LDN Experiences

Published on November 20th, 2015 | by Clarissa Waldron


London Mulled Wine Festival

Halloween and Bonfire Night have been put to bed for another year and with that the emphasis on Christmas has emerged as the festive season draws ever near.

One of the first Christmas themed events in London’s expansive social calendar was its first ever Mulled Wine Festival, as curated by Yelp, the champion of local businesses. Between November 12-14th, from midday to 9pm, the destination was Covent Garden piazza, the weather was chilly, the product was (pretty much) anything mulled wine related, the entrance was free and the place was packed.

The opening night coincided with the turning on of the 100,000 Christmas lights in Covent Garden, no doubt perfectly co-ordinated to get everyone in the merry spirit and encourage a mass sing-a-long to Fairytale of New York by the end of the night.

The festival itself was much smaller than we were expecting and took time to actually find it as the piazza was so busy due to the turn-on of the lights and subsequent live music; it seemed that while co-ordinated the two events were not a collaboration.

With little signage to guide us there, we eventually stumbled upon some stalls that were cordoned off, with bouncers trying to quell the growing number of people trying to get in – the event was free to enter on download of the Yelp app.

We queued and were told of two other cordoned off areas further down the cobbles as we made our way in. At pit stop number one there were four stalls, including L’atypique Organic Wines and Lic Pop, selling mulled wine, mulled cider, mulled cocktail pops and food including mince pies and savoury pies.


In this overcrowded corner of the piazza, we waited in a queue which was abundant with those who had already been served but with nowhere to move to. After our turn, we trepidatiously sipped our drinks, keeping elbows in so as not to spill any, and gave up on trying to move over to where the mince pies were gleaming gold under hot lights.

Eventually pushing our way, and being pushed along, we made it over to Thistly Cross Cider’s stall where we tried samples of Gingerbread Mulled Cider (spicy and aromatic), Marzipan Mulled Cider (sweet and deceptively like fruit tea) and the Farmhouse blend which boasts its own secret recipe, one that crafts a bold and punchy variant.

With the crowd in this section bolstering we ventured out to scout the other areas and discovered there was actually only one other small section, which was just as packed as the first. We had to queue again, and once inside that idea was lost, as it was a push and grab affair with swathes of people blocking the stalls to such extent we couldn’t see what was what.

The folks at MeatMarket looked to be struggling with the disorder also but it didn’t affect the food. Our Dead Hippy and Halloumi and Mushroom sliders were perfectly put together in the manic frenzy of shouts, orders, shoving, and lost tickets, and their Mulled Jaeger was more impressive than the traditional vino.

With dinner and drinks under our belt, our thoughts moved to dessert – and mulled wine ice cream was always going to be top of my list! But one look at the congregation, with the same idea as us, who had descended on and encircled Morelli’s Gelato, and the thought of battling for ice cream in the dead of November didn’t seem appealing anymore.

Sadly this was the resounding feeling of the evening. For though some extremely talented and innovative producers took part in the festival, including  Battersea Pie, Gosnell’s Mead, Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen and Bootlegger Jelly’s, they could neither be seen nor accessed due to the excessive crowd.

No doubt an enormous amount of preparation and planning went in to the 3-day festival, on the part of both organisers and the businesses displaying their wares, but the opening night echoed of disorder and disappointment.

While proceedings almost certainly were calmer during the day time, if London were to have an emphatically successful second Mulled Wine festival the logistics need to be re-examined. Either way, London first’s Mulled Wine showcase proved popular and in the future it will generate crowds, but to generate business for the independent traders, it will require more organisation and less pandemonium.

To find out about future Yelp organised events visit http://www.yelp.co.uk/events

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