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 littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

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.

http://www.sabor.co.uk

Thanks Esnayder!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

 

London Art Spot: Rachel Gadsden

Fragility, the human condition, disability, hope, decay. These are some of the topics that drive Rachel Gadsden to create the pieces that mark her stunning abstract collection with a sometimes chilling, raw connection to reality that comes from a close look at the psychology of the human mind. The narrative paintings often seem scrawled with a nearly unconscious reaction to her experiences that comes out in layers of paint, found objects and some other unique materials.

Rachel has spent time as Artist-in-Residence at Hampton Court. Her work has led her to explore the derelict North Wales Asylum in Denbigh North Wales and Cane Hill Asylum in Surrey. It has taken her to far away places where hope is a part of everyday life, to Ethiopia and Colombia.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Rachel gives us some insight into the heavy themes that inspire her art, talks about her proudest moments as an artist and lets us in on the most unusual material that has made an appearance in her paintings.

©RGadsden

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity?
RG: Without doubt theatre, my work explores the human condition and the theatre of life, and I weekly go to the theatre to feed my imagination, rarely West End productions, mostly fringe, off beat performances that suspend disbelief beyond the reality of daily life.

©RGadsden

LLO: How would you describe your artistic style?
RG: I am expressionistic at heart, and I feel most comfortable when the fussy materiality of my work is abandoned. My artwork is steadily becoming freer and the landscape is the unconscious where abstraction and visceral impulses dictate the unfolding narratives.

©RGadsden

LLO: Your work is made of layers, using found items, photographs, hair… What’s the most unusual item or material that has made an appearance in a finished piece?
RG: I was commissioned a couple of years ago to create an artwork in memory of a significant London actor, the patron asked if I would put some of the deceased actor’s ashes in the artwork.

©RGadsden

LLO: Your art has taken you to some far away places like Colombia and Ethiopia. Can you talk a bit about which experiences you had in these places that stood out most in the paintings that were created from each visit?
RG: My subject is fragility, survival and hope and I am interested in the universal experience, hence my desire to reach beyond my own reality. I spent the first 20 years of my life living outside of the UK. Perhaps I am searching for  lost childhood memories in my travels? The trip to Bogota was for Children of the Andes charity who work to support displaced children, meeting the young people was a highlight in Colombia. In Ethiopia the many nomadic tribal groups of the Southern Omo Valley became my subject, witnessing their beauty and life spirit was an apotheosis experience.

©RGadsden

LLO: One of your main inspirations is derelict, decaying buildings. What do these places mean for you and your art?
RG: The derelict building becomes the metaphor for human mortality. A life long severe lung condition has meant that I am acutely conscious of fragility, and the layers of decay that one witnesses inside a derelict space provides the foundation for layered narratives and a consideration of the complexities of the human condition.

©RGadsden

LLO: Your art uses a “psychogeographic methodology”. Expand on that for us?
RG: My practice does encompass a psychogeographic methodology, a process that brings together both the harsh realities of the everyday with psychological responses, where time and place become fragmented and the unconscious infiltrates the narrative. This process allows for a dynamic multi layered approach to the subject.

©RGadsden

LLO: Another focus in your paintings and drawings is mental health and disability. How do you translate emotion into something tangible like a painting?
RG: I don’t know is the honest answer, but my motivation is always to express the human condition, and the visceral qualities of paint and detritus are the substance of life. Our lives are bombarded by photographic imagery and the evidence of the human touch on the canvas makes painting a tangible means of expression for emotion for me. I use multi media in my art practice from installation to photography film and performance, but somehow paint has the ability to capture the corporeal substance of life in a way that the others don’t.

©RGadsden

LLO: Which painting are you most proud of at the moment and why?
RG: My recent drawing/paintings are revealing a new direction and I am interested in what is unfolding. Proudest moments include being selected to be the first contemporary artist in residence at Hampton Court Palace, the 18 month residency for Parliamentary Outreach and creating huge paintings in Trafalgar Sq and the Turbine Hall.

