Listen to a Londoner: Esnayder Cuartas

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email

Esnayder Cuartas
(Photo by Pablo Salgado)

Esnayder is the manager at Latin American restaurant, Sabor, in N1, with six months travelling the length and breadth of South America (all but Paraguay). After growing up in Colombia, he has now spent nearly two decades in London.

LLO: How long have you lived in London, where are you from originally and what brought you here?
EC: I have been living in London for 18 years. I come from a town called Quinchia in the coffee region of Colombia. I came initially to London to learn English and subsequently business studies. I chose London, instead of going to the US to learn English there, as I thought that the culture is very interesting. It is a cosmopolitan city and due its geographic position is a good base to explore Europe.

LLO: Tell us why we should immediately book a table at your North London restaurant, Sabor?
EC: Sabor is a South American restaurant that offers nuevo latino food, which combines the traditional cuisine of South America with modern gastronomic techniques. Sabor shows a contemporary Latin American culture, in a modern and fun space, where the warmth of its people, smooth latin rhythms in the background, imaginative cocktails and freshly cooked latin flavours make all your senses travel though South American in the heart of Islington.

LLO: What sort of atmosphere can we expect?
EC: Fun, cool and mellow, very friendly. That is latin for you.

LLO:What top three dishes would you recommend?
EC: Empanadas are a Latin American staple. These cornmeal patties are light and crispy with fillings like beef and potato, chorizo and plantains and fish.  They are served with aji which is a spicy tomato relish.  Ceviches are one the classic dishes of South American food. They are fresh fish ‘cooked’ in a citrus marinade and finished with chilli and coriander. This is full of flavour and very light for those trying to watch what they eat.  Aji de Gallina is a chicken breast that is marinated with Aji Amarillo, a  smoked Peruvian chilli, that has enough heat to get you taste buds going but leaves you able to taste the other flavours, such as tumeric.

LLO:And to drink?
EC: We do the classic latin cocktails like mojitos, cahipirhinas, margaritas, pisco sour, but we also like to showcase latin flavours, so we have our own cocktails such as passion fruits margaritas, mora (the south American blackberry) cahipirhinas and much more. Our wine list is mainly South American, and we have a list of latin beers too.

LLO:Besides the food, where else in London do you go when you’re craving a bit of Colombian culture?
EC: For Colombian culture, I particularly look forward to Autumn when Colombiage, a London-based team who promote contemporary Colombian culture in the UK organise a series of events, such as films, literary talks, art exhibitions, etc. Sometimes I go to Elephant and Castle Shopping centre to buy some Colombian snacks and get a feel of the more mainstream Latin culture.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
EC: The South Bank Centre. Since my early days, I used to go there between schools at midday and get a free concert. All year round it’s full of cultural activities. The recent festival about Brazil was amazing. I love the view from the Royal Festival Hall at sunset all year round.

LLO:Biggest challenge you’ve faced as an expat in London?
EC: The biggest challenge was learning the language. Once you can communicate, you discover that there is so much that you can do in London that never ends.

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
EC: I live in E14. The best thing is the river and the canals. It feels that you are in a different london – people greet each other while they are walking by the canal. It’s that mixture of old and new architecture, nature and the sound of the water.

LLO: Tell us about a favourite London memory that could only have happened in London.
EC: Had a champagne tasting in Bermondsey, follow by a coffee at Bar Italia, then went to see Jose Feliciano, a huge latin star, at Ronnie Scots, followed by a Lebanese meal in Soho all in one night. That is London – the city where you are spoiled for choice. Every time that I’m flying over London, I feel at home.

Thanks Esnayder!

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Listen to a Londoner: Ham

Listen to a Londoner. This is a weekly post where people who live (or have lived for a while) in London answer a few questions about the Big Smoke. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at Always looking for new victims volunteers….

HamHam, 53

Ham started London Daily Photo with the idea that showing a reasonable photo and possibly interesting words about London added to the sum total of Good Stuff about. Four years later and he is still enjoying it, still struggling to fit it in with a job in the real world.

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
All the living years, give or take a few years as a student. Best time was when I lived off Oxford Street.

LLO: Where are you (or your family) from originally if not London?
Parents Londoners. Grandparents on one side Dutch, on the other London & Poland. Purebred London mongrel.

LLO: Best thing about London?
The people

LLO: Worst thing about London?
The people. Oh come on, that’s too trite. The best thing about London is the way it repays you for the effort that you put into it – there is so much to find, do, be, that the only limits are your own. The worst is the impersonal front that can seem almost impermeable to some, they get chewed up and spat out.

LLO: North, south, east or west?

LLO: Best restaurant?
Hard to differentiate at the top end, so I’ll stick with the other end. Fryers Delight – a chippie in Theobalds Road.

LLO: Best shop?
Stanfords map shop. Not seen anything like it in any other city.

LLO: Best place to escape the city?
So many places, so little time. But if I’m looking for the antithesis of London in easiest reach, the Suffolk coast.

LLO: 2012 Olympics – stay or go?
Crazy? Stay. I’m going to camp in my garden, rent the house, cycle the 10 minutes to the Games

LLO: How do you spend your time on the tube?
On the rare occasions I’m on it, I spend my time wishing I was on my bike.

LLO: Most random thing you’ve seen in London?
 That question makes me realise how much we learn to accept everything in London. About 30 years ago I used to visit the laundrette as a 17th century pirate occasionally but that doesn’t count, I suppose. I think a graffiti artist working on one side with a graffiti cleaning team on the other was the most bizarre London thing.

LLO: Best place to catch a gig?
And that question makes me realise how decrepit I’ve become.

LLO: Best local band?
I wonder if there’s a band called the Sanatogens?

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
 The Mulberry tree in Hogarth’s garden, when it is laden with fruit to eat and get VERY messy with.

LLO: Best place to spend a Sunday afternoon?
I’m going to cheat and say late morning – try a Wigmore Hall recital, very civilised.

LLO: Best museum or gallery?
Probably the Horniman Museum, for being so unexpected and wide ranging.

LLO: Favourite market?
Would have been Borough Market before it got too successful for its own good. Now, I think Chapel Market.

LLO: Give us a funny London story.
Knock knock.
    Who’s there?
    M.A.B. Its.
    M.A.B. Its who?
    M.A.B. It’s becawz I’m Lunduner, that I love London so.

LLO: Best London magazine, newspaper or website?
 The Smoke

LLO: If you were to dress up as one of the tube station names for a costume party, which would you be?
Barking. Typecasting.

LLO: Best time of year in London?
Spring. For sure. The city comes to life again. Mind you, autumn is cool, with the Plane trees changing colour and the last gasps of summer. Oh, and the summer is unbeatable with so much going on. And in winter, the city is pared back to its basics. Christmas festivities. Snow to carpet the grey. OK. Pass.

LLO: Best place for a first date?
Meet at Little Ben. River trip to a meal at the Oxo. Night ride on the eye. Down to Ronnie Scott’s to catch some cool Jazz. Coffe at Bar Italia. Walk through the Park.

LLO: First place to take a visitor?
On a circular walk along the Thames from Wesminster to Tower Bridges.

LLO: Favourite place to be on a Saturday night?
Where did I leave that cup of cocoa now?

LLO: Best and worst things about tourists?
They help us appreciate what we have, but htey can get in the way

LLO: Boris is…
…better for London than nothing. Just.

LLO: What would you change about the city if you had the power to do so?
Integrated transport. Proper. Go to Zurich to see how it should work.

Thanks Ham!

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