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The Agustin Gonzales Rug Hooking Project

We were sent an email recently by Sara Worley, a customer who had come across this amazing community project in the small village of Agustin Gonzales located in the central Mexican highlands near San Miguel de Allende – The region that produces a harvest of the amazing nopales cactus that we use in our queso fundido.

20 of the ladies from the village spend their free time make rugs, inspired by the village life around them, and are selling them online to raise funds to send the girls in the village to school. You can find out more on their website. www.rughookproject.com

We thought it was a nice view into the life of rural mexico. Go girls!

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Our Guelaguetza competition winner jets off to Mexico

Those of you who have been reading our blog over the last few months will have seen the competition that we ran to send one festival loving author to Mexico to report back on the Guelaguetza festival in Oaxaca. Last month we chose a winner and right now Mark Weir, is getting stuck into a few tacos and (hopefully) donning an elaborate headdress whilst joining the carnival atmosphere as the parade winds through the streets.

This is not Mark Weir

We had loads of entries in the competition and were truly impressed with the quality of the reports we received. It made it really difficult to choose a winner, but it was Mark’s descriptive style and ability to get himself into and out of various scrapes whilst exploring the back end of the Czech Republic that singled him out as a man who should be jumping on that plane to Mexico. Have a look and let us know what you think:

Language, lyrics and getting lost at the ‘Rock for People’ music festival in the Czech Republic.
By Mark Weir

It’s tough asking for directions when you can’t pronounce the destination. ‘Hradec Kralové’ may look like a sorcerer’s spell in JK Rowling’s book of magic, but here, on the outskirts of Prague, it’s a name on a bus that I need to catch. 6 months of German lessons at Uni and a handful of friends from the Czech Republic haven’t given me the ability to wrap my western tongue around that eastern dialect. The girl behind the counter of the tiny coffee shop looks at me disconsolately and probably mutters the same word that I use many times when stuck behind people on escalators in London – tourist.

Good detective work saves the day though, as I figure out that following people with backpacks, Muse t-shirts and sleeping bags will get me to the bus on time. We’re off to ‘Rock for People’, the Czech Republic’s best musical celebration. And like any foreign festival it seems to be living up to the expectations we always have when venturing abroad for a musical experience. It’s scorchingly hot. Anything with the shadow profile larger than a VW Golf has huddled masses of bodies cowering from the sun’s rays. It’s cheap, as I spend five euros for three nights camping, and grab a pint of beer for a single euro. And it feels exotic, foreign, a world apart from being stuck in traffic on the M6. This is a festival erected in the remnants of an abandoned Soviet airfield. Pitching your tent next to a rusted helicopter before seeing bands perform in converted bunkers certainly doesn’t say ‘Clapham Common.’

I do feel slightly guilty though. Usually when travelling to another country I learn at least a few phrases. A polite ‘hello’, a casual ‘your football team is rubbish.’ Anything to avoid behaving like that American tourist who marches up to the locals and starts bellowing in English about the price of gas. But here, I feel I can get away with it. Seeing a local gypsy act bounce energetically around the stage to a packed house isn’t diminished by the fact that I have no idea what they’re talking about. That death metal band that has me banging heads with the locals can’t really be accused of singing in any language at all. Music transcends the boundaries, making friends of everyone. Or at least until The Prodigy comes out onto the main stage and begins clubbing people about the head with beats.

It’s quite a beautiful feeling. That you can still experience a foreign land without having to download an app for it, surviving on a big smile, a polite nod and plenty of hand gestures instead. It’s humbling too, wandering from stage to stage like a mute, relying on the patience of others, the fortune of getting someone at the bar who takes the time to talk in broken English. I’ll return again soon, Hradec Kralové. You won’t be any easier to pronounce, but at least I’ll know where to find you.

Watch out for more of Mark’s writing coming your way as he takes up the position of our roving reporter telling us all about his trip to Oaxaca in the next edition of OLA LONDON, which will be ready for you to ogle at in October.

