Although established more than 130 years ago, it’s in the last 10 or so years that the reputation and popularity of and – with some food enthusiasts – obsession with Borough Market has emerged, blossomed and, frankly, exploded. It’s a favourite with everyone from foodie hipsters to organic fruit and veg enthusiasts, from on-trend amateur cooks to Great British Bake Off die-hards and from food market devotees to casual London tourists looking for an attraction with a difference. Why so? Because its offerings are out of this world; it’s a fantasyland for any and every kind of foodie – and from wherever in the world they hail.
Before we get started, though; a word to the wise. Borough Market isn’t cheap. It doesn’t have to be; such is its reputation. However, given that it’s a haven of the best quality organic produce and artisan food available anywhere in the British Isles, it simply can’t be either. This place is about irresistible aromas, terrific taste and unquestioned quality first; affordability second. It’s the place to go to spoil yourself, for sure; to give your taste buds a treat, nay a thrill.
But what should you try there? Well, the variety of things on offer is almost as dizzying as all the different smells. But a great place to start is…
A bakery and baking school that prides itself on churning out high-quality baked goods, Bread Ahead covers the whole gamut – both savoury and sweet items are for sale. Recommended are all its varieties of focaccia, as well as the place’s trademark cheese and olive sticks. The latter are marvellously crusty, full of crunchy baked cheese and salty olives. And, after some bread, why not try something properly savoury at…
This stall caters to everyone’s favourite meat concoction, serving them up on skewer sticks and tasting delicious as well as hot, hot, hot! Be sure to cover yours in lashings of English mustard to give that extra tang so its fantastic taste is set off perfectly. Following this, you may be in need for refreshment, so – positioned, as it is, on the edge of the market – head for…
Like so much in the market, this particular coffee shop (which also boasts branches in nearby Southwark and the equally tourist-friendly Covent Garden) is all about organic goods and using responsibly, sustainably produced ingredients. To that end, it offers fair-trade coffee creations – which it proudly declares are prepared in an ‘artisan’ manner – as well as freshly-ground coffee beans, bagged up for you to buy and take home. Suffice to say, it doesn’t lie; its coffee tastes terrific. In spite of the long queues you’ll probably inevitably encounter! After this caffeine pick-me-up, you may well be in the mood for something spicy, so why not step inside…
A small but perfectly formed grocery outlet, Brindisa’s all about Spanish cuisine, not least grilled chorizo sandwiches to die for. Served with the meat sliced in two, then lightly fried, placed in a toasted bun together with an aromatically roasted red chilli, the whole package is perfectly topped off with a sprinkling of rocket. Offering fulsome flavour and a sumptuously salty taste, this chorizo sandwich is exactly the sort of thing that Borough Market should – and is – all about.
So what else? To be honest, the variety and quality of Borough Market can’t be covered in one blog post. Should you have chosen to stay centrally for your visit to London (at, say, an impressive feature-filled spa hotel London like the Marble Arch by Montcalm London); you simply must make the trip on the Tube to this very-easy-to-reach site near London Bridge.
Be warned, though, the market tends to be absolutely crammed with tourists and cuisine-conscious locals of a Saturday afternoon (definitely the day and time to try and avoid this place, as it’s like a Tube station platform at rush hour). But any other day of the week and time of day is perfect to check out a rib of beef sandwich from Roast, a salt beef sandwich from the brilliantly named Nana Fanny’s or a duck confit sandwich from the Francophile’s favourite, Le Marché du Quartier, which – yes, really – comes with both a texture and flavour reminiscent of smoked pulled pork. Incredibly tasty!
And, don’t doubt it, Borough Market is bursting at the seams too with stalls offering the finest English cheeses, glorious European cured meats (ham, prosciutto and more chorizo) and delicious seafood by the hundred-weight (fish, oysters, lobsters, crabs and scallops); although the latter are truly pricey, so not for the faint of heart – when it comes to parting with hard earned cash, that is!
All in all then, Borough Market is a sublime place for those who love to explore, discover and try the very best, freshest and most responsibly produced food. It’s far from cheap, but there are bargains to be found and free samples to get your greedy mitts on too. Indeed, remember that scene from the classic musical Oliver!, in which all the food market vendors offer their wares in jubilant, harmonic unison? Well, Borough Market is, in a way, that scene made real. A genuine fantasyland for foodies.
Open: 11am-5pm Monday–Tuesday (for lunch); 11am-5pm Wednesday–Thursday (full market); 10am– 6pm Friday; 8am–5pm Saturday