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Things to do in London for Mardi-Gras and the Rio Carnival

By Fergus Price (13 Feb 15)
Tags: rio carnival in london,mardi gras in london,rio carnival london,mardi gras london,mardi gras party,rio carnival party,brazilian party,festival party,brazilian dancing,brazilian street food,new orleans party london,brazilian bars london,things to do this weekend london,things to do in london

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In this bleak midwinter, curmudgeonly Londoners could be forgiven for simply stocking up on porridge and hibernating until spring. But on the other side of the Atlantic, the party season is just getting started, with the Rio Carnival and New Orleans' Mardi-Gras celebrations just two of the main examples.

Some of the fun seems to have made it to these foggy shores, because London is set to become a second home to samba enthusiasts and masked revellers over the next few weeks, in spite of the chilly temperatures – and we've compiled a handy guide to some of the main events.

First things first - if you find yourself pining for the sunshine and sybaritism of the Rio Carnival, you'll want to head to the iconic Guanabara bar on Drury Lane: bravely kicking off with an outdoor Carnival parade featuring dancers and drummers from the London School of Samba, the venue's week-long free-for-all (11th-17th February) will feature circus acts, live bands, fancy-dress (including a masked ball on Saturday), samba and capoeira demonstrations, Brazilian street food and Caipirinhas galore. Ticket prices range from free to £12, but it's best to reserve online beforehand.

Meanwhile, the Heron Tower's SushiSamba restaurant is putting on a Carnival cakewalk on February 17th, featuring traditional batucada drummers, special cocktails and a live feed of the party in Rio alongside its intriguing fusion of Brazilian, Peruvian and Japanese cuisine.

Official Cocobananas Movie from Bunga-Bunga London on Vimeo.

Committed Brazilian party lovers should also check out Cocobananas, a Brazilian beach shack and nightclub improbably perched on top of an Italian restaurant in Battersea. The entertainment – starting with bossanova grooves and escalating into an electronica blow-out – is bound to be highly-charged on the night of Friday 13th, as the Boys from Brazil come out to play.

Then, just as the Rio Carnival winds down, the weird and wonderful Mardi-Gras festival rears its masked head for another year. The Blues Kitchen in Camden leads the way on February 17th, with the Brass Volcanoes marching on the High Street and free gumbo for all. Elsewhere, Shoreditch's NOLA Bar (“New Orleans, Louisiana" - get it?) put on one of the biggest Mardi-Gras parties in the UK last year, featuring live brass bands, costumes, cocktails and general revelry. Head down there this year for another taste of the Deep South.

Mardi-Gras has always been a little out-there, and this year festival junkies, The Vaults, are getting in on the action, staging a two-day extravaganza (20-21st February) in collaboration with the weird and wacky Krewe de Boudica. An inaugural parade will begin at an as-yet undisclosed location on the South Bank, and lead back to Vault's headquarters for an evening of voodoo festivities and costumes courtesy of theatre troupe Shotgun Carousel. A rule of thumb, for all of the above: expect the unexpected.

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