Gibraltar’s multicultural gastro gig is very 'calentita' (hot stuff)
5 July 2019
‘CALENTITA’. It sounds like something appreciative construction workers might shout out to hot young chicas.
In fact, Calentita Night is named after something that looks like my failed Yorkshire Pudding.
Gibraltarian calentita, a pancake made from chickpea flour, water and olive oil, is the Rock’s national dish and an acquired taste, if I’m honest! The local cuisine has been shaped by 14 sieges and 16 years of border closure, when cooks had to be dab hands with basics and can openers.
But everything else about the Rock’s annual, globally-flavoured food festival rises to the occasion.
With over 50 food stalls and entertainment thrown in, Calentita Night has grown more rapidly than Greece’s national deficit – and Greek is one of the cuisines you can try. “Stuffed vine leaves,” I salivated as we scanned a posh Sunday Times Colour Supplement-sized programme to pick out our favourite stalls and see what time dancing dervish Jonathan Lutwyche of Britain’s Got Talent fame would be performing on stage.
We arrived early and a good thing too, as 5,998 other people turned up that night – swelling Gibraltar’s 30,000-something population by nearly one fifth at a stroke!
The first surprise was Market Place bus terminus, transformed beyond all recognition by a crescent of glossy pvc Camelot-style jousting tents selling everything from Cuban mojitos to American hot dogs.
A giant Argentinean barbecue weighed down with 180 kilos of sizzling meat cuts, and three long baronial tables placed alongside, seemed an open invitation to chow down on a chunk of steak and toss the T-bone over your shoulder, Middle Ages style. But there were litter bins and signs about using them everywhere and you could enter a lottery to win an ipad Air if you saved waste by bringing your own plates and cutlery!
Ultimately, the tinted glass windows of a local bus shelter proved a Godsend for indulging in some incognito Medieval guzzling out of the public eye. With the Moorish Caste lit up above, I felt like the Lady of Shalott - and you can get shallots, too, at this homage to the home-cooking of Gibraltar’s multi-ethnic society.
The Nepalese with their curries and dals, the Hong Kongese with their dim sum, the Germans with their magnificent bratwurst, all cooking up a storm to raise funds for their favourite charities; the quintet of beaming Filipinos serving up sizzling spring rolls smothered in chilli sauce. “We’re from the Filipino Association of Sotogrande and we like to keep our traditions alive,” they told me. “Watch out, very hot.”
Which sums up Calentita Night, now added to a lengthening list of festivals that are turning the Rock into one very hot ticket, topped by the Music Festival in September – Glastonbury in the Med, without the mud. See you there!
📆 Calentita Night 2019 - July 5
📌 Casemates Square