The 17th century author Samuel Johnson once said “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” I like to think the majority of Londoners or ‘temporary’ Londoners such as myself relate to this quote in someway or another. Whatever your vice; clubbing, the theatre, shopping, or in my case food, London offers it all in abundance. And what better way to celebrate a vice but to indulge it.
If your vice, like myself, is food, then there are many ways to scratch the itch in London, my favourite being food markets. There are many dotted over the city, from the larger, more well known to the smaller & slightly obscure. The perfect morning out with the chance to have a wander, a nice lunch & to stock up on delicacies, more & more city dwellers are turning to weekend markets. Organic, fair trade, royal appointed or your cockney run back street stall, markets in London are the staple of many a cook- professional or aspiring.
The most well known is certainly Borough Market, and for good reason. A caldron of sights, sounds & smells, it offers something for every palate. Pork pies, jams, organic vegetables, game, pastries, olive oils, bottled beers, delicious cheeses…the gluttonous list is endless. Produce from around the world nestles comfortably with British home grown, and the stall owners are all exceptionally helpful & informative, if a little rushed off their feet… Being such a popular market, it’s best to get there early, as by midday it’s crammed with people browsing for Saturday night treats. Running every Friday 12am-6pm & Saturdays 9am–6pm it does mean it’s an incredibly popular Saturday morning haunt. Look out for favourites like ‘Artisan du Chocolat’, selling beautiful chocolates, salted caramels & their signature ‘Os’ – wafer thin chocolate discs with flavours such as pecan and cinnamon or lychee and rose. The Ginger Pig Butcher is another quality purveyor not to be missed, proffering an assortment of traditional cuts along with over 20 different varieties sausages, scotch eggs, pies & pates. There is nothing that these boys don’t about meat. They also offer superb butchery courses, which by all accounts are incredibly popular.
As well as a good turn over of temporary stalls, there are also a number of permanent stalls & shops dotted around Borough, which are well worth visiting. One such is Neals Yard on Park Street, which offers an array of over 70 cheeses from cheesemakers across the UK & Ireland. The Montgomery’s Chedder & Stinking Bishop are definitely my two favourite choices from this fantastic supplier, although I would warn anyone, Stinking Bishop is not for the faint hearted!
There are also plenty of less well know markets dotted across London and, while they may not rival Borough in size, they certainly do in quality & selection. In East London you can find the Sunday UpMarket, located just off Brick Lane. Every Sunday from 10am –5pm, it’s a small but interesting selection of stalls. More geared to buying & eating on the spot, rather than take home fare, there are trestle tables lined up where you can sit down & tuck in. Look out for the Mayjay Tout stall, which serves up traditional home style Caribbean food. Delicious chicken curries & spicy soups, they also offer roti-the Caribbean version of a tortilla, delicious when filled with goat curry. For the tea snobs out there, there is Yumchaa, stockists of loose tea, with every flavour you could want, from traditional builders tea to fruity summer mixes. Take a sprinkling of Japanese, Turkish, & Ethiopian cuisine to name but a few, along with a healthy dose of cupcakes, pastries & brownies & a whole host up & coming designers, vintage clothing stands & accessories makes for an eclectic and not to be missed mix.
While you are ‘out East’ its worth spending some time on Brick Lane itself. Nicknamed ‘Banglatown’ it’s the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community & where you will find the best curries in London. As you wander up the lane, waiters stand outside their restaurants beckoning you in with the promise of free starters, half price naan bread or two for one drinks. Every curry house seems to have won some sort of title & are all exceptionally proud of their establishments. Take time to look around before you take your pick-but as a rule of thumb, go for busy places filled with locals.
An hour West of the city you will find Barnes Farmers market. Running every Saturday, from 10am-2pm it’s a small but well thought out selection of producers & suppliers. Located at Essex House Surgery opposite the duck pond in the heart of Barnes, it’s not difficult to see why it’s such a firm favourite with the locals. Offering everything from vegetables grown by Coleshill Organics, fresh handmade pasta from the inventive La Tua Pasta Ltd & a good range of fish & shellfish from the Portland Scallop Company, it really is packed full of choice. You can find delicious produce from Flour Power City Bakers, a London based team offering a wonderful range of artisan breads, pastries & cakes, look out for treats such as their traditional wholemeal bloomers & walnut & apricot loaf. Lastly don’t miss Outsider Tarts who produce a dizzying array of biscuits & tarts-the perfect way to refuel after a morning of tramping around.
A lass from the Scottish Borders who grew up in a house run by a culinary obsessed mother, food & cooking have always been close to her heart.
While studying Textiles at Gray’s school of Art in Aberdeen I spent a month in the heart of Somerset completing a cookery course, which then inspired me to spend my summers working as a cook for hunting lodges across the Highlands & Islands. Looking for adventure I headed off to Switzerland & ran a ski chalet for 6 months where I learnt the art of making a full cooked breakfast for 16 people in under 20 mins. Once reality kicked I moved back & ended up in London town where I became a handbag designer for a quirky but sadly defunct label named Birdy Num Num. Now living in South West London & currently working for a custom install AV company, I spend most of my spare time cooking, baking, roasting & serving up lots of homemade goodies to friends & family.
You can following her musings at http://loveinatimeofgluttony.blogspot.com