Thanks once again to The Mexican and Oaxacan Tourist Board, British Airways and Hostal de la Noria for helping us send Mark to Mexico.

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Apparently there’s a wedding on

We’re always hot on the heels of current affairs and it’s become apparent that there’s a bit of a wedding on this Friday.

Now in Mexico, we don’t have such strict rules about guest lists, we say the more the merrier – It’s a fiesta after all. So we’ve decided that everyone who hasn’t had an invitation to the shindig at Buckingham Palace can come and celebrate round at ours. The margaritas will be flowing and there will be street food a-plenty – It’s not a street party without some street food now is it?

But it’s the special bond of marriage that we’re really celebrating, so exclusively on Friday we’re also offering free food and a round of margaritas to anyone who comes in with their loved one wearing their wedding dress or wedding suit! You heard it, free food and drinks on us – You just have to come wearing what you got hitched in.

To avoid any confusion with people who’ve just got a bit glammed up and are looking for a freebie, we are insisting that you bring along a photo of you and your loved one on your big day, to prove to our managers that it is actually your wedding attire.

As a special note to Wills and Kate – We’ll also happily pick up your bill for your lunch or dinner on Friday. Let’s face it, our Covent Garden restaurant is only at the other end of The Mall and it’s the perfect way to avoid all of those scary relatives. Come on down. We’re open til 11pm.

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Win a trip to the Guelaguetza festival in Mexico!

We’re hugely excited to say that we have 2 tickets up for grabs for 1 lucky reader and a friend to travel to Mexico as our roving reporter at the Guelaguetza festival in Oaxaca, Mexico this July.

Guelaguetza is one of Mexico’s biggest cultural festivals, and is a real feast for the senses. This annual celebration includes fantastic costumed parades, bands, amazing food markets and traditional dancing and we’re looking for our most eloquent reader to tell us all what’s it’s like to get in amongst the sights, sounds and smells of this incredibly vibrant celebration of all things Oaxacan.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply email Ola@wahaca.co.uk and tell us, in no more than 500 words about your best festival experience. The closing date for entries is the 31st May.

It could be the tale of your last trip to a literary fair, or how you found yourself in a field in Suffolk, or the amazing flavours you discovered at a local food festival. You’ll need to be pretty handy with a pen though as the winners’ Guelaguetza report will be featured in the next winter edition of our newspaper ‘Ola London for us all to ogle at.

We’re really excited to be able to offer such a brilliant prize and are hugely grateful to the amazing people at the Mexican Tourist Board, British Airways, The Oaxacan Tourist Board and Hostal de la Noria for making this trip a possibility.

So what are you waiting for? Get your pens out and get writing…

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open to all persons resident in the UK or Republic of Ireland, aged 18 Years or over except employees of the promoter and its subsidiaries, anyone professionally connected with this prize draw and immediate family members of any of the above persons.  BA reserves the right to verify the eligibility of Eligible Participants.  By taking part in this promotion, Eligible Participants confirm that they accept the terms and conditions set out below.

Entries must be submitted via email to Ola@wahaca.co.uk no later than May 31st and must be no longer than 500 words.

The prize: Two flights with British Airways travelling World Traveller class return from London Heathrow to Mexico City and connecting flights to Oaxaca, Double occupancy accommodation in Hostal de la Noria, Oaxaca, Airport to hotel transfers in Oaxaca and entrance for two to the Guelaguetza celebrations.

Flights depart from London Heathrow on 18th July and return to London on 25th July.

The prize is not transferable and no cash or credit alternatives will be offered.  The prize-winner will be responsible for all transfers to and from the airports, insurance, visa if necessary and spending money.

BA reserves the right to provide a substitute prize of similar value should the specified prize become unavailable for any reasons beyond its reasonable control. 