LLO: Other favourite London-based artists?
RG: Too many to name them all, I am a big fan of Bacon’s early work and revisit it constantly, Rego excites me, the scholarship of Deanna Petherbridge, Diane Kaufman and many more…….

©RGadsden

LLO: What are you working on now?
RG: I am working towards an exhibition at the end of November of mainly small works called “Alchemy”, and I have put in a bid to collaborate with Nondumiso Hlwele who lives in a Township in Cape Town, let see what happens………I also continue to be involved in a number of projects relating to London 2012.

Thanks Rachel!

For more of Rachel’s work, visit her site: www.rachelgadsden.com

She’s also featured in a BBC video, the first two minutes of which features her residency at Hampton Court.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Taste of Colombia in London

Still, by far the strangest Colombia food I’ve eaten is hormigas – the giant toasted bacon-popcorn-tasting ants, but I recently visited three different Colombian restaurants in London and tried different versions of plantains, yuca (cassava) and delicious, huge steaks as well as ox liver, ox tongue and some delicious fresh fruit drinks.

The first restaurant we went to was the loud and lively Latin Corner on Camden Road where I ate a massive steak plate called Sobrebarriga dorada. The tables surrounded a bar where they sell, among the usual choices, Colombia beer. The atmosphere was alive and a few people stood up to salsa near the tables.

La Bodeguita

Twice we went to La Bodeguita in the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, the area of London where the biggest Colombia population lives followed by Stockwell and Brixton. La Bodeguita had a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere than the Latin Corner – better for conversation – but still with Latin American music and it does turn into a party place later in the evening. Here I tried Carne Asada, another steak dish as well as well as the ox tongue – Lengua a la criolla – which was suprisingly tasty. To drink, I had guanabana juice/smoothie. Yum!

For a friend’s birthday, we had dinner at Leños & Carbón on Rockingham Street, also in Elephant & Castle. A bit of a different atmosphere with a mix English and Latin music. I ate ox liver here and had an excellent fresh lulo juice – which is a sweet tropical fruit that somewhat resembles a kiwi in certain ways, I am told. Lulo juice is amazing, and it’s unfortunate you can’t find the fruit to buy in the markets like you can with some other oddities that Colombians enjoy like mamon.

In all three restaurants, the waiters were incredibly friendly and talkative, joking and laughing with us. The prices were very reasonable. The food and drinks were delicious at all three of them as well.

I’m sure there are some other good Colombian choices hiding in London. I also stopped in Brixton Market the other day to buy buñuelos from a vendor who was also selling cheesy arepas.

If you can recommend any other places in London to find delicious Colombian food, leave a comment.

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The Latin Corner
La Bodegiuta

Leños & Carbón

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Editor’s note – For anyone interested in Colombia, check out my blog from when I lived in a village called Mogotes in the Santander region of Colombia for six months in 2011 – http://www.littlecolombiaobservationist.com (A Colombia version of LLO!) Also, you can see my Flickr photos from my Colombia experience here

Listen to a Londoner: Wilfredo Arturo Diaz Ardila

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 littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Wilfredo Arturo Diaz Ardila, 32

Wilfredo comes from a small town called Mogotes near Bucaramanga in Santander, Colombia. He talks to us for this week’s Listen to a Londoner about his life in the UK, where to find a Colombian experience in London and about a product called panela that he plans to import from home.

LLO: How long have you been in London and what brought you here originally?
WD:
I have been in London for almost 3 years. I came here for studying English and to do a master diploma in civil engineering which I just finished. Now I would like to work in London as a civil engineer and begin the importation of a product called panela from our family business in Colombia.

LLO: How does life in London compare to life in Colombia?
WD:
It took me almost one year to adapt to life in London, for the weather (in Colombia there are no seasons), the different food and different cultures. It was difficult to make good friends because everyone is always working or studying and don’t have time for friends. I miss my family and my friends. In Colombia I spend a lot of time with family and friends at the weekend having barbeques, playing football, dancing, eating out in restaurants. I’m impressed with the culture in London, the architecture and the history.

