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Hunting for authentic paella in London | townfood - recipes, restaurant reviews and food news

Hunting for authentic paella in London

I have been searching for decent paella and glass of sangria in London since I returned from a recent trip to Barcelona. It took a few attempts, but I managed to satisfy my need in the end. It's pretty common for people to come back from their travels and want to re-live a culinary experience, often with limited success. A local speciality is undoubtedly enhanced by the surroundings in which you enjoy it, so I was up against it as Barcelona's eateries usually plonk you on the pavement, amid the bustle of the vibrant city, where you can enjoy the warm weather and fantastic people watching.
 
When the desire hit, I tried to make paella at home - with only moderate success. It was necessary to buy a special paella pan (at great expense); this is a wide based, shallow pan which allows the heat to diffuse equally throughout. You don’t stir paella like a risotto so the shallow pan ensures the rice to cook evenly. My homemade paella was good, I would certainly make it again. The highlight was the mini scallops that I threw in at the last minute. Scallops aside, it didn’t quite satiate my appetite. The rice hadn’t taken up as much flavour as I remembered from the Spanish version and I had to buy clams instead of mussels. This, combined with the fact the my kitchen table doesn't quite match the original experience, meant I had to move on.
 
Next up, and quite by chance, I happened across the most enormous pile of paella being cooked at Borough Market one Saturday. This is a regular stall and it’s pretty good. When I had it the rice was cooked perfectly – it was a little short on seafood but you could opt for some generous chunks of chorizo which made up for this. It will still missing something though. Perhaps it was the fact that I was eating it out of a tin foil tray that was resting on my knees in the middle of the heaving market.

 

paella in borough market
 
On to London’s third paella offering, and it was third time lucky. Lola Rojo is a Spanish restaurant with two venues in South West London: Northcote Road and Wandsworth Bridge Road. Both are kitted out with white tables and chairs, with the occasional splash of red to add a bit of Spanish flair. They also both have small outside areas which, on a rare hot summer’s evening, give the perfect Spanish ambience. We ate mixed paella, which had a generous serving of seafood and delicious meaty chunks of chicken. Minimum order for paella is two people, so make sure your fellow diners are on the same wavelength. To complete the experience we drank a carafe of sangria with it. The tasty paella and sangria, combined with our al fresco table on a lovely warm evening, fitted the bill perfectly.
 
The craving hasn’t hit again (yet), but I now know where to rush to next time.