Comida Fest is a fantastically fun street food festival that has come to London to celebrate the rich heritage, taste and experience of Latin American food.
The first stop on the Comida Fest tour was Greenwich’s Cutty Sark Gardens on the 8th and 9th of July, and what an absolute treat we were in for. With stands offering food from Colombia to Brazil, Argentina to Peru, and even meat smoked in an old locomotive, I couldn’t wait to tuck in.
We started with iced coffees from El Cafecito, who bring authentic Colombian coffee to London, whilst also raising awareness of the beauty of Colombia. I’ve desperately tried to get into iced coffee this year – it seems to be the perfect summer cooler that will still give me my much needed caffeine kick – but I always find it goes a little bit acrid. However, from the smell coming from their coffee van, I think the hot option would have been much better.
The first food dish of the day was a Venezuelan arepa from Guasacaca. Arepas are one of Venezuela’s most traditional dishes, with the majority of family households having their own individual recipes from the usual mix of water, harina pan and salt.
The one we tried was a Cheeky Chicken, stuffed with shredded chicken, tomato puree, spring onions and tomato with a chilli sauce. It was divine. The arepa itself was light and fluffy with a slightly crisp exterior from being cooked on the plancha, the filling was moist, inviting and packed a slight chilli punch. This was potentially one of the best dishes of the day.
Tacos and margaritas from Café Pacifico were next, stuffed full of slow cooked pulled pork, ancho chilli sauce and crema Mexicana. They were not elegant to eat – tacos never are – but the taco shells themselves melted in your mouth. Accompanied by the salty and sweet margarita, this was a perfect, and potentially killer, combination.
If you see Smokoloco on your travels around London, I recommend you stop and grab a bite to eat immediately. You can’t miss them either. They take some of the best cuts of meat and smoke them in an old locomotive. You could worry this is a complete gimmick and the food would be terrible, but you would be so wrong.
The meat was soft and tender and packed full of flavour from the cherry wood they smoke it in for six hours, and unique blend of herbs and spices they rub it with. This is then stuffed into fresh and fluffy flatbread that is handmade by a specialist middle eastern bread maker in Dalston, before being finished off with grilled onions.
All of this results in a messy, mouth-wateringly good sandwich that as the juices dribble down your chin – and this will happen – transports you to a happy, meat-filled heaven. I should have mentioned, this is not one for vegetarians.
If, after all that, you still need a bit more meat in your day, head to Pinchitos and More, who specialise in skewers of meat and potatoes that have been cooked and then stuffed with a minced meat filling.
Choose from chorizo that is a flavour explosion in your mouth, or little cubes of perfectly cooked pork bites, or chicken marinated in a spicy, warming sauce before being grilled to perfection. It is simple cooking executed perfectly, and what more could you really want?
Finally, finish off your foodie feast with a visit to the Brazilian churros stand. Unlike Spanish churros, Brazilian churros are made fatter so that the sauce can be stuffed on the inside. The dulce de leche was an absolute sugar hit – sweet on the inside and coated with sugar on the outside. They do also offer a vegan chocolate option which is more for the bitter chocolate lovers, although still coated in sugar on the outside in true churros style.
The only dish that I would recommend steering clear of is the bandeja paisa. A bandeja paisa is a dish that originated in Colombia and, in my experience, should be an almost unmanageable portion of frijoles cooked for hours over the stove in a thick, gelatinous sauce, chorizo, beef, chicharron (basically fried pork belly, but the best fried pork belly you will ever eat), rice, egg, crisp sweet plantain and an avocado.
This, however, bore no resemblance to the bandeja paisa I know and love. Soggy plantain was served on top of rice with an odd tomato salsa, dry beans, shredded, dry beef and the thing that horrified my partner the most – the chorizo and the egg were sold separately. And there was no sign of the chicharron at all. If you want to avoid disappointment, steer clear.
Overall Comida Fest is a fantastic day out where you can eat and drink to your heart’s content. As well as a fabulous selection of food and drink stalls, there is also a brilliant arts and culture programme with DJs and bands playing Latin tunes that you are encouraged to enjoy and dance to all throughout the day. I can’t wait for the next one.
Comida Fest will be held in two more locations this year – Potters Field on the 12th and 13th August, and Bishops Park on the 16th and 17th September. They are also currently crowd funding to try and make the festival a more permanent fixture which, in my opinion, will only be a good thing.
You can visit www.comidafest.com for more information on locations and traders.