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The last census recorded around 22,000 Spanish people living in London – around 40% of the entire Spanish population of the UK.
London has long been in thrall to Spanish customs and tastes – from the rash of tapas bars in the West End to the Iberian brand names colonising the high street. Zara, Mango and Bershka are among the Spanish stores making an impact on British wardrobes and wallets.
There are few better places to start a day in “Spanish” London than on the west side of town, where generations of Spanish people have settled.
Portobello Road on a Saturday seethes with Spanish tourists. It is also home to R Garcia & Sons, a Spanish deli selling everything from olives, chorizo and paella pans to Fillipino brand chocolate and papery turron sweets. Head to the café next door for great coffee and slow service, or stop by Galicia restaurant further up the street for an authentically grungy tapas experience.
Heading into town, step out of the shopping and eating whirlpool of Kensington and into a slice of Granada. The Kensington Roof Gardens sit atop an old department store and feature a Moorish-influenced garden based on the Alhambra palace. Visitors are advised to phone ahead to check opening times.
Continue the trail of Spanish traces in London with a visit to the National Gallery, home to a fistful of fine Spanish art. Goya, El Greco and ZurbarÃ¡n are all well represented, while VelÃ¡zquez’s The Rokeby Venus is one of the highlights of the museum’s collection.
Round off the day with tapas in one of the West End’s plethora of Spanish restaurants. Barrica in Fitzrovia won the Time Out award for Best Spanish Eating and Drinking 2010 for dishes such as pork and oxtail meatballs, and chicory leaves with picos cheese.
Barrafina in Frith Street is a popular and authentic take on a Barcelona tapas bar. (Hispanophile owners Sam and Eddie Hart based it on Barcelona’s legendary Cal Pep) while Tierra Brindisa on Broadwick Street is the Soho outpost of the acclaimed Borough Market deli, which specialises in cured hams.
Or for a more informal atmosphere, try Pix in Covent Garden. This pintxo bar offers snacks at £2.50 a bite along with great wine – a fine way to end the day.
See more of Jon’s recommendations at www.spaininlondonblog.wordpress.com. We reckon this is a pretty comprehensive list, but if you’ve got more tips for enjoying Spanish culture in London, share your knowledge in the comments below.