The first time I went to London was back in 2002 as part of an epic nine-month journey around the world. A journey that began in LA and meandered its way around Central America and a 2-week road/scuba trip around Cuba, up to New York, over to Europe & the UK down to Morocco, back up to Europe, the Middle East and down to Egypt for a tad more scuba on the Red Sea and of course the iconic sight-seeing. It was amazing, to say the least.
Many, many food markets were explored. From the famous Sunday market in Chichicastenango, to the spectacular Djemaa el-Fna night market in Marrakesh and one of the worlds greatest, Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona.
Another market that stood out from most was Borough Market, located by London Bridge station. Who would have thought that almost 1000 years ago a market was operating in this same area? On London Bridge, in fact. Not the bridge of today, of course. Probably the one that we’ve all heard about in that nursery rhyme. A web of cobbled alleys and Victorian buildings make home to a wonderful selection of artisans proudly selling their organic meats, breads and pastries, fruit & veg, cheese and just about everything else in between. These people really do live their passion and are eager to help if you want to learn more about their produce.
The buzz of locals and tourists wandering beneath the lofty glass canopies and railway viaducts is energetic, sampling and tasting from stall to stall to pub to cafe. There is a lot to be seen and a lot to be eaten. Street food – Southwark style.
My latest visit was just a couple of months ago. I couldn’t wait to return and when we did I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Not disappointed with the actual market, just with the fact it is now half the size thanks to Network Rail widening the overhead viaduct to ease the bottle-necks on train services. Hoardings can be seen all over the place, the original market hall is out of action for a couple of years and many stall holders have been relocated. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Market life goes on. Although something tells me that the only people happy to pay the suppposed high prices are the tourists.
Delicious snacks can be had just about everywhere you go and the one that stood out foremost is this. The toasted cheese sandwich (£5) from Kappacasein. I could smell it a mile away. Here we have it: Poilâne bread sliced and filled with sharp Montgomery Cheddar, Ogleshield cheese, leek, onion and garlic. Piles of these little beauties sit in a cabinet waiting to be toasted and when you get to the front of the queue you’re one step closer to cheesy nirvana. After five minutes of toasting in a hot-press it’s roughly wrapped in butchers paper and handed over. The first bite will sear your lips but it’s hard to slow down as the gloriously glossy cheese oozes between your fingers and down your chin. A foodgasm without any doubt.
Inside the Middle Market at Furness Fish & Game you can take your pick from one of the giant pans of curry (Malaysian chicken, Thai green, West Indian chicken) bubbling away or …
… try something a little more sugary at Comptoir Gourmand. Macaron, floral cupcakes, custard tarts, meringues. It all looked good but I didn’t give anything a try.
The Monmouth Coffee brand seems to have a bit of a presence in this town and after getting my first taste at Fernandez & Wells in Soho I was happy to see an outlet at the markets. The queue of people snaking out the door was no deterrent as a caffeine injection was well-needed. The organic milk comes from Somerset, the sugar comes from Assukkar, Costa Rica, and the beans come from all over.
Getting a seat is an absolute shit-fight and when you do, if you do, you’re in for a treat. The flat white’s are made with precision and I savoured every drop. Damn fine coffee.
Cinnamon Tree Bakery caught my attention with its delicious selection of handmade bikkies and I especially loved the cinnamon elephants.
Brindisa Spanish Foods is another place well-worth dropping in to stock up on oils, cheeses, charcuterie, conserved fish, you name it. The torta de santiago was begging to be bought and when a whopping wedge of it only set me back £1.75, how could I not? This almond-based cake is heavy with eggs and flavoured with cinnamon and lemon.
Brindisa also has a tapas restaurant located at one of the entrances of the market and it seems very popular with the locals.
Despite the current construction there’s still enough to be seen at this great little market. Even if you only stop by for a coffee and one of those orgasmic cheese toasties.