Paellaria has been making a name in the festival trade. “Normally we’d down tools by the end of September,” says Mike. “Paella is a dish associated with summer. Now we’ll see if it translates into the winter season.”
I’d love to say Maria Knowles, founder of Makatcha [@makatcha_eats] had struggled in the backstreets of Jakarta for decades before bringing her love of Indonesian food to Britain. But in reality Maria developed voice-over-IP applications for City financiers until her and husband Jon sold up, went travelling and took inspiration from a street food fair.
To be fair Maria’s family are from Indonesia and she has obtained secret Rendang recipes passed down through generations. Recipes that are not widely available. Intense recipes: it’s lemongrass, it’s almonds, it’s ginger, it’s difficult to know whether to eat it or just stand in front of the stall inhaling it.
“Drink!” – Father Jack
The foodhall bar sells a range of ales and lagers on tap, red and white wine and spirits. We sampled the Five Point ale. At 7.1% abv it’s not clear whether you should drink it or club yourself around the head with it – the net effect would much the same. This is the Special Brew of ales, but that is no insult: it is a totally gorgeous ale.
It’s an ale that eschews steroids but goes to the gym every day, drinks protein shakes and looks ripped on it. It’s an ale that dares you to drink a second pint and sound coherent, officer. It’s an ale that wants you to take a traffic cone home, like you did when you drank cider and couldn’t grow a beard.
But at £4 for a half it’s an ale that needs pouring properly. Your correspondent witnessed more head than a hydra leaving the bar.
That probably won’t bother hipsters washing down their artisan pizza. But give a pint with a £1.50 head on it to a northern lad like LDNLife’s editor Adam, and expect a blast of “Call that a pint, love? Top it up!”
Well worth your time this Christmas if you want to get into the festival spirit and diet is an alien word to you.