Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
A Showman’s Dream
by Jessica Allen
London’s most magical winter attraction; a hub for the nation’s ever-growing fondness for German festivities. Winter Wonderland is back, bringing with it a playground for the public and showmen alike. The celebrations transform London’s central Hyde Park for Christmas and New Year with wondrous shows, the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink, rows of market stalls, twinkling carnival rides and of course, an amazing selection of food and drink.
The appeal is universal—that much is clear when strolling through the winding paths of the pop-up Wonderland. There are people of all ages, from all walks of life, each of them spoiled with a vast selection of things to do and see.
Having spent a number of hours at Winter Wonderland one crisp Friday afternoon, what was most striking was the feeling that I had not quite experienced it all in the day that had passed. Not only is it visually stunning, providing many a photo opportunity, there were stall-keepers and caterers to talk to, cosy markets to browse and on each corner the smell of candyfloss intermingling with crackling fire smoke.
The previous year I had experienced Winter Wonderland in the evening, where it became a buzz of lights from carnival rides and the clinking of glasses and laughter. The makeshift taverns and bierkellers bustled with numbers not unlike what you may see at the increasingly popular Oktoberfest festivals.
It is here at Winter Wonderland that we continue to see the growing popularity of German culture and cuisine. The elements are of unending appeal: juicy, grilled frankfurters on swing grills paired with mulled apple wine or a crisp, refreshing stein of beer.
Here at The Sausage Man, we have always appreciated the versatility of our offering and how easily delicious cuisine transitions from summer barbecues into festive nights around a firepit.
It is impossible to deny the popularity of German food and beer even in Wonderland: The Bavarian Quarter effortlessly draws eventgoers into the centre of the attraction with its offering of good food, good beer, and occasionally an oompah band or a live musician on their main stage.
There are showmen from all over the world here, lining the labyrinth of streets with their stalls.
Walking through, it seemed every other stall was offering their own delicious variety of street food, hot drinks or cool beverages, but by far the most popular was the Bratwurst and Krakauer rocking on swing grills in uniform lines. As the afternoon began to transform into evening the crowds huddled around the warm, delicious smell.
As luck would have it, we managed to talk to a few of the vendors selling The Sausage Man’s mighty German sausages and accompaniments, gathering insight on just what makes Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland the true showman’s dream.
Nestled in a corner of the Angel’s Christmas Market was my first destination. The blue checked shirts and familiar smell of The Sausage Man Bratwurst led me to the swing grill deck, which was beaconed by a Christmas tree on a windmill-like roof.
Even in the early portion of the afternoon, there were families eating at tables and friends sharing a drink from the bar. The location was a little tucked away, but the only offering of German Sausages the Angel’s market had to offer—so it was inevitably going to be quite popular.
The staff were incredibly friendly and efficient, and it was clear they were geared up in preparation for the busy evenings. The grill was filled with our classic white Bratwurst and smoky Krakauer sausages, sitting plump in neat rows ready to entice passers-by.
The German sense of taste is clear in this little nook. A cosy wooden deck and a classic menu of sausages for those who visit.
The grill bar is lined with The Sausage Man’s very own selection of German ketchup, mustard and of course, the tangy and spicy curry ketchup that pairs so well with a juicy Bratwurst.
It was easy to imagine just how a place like this would look once the sun was down—a glowing, bustling little jewel in the market full of happy customers.
Further down from the market I stopped in at The Carousel Bar. The main attraction here is the slowly rotating bar, where the tables sit atop the backs of hobby horses and colourful carnival creatures. At the bar, though, there is that familiar gorgeous smell of The Sausage Man frankfurters cooking upon a small grill. I spoke to Alison Manning about being in business at Winter Wonderland and why she chooses to use the sausages from The Sausage Man time and time again.
“I have a great relationship with Michael.” She smiles at me over the counter, recounting how long she has been in contact with the Managing Director of The Sausage Man. “We have been working with you for over fifteen years.”
Alison goes on to explain that The Carousel Bar does very well, but if it’s sausages I want to talk about, I’m better off finding John Manning at The Windmill Grill. There, there’s a swing grill and an enthusiastic showman willing to have a chat with me. I make my way through the carnival and find the Windmill Grill on a corner; a smaller unit than the previous deck, but undeniably of Sausage Man calibre—after having been in Winter Wonderland for several hours, recognising our distinctly delicious frankfurters is becoming second nature. John Manning is friendly and insightful as we move off to the side to speak.
“There is nowhere else in the world like here.” He speaks matter-of-factly, like every showman on the ground is acutely aware of it. Previously, he had reiterated to me the length of his relationship with The Sausage Man, but added that this was only his second year at Winter Wonderland. I had to agree—it was a unique experience on a grand scale. “It isn’t a question of whether its worth it or not, if you’re given the opportunity to work here, you take it.” John further cements the idea that Winter Wonderland truly is a showman’s dream, giving me insight into the motivations behind setting up a stall here.
Of course, I had to ask him about what sets The Sausage Man apart from some of the other offerings at Winter Wonderland, and his answer was quick and succinct:
“The Chilli Beef is very popular this year. It looks good on the grill and in a bun.” John refers to our Giant Chilli Beef Frankfurter, a fiery red sausage that has become popular on his grill this year. It is certainly a spectacle on top of packing a distinctly beefy, spicy flavour. I had noticed that this particular variety was harder to spot from stall to stall; John was offering something different, something versatile to his customers.
“It’s hard to get a proper German Sausage around here.” He gestures around the carnival rides. He assures me that The Sausage Man has always worked very well for his business: the delivery times are fast and efficient, the team are friendly and available for a chat when he needs them, and the bottom line is: the sausages are great and his customers enjoy them.
Winter Wonderland offers a magical platter of opportunities for caterers and traders alike. Amongst the variety of street food and entertainment the mighty German sausage still prevails across the different corners of the event.
There is something to be said about the appeal of such a versatile and delicious food when its appeal reaches outside of the distinctly Bavarian Quarter into the reaches of the carnival and even the bars.
The opportunity to spend a day with family or friends or, as a food trader, to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the spoils of such a popular food should not be missed.