Sunday, 15 November 2015

London's First Mulled Wine Festival

I really got lucky with Yelp London's First Mulled Wine Festival. I had offered to help on the 12th in the first slot 12-3. Things were on the quieter side when I started out, as everything was being set up. So I got the time to figure out what was going on where, where the ATM's were, the wifi set up etc. I managed to meet the community managers from Birmingham, Manchester & Edinburgh and other yelp elite & chat with each of them.

At around 1pm, the lunch crowd started coming in & the action heated up a bit, helping people download the app, telling them what yelp was all about.

At 3, things had quietened, so I finally left the main booth (registration only) and actually headed to the food and drink areas. Since things weren't rushed, I had a chat with most of the stall owners and got to try everything for free with the nifty Yelp Elite VIP wristband!

I started with the Mulled wine at Chez Antoinette - a lovely sweet mulled wine with strong flavours. I absolutely loved this one. I also got to try half a duck confit baguette. I loved the duck but the bread was a little too crusty for me. (I prefer soft breads) They have a permanent location in Covent Garden, so I'd love to try more of their food there.

As I was munching on my baguette and sipping my wine, I headed over to the DJ booth being run by Phizz. They were handing out goody bags with pop chips & Phizz Rehydration tablet samplers to Elite. The music they were playing was really good, but at the main booth where I was stationed, we could only hear the opera being played from inside Covent Garden Market. The DJ's said that they only had permission to increase their volume later in the evening.

My next stop was Gosnells where I tasted mead for the first time (An alcoholic drink made from honey. I've read so much about it in historical fiction, but I wasn't sure how it would actually taste). It was lovely. Again, a sweet drink, so right up my alley. The mulled version was even better & my glass was fortified with a shot of rum.

With my baguette over, I headed to the Meat Liquor stall. I've been following them on instagram and been very tempted to head over to one of their locations, but hadn't got around to it. The dead hippie burger was FANTASTIC!. So I know that I HAVE to head to their restaurant ASAP. As I was chatting with the lovely lady here about food & meat, she offered me some of their Jagermeister Spice. Which was also amazing. I'd have loved to take some home with me, to sip on in the evening.

The final stop in this section was Morelli's Gelato which had 2 Christmas Specials - the mulled wine and the mince pie. They were also offering Irish Cream & another flavour. I had the mince pie, which was very good and later in the evening I had the chance to taste the Irish Cream & the mulled wine too. I think the mince pie was my favourite.

Corral one over and done with, I headed to corral two. I started with LIC Pops - Mulled Wine pop. I've had their pina colada & mojito pops before, so I knew I could expect something fantastic. It was delicious, but frozen (obviously!) These pops are better suited to be enjoyed at home in front of a fire or radiator, than in chilly, windy, nippy, Covent Garden on a semi winter night.

I quickly headed over to Heddon Street for a Hot Scot Cider, mulled with Drambuie, which warmed me right up again. I bought one of their lemon and honey madelines, just to balance the alcohol I was imbibing and they were warm and toasty, fresh out of a warming oven.

I skipped Thistly Cross as they were having some electric troubles which they were trying to sort out. She told me I could have lukewarm cider now or hot cider later. I opted for later and was really keen to try the marzipan & gingerbread mulls.

My final stop was L'atypique who offered me prosecco for a change, which was fresh and crisp.

The Christmas Cart wasn't offering samples and as I was stuffed & marinated, I promised myself that i would be back later for one of their pies (I tasted the venison & port from a friend - it was good.) &top it with some Thistly cider before I left.

Once I got back to the main booth, things started heating up, literally. We heard that the micropigs would soon arrive and the heater was turned on for them. And the moment the pigs arrived, was when the crowds really started.

Everyone wanted their pictures taken with those cute, squealing bundles & the registration area just exploded. I lost count of how many people I helped download the app that evening.

It was then time to suit up for the Santa flashmob, where we ran around the square handing out candy canes and yelp cards. By now it was around 7:45 and I was ready to leave.

Brajesh had arrived & I wanted to take him to all the stalls, but it was impossible to get through the coralled areas. The crowds were just piling in by 7:30. There were queues everywhere. The security got strict. They didn't want anyone taking glasses outside the area which just increased the number of people inside the small fenced areas. There was no seating and the stalls were on the smaller side. so it all ended up feeling very chaotic.

Yelpers were doing their best to manage the crowds the best that they could, but it was becoming unmanageable. People who arrived around this time would not have enjoyed the festival, the way that I had the luxury of doing so.

By now, it was crowded & chaotic. We managed to snag a dirty hippy & a jagermeister, before we left to find a quiet place for dinner.

I enjoyed the event, but I can see why people who came in very early or very late found the place too quiet or too chaotic. It was a great first event, but can be made even better next year with a little more planning and objectively looking at what could be done to improve the overall Festival.