BA reserves the right to cancel or amend without notice these terms and any tickets or vouchers issued free in the event of major catastrophe, war, earthquake or any actual, anticipated or alleged breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other circumstances beyond the reasonable control of BA.

This prize draw is governed by English law and is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.

The winner will be selected by Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby on the basis of style, creativity and relevance by May 1st and the winner will be notified by email soon after. The winner has 10 working days to respond to the notification. In the event that no contact has been made within this time the promoter reserves the right to award the prize to a second favourite entry.

The winner must agree to submit a short report of around 500 words about the trip, which will be published in the ‘Ola Wahaca newspaper and on our blog. The report must be submitted no later than 10 days after returning from the trip.

The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

The promoter of two prize tickets is British Airways plc (BA), Waterside, PO Box 365, Harmondsworth, UB7 0GB.  Registered Number  1777777 England.

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Celebrate Dia de La Candelaria at Wahaca with free Tamales

Tomorrow, February 2nd, the Dia de la Candelaria festival will be celebrated across Mexico. The tradition goes that whoever is lucky enough to find the small baby Jesus figurine in their Rosca De Reyes cake on the 6th of January should treat all of their friends and family to a meal of tamales on February 2nd. Anyone eagle eyed enough to have read about this year’s winter menu will have spotted that Tommi was hugely excited to be able to put two types of tamales on our menu for the first time. And very delicious they are too!

So, never one to let up the chance to have a bit of a party, tomorrow, we’ll be giving free tamales to anyone who comes in with a small baby Jesus figurine. OK, that might be a bit tricky. We’ll be giving free tamales to anyone who comes in with a picture of a baby Jesus figurine, and funnily enough, we’ve put one just here:

So, if you feel like getting into the Mexican party spirit, print out this picture, and head over to Wahaca any time tomorrow and get your tamales on!

Here’s some Ts and Cs:
One free tamale dish offered per printed picture, and no more than one per customer.
Offer only valid during restaurant opening times on Februrary 2nd 2011.
Anyone found not having fun may be evicted from the restaurant at any time, or asked to stand in the corner with a bag on their head, it’s a party after all.

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We send Jo to Mexico!

Last year’s Wahaca Scholarship was won by Jo, our assistant manager in White City and so she packed her bags and off she went to Mexico! Here’s her report on her trip, the sites she saw and the things she ate. It’s enough to make the rest of us very jealous. Over to Jo…

When I won the Wahaca scholarship and was rewarded with a trip to Mexico I knew there would be a lot to discover, but what I saw totally exceeded my expectations.

Places, people, smells everything was new for me and so exciting.

We started our journey in Cancun where we met our Mexican/ Mayan tour guide Victor. Victor has grown up in the Yucatan Peninsula so we were assured he would show us the real Mexico. A few hours later as I was sitting in my hotel room, margarita in hand, it seemed like a good chance for a rest, but Victor had different plans.

Our hotel was situated in a very small village next to Chichen Itza so Victor decide to give us a tour around Maya-land.
That day he introduced us to a whole population of Iguanas and explained how they would become our friends as they can be found in pretty much all of the archaeological sites we’d be visiting over the following 7 days. After a little bit of a safety talk, we felt much more at ease around them. In fact, later that night we discovered they were also living in our building… I have never heard Kate screaming so loud before!

Our week of touring would take us throughout the cultural sites in our region, listening to Victor talk about Mayan history. I felt like I was in a totally magical world.

From standing in front of the third biggest pyramid in the world CHICHEN ITZA, (one of the seven modern wonders of the world and such a beautiful way of showing the Mayan calendar), to EK BALAM a huge Mayan city which overwhelmed us with its immense size and spectacular views. We were totally moved by the archaeology that we were shown and will never forget the sites that we visited.

After a whole week, thousands of pictures and even more stories my mind and my heart has been infected with one thought: will we ever be able to truly appreciate the true depths of Mexico’s heritage? Victor, in his 35 years of experience has seen more and more of his culture, restored every year. Even in this region there is so much yet to be uncovered, and I’m sure it’s just a question of time and money until the 8th wonder of the world is revealed!

