London Markets – the biggie at Borough
You’ve got to remember that My London was the one of Thatcher’s Britain. Grey skies. Muddy moods. Gritty.
Food markets were everywhere. They’d pop up in the morning along a street and often disappear without a trace around lunchtime. Barrow boys would spruik their wares. Long before twenty-first century eco-consciousness, markets didn’t run to the expense of plastic bags. You bought your basket, opened the mouth wide and they’d pour the produce in straight from the scales.
These neighbourhood markets were the lifeblood of every suburb in London. Mine was in Dalston. Each week our large shared household would head down and buy produce by the pack load. There were many treasures I’d never come across before in New Zealand, especially all the exciting roots and leaves favoured by the local Jamaican community. Even the somewhat less exotic caused a thrill for a gal who’d never seen fresh beetroot before. The beets were sold boiled and slopped from steaming vats. Into a BYO container they’d slip and quickly taken home, sliced and doused with vinegar while still warm.
While it’s rumoured that the first incarnation of Borough Market opened in the eleventh century, its latest retail incarnation is comparatively recent and didn't exist in the Thatcher era. Let’s face it, you couldn't even get a decent coffee in London back then.
Fast forward to September 2014 and I finally make it to the hallowed halls (after a right neighbourhood/wrong day experience two years earlier). Did it live up to the hype?
I swapped recipes with the mushroom seller (her: ‘the giant fleshy mushrooms cooks and tastes just like chicken”, me: “the chantarelle’s taste amazing with potatoes”), gorged on some gluten/dairy-free rocky road (no marshmallow but biscuits and honeycomb), salivated at the beautiful tarts, olives, bread, currants, tomatillos…
Like those who have gone before, I feasted my eyes and my belly.
Revelation – the next time I make a falafel I’ll skip the obligatory iceberg/tomato combo and stick to hommos, Middle Eastern pickles and a large handful of fresh mint. This was one of the cheapest meals I ate in my week in London and arguably the best.
I don’t need to tell you how to find Borough Market – just bring your appetite, jump a tube to London Bridge and follow the hungry hoards across Borough High Street.