LLO: Favourite place to go dancing to Latin American music in London?
WD:
The Cuban in Camden Market, Salsa! on Charing Cross Road and Floridita in Soho.

LLO: Best place in London for a taste of authentic Colombian food?
WD:
Leños & Carbón on Rockingham Street in Elephant and Castle and The Latin Corner pub on Camden Road.

LLO: You were talking about your sugar cane plantation in Colombia where your family produces panela, a product that you plan to help import to sell in London. What is panela?
WD:
Panela is a product that is made with sugar cane, grown under the Colombian sun. It’s 100% natural and unrefined. It’s made in different presentations – compact in the shape of a square or circle or in powder form. My family has been producing this product for over 10 years with a team of 15-20 employees on our farm.

LLO: How is it used?
WD:
You can use it to make juice, cakes, sweeten tea and coffee. It’s a more natural substitute for more refined sugar.

LLO: Can you share a few photos of the production process and explain how it is made?
WD:
The first step is preparing the ground to grow the sugar cane on the plantation. Growing the sugar cane takes between 15 and 20 months depending on the type of plant. The plants are cut and transported to the factory to be processed. The sugar cane is passed through a machine where it is crushed and the juice is separated and cleaned through a filter. The juice flows through a series of three huge containers where it is boiled in each one growing thicker each time and changes to a slightly different colour. Then it is passed through more containers where it continues to thicken and the air is stirred out. It’s transferred into moulds where it sets for half hour into a solid form. When the product cools, it is packaged and ready to sell.



LLO: Where’s your favourite shop in London to pick up Colombian products you miss from home?
WD:
There’s a small shop in Elephant and Castle shopping centre that has cereals, beans, arepas, saltines, milo and different tropical fruits I use to make juice, yuca and plantains.

LLO: What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome since moving to the UK?
WD:
I think it is the English. I didn’t know any English when I arrived in London. I started studying in a beginner course. Getting the post study work visa I have now was difficult too.

LLO: Best London discovery?
WD:
Mi novia!

Thanks Wilfredo!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

If you have or know of a company interested in stocking panela imported from Wilfredo’s family farm, email him at wdiaz_29@hotmail.com.

Gifts from Colombia

W’s parents are in London for a month. Yes, they brought him a big box of “hormigas” straight from the source in Colombia. These ones were caught and toasted by his mother, rather than the ones I found packed and sealed in Selfridges. Seeing as the hormigas post was so popular a few months ago, I thought I’d share a few other bits of Colombian culture that they brought my way. It doesn’t involve giant toasted ants, but prettier and sweeter things instead.

Gift from Colombia

This lovely bag and change purse were handmade by his sister. She should sell them, really, but she just makes them for friends.

Dulces Finos de Mogotes

These sweets come from Mogotes, soft and powdered sugar-coated. They’re strawberry (fresa) and they brought me a second box that is the flavour of apio, which, according to my Spanish dictionary, translates as celery!

Arequipe

This is Arequipe, also called dolce de leche by non-Colombian Latinos. It’s rich and delicious, a dessert and a spread. The bottom layer is soft and gooey and tastes like caramel and it’s covered by a guava-flavoured layer that looks and tastes a bit like a big circular Jello Jiggler. It’s sold by street vendors in Colombia along with a flat wafer called obleas. The night W’s mother gave it to me, I tried it on a piece of fruit which is another popular way to eat it. It can also be drizzled over ice cream if you heat it up. Very sweet!

W’s other Colombian friend’s brother is also in town, coincidently. Though he doesn’t speak any English either, he was lovely when I met him and gave me a few tastes of his home country as well.

This is a Supercoco lolipop, “El bombon con mucho coco!” He also gave me a Colombina Coffee Delight sweet, seeing as Colombia is so famous for its coffee.

And speaking of coffee, I think it’s about that time. Adios!