After each long day there was time for food and drinks – something that working for Wahaca has made me really passionate about. I was desperate to try as much Mexican food as I could and compare it to the different tastes in Wahaca.

My aim was to find as many dishes we selling in Wahaca as possible, so that I could then tell our customers what taste better, worse or just different.

At first I struggled with the menu as it was all was in Spanish, but after a while familiar words started to appear, one in particular that I knew I had to try in Yucatan Pibil!

Yucatan is a heart of pibil country and we proudly sell lots of pork pibil in Wahaca so I was very excited when I tried my tender, juicy pork taco and absolutely couldn’t tell a difference! They looked, smelled and tasted the same as ours!
Thoughout the trip I tried some amazing food. I had Guacamole every day, chicken tinga tacos, lots of frijoles, quesadillas, sopa de lima (which I think we should add to the menu, it was so tasty!) and all of it tasted just like the dishes I had got to know at home.

And even though every night we ate in different restaurants, for pudding we always had the same – Flan! And trust me when I say it was heaven.

After that trip I knew Mexico would be one of the places I would always want to come back to. There’s so much more to learn and so many more dishes to try! I hope it’s not too long until I can return to continue my Mexican adventure.

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Celebrate Mexican Independence Day at Wahaca

We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence Day this week, with a Modelo Especial on the house for any table that brings a Mexican flag to the restaurant on Wednesday 15th or Thursday 16th. There are 200 bottles available, one for every year since the original Grito de Dolores – The shout which started the uprising that led to Mexico’s independence.

We want to make sure as many people as possible can join in the celebrations, so don’t worry about bringing a full size flag along, all you have to do is bring anything that shows the Mexican colours and crest in a vaguely flag-shaped way and we’ll give everyone on the table a beer. If you’re feeling artistic, you might even want to draw one.

If you’re coming along for a beer, then we hope you’ll take the opportunity to try out some of the delicious dishes on our summer menu – It might be the last chance to see some of the summer favourites from this year (you only need to look out of the window to see that autumn is fast approaching). If you’re feeling like really getting behind Mexico, you could try one of our street food specials, 20p from each dish sold goes to ednica.org.mx, a UNESCO charity helping to educate street kids in Mexico City.

We’ll look forward to seeing you down here, we’re off to put the beers on ice.

1 beer available per person on every table that shows a mexican flag. Whilst stocks last on Wednesday 15th and Thursday 16th September 2010.

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Wahaca hasn’t made it down to see this play by Humberto Robles yet but would love to hear what anyone who has seen it thought. Frida Kahlo was and still is such an important person in Mexican culture so we are glad to see a play on this subject in London.

Here is a little info on the production:

Art. Passion. Obsession. An explosive on-stage portrait of the woman who gave birth to herself. Sharp, witty and bursting with colour, this play has left audiences stunned on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is the day of the dead in Mexico, Frida comes back to her house to make fun of death and celebrate life. Through the journey she remembers her turbulent relationship with painter and companion Diego Rivera, her disagreements with the surrealists, her affair with Trotsky and so on. Based on fragments of her biography, letters, extracts from her diary and interviews that were made with Frida and her closest friends, the play recreates the intimate life of a passionate woman; an artist who managed to transfer her colourful vibrant culture and her deepest dramas onto the canvas.

Performed by Gaël Le Cornec who was pointed by The Stage newspaper as “one of the rising stars to keep your eye on this year”, Frida Kahlo Viva La Vida has already collected two fringe awards in the UK (Argus Angel Award of Artistic Excellence in Brighton 2009& Universal Arts Best actor Award in Edinburgh 2008) and has played to sell out audiences at the Edinburgh fringe Festival, The Tron, the Oxford playhouse, Trestle Space and Brighton Festival.

Buy your tickets at www.ovalhouse.com