Yes it’s touristy, yes it gets crazily busy on a Saturday and yes it has amazing food. This is Borough Market, the epicentre of the South London food scene and a mainstay in the itinerary of virtually every food lover visiting the capital. Borough is a sweet blend of stalls selling top quality produce, meat and fish – as you would find at any fresh market. In addition to that there’s the street food stalls – some permanent, some on a rotation. All of them worthy of your time, money and tastebuds.
Borough, for me, is a must each time a trip to London is on the cards. I first discovered it a few years back on the hunt for obscure vegetables and reasonably priced truffles – I found both. What I also came across was the famous chorizo sandwich at Brindisa’s small stall facing out onto Stoney Street. At Brindisa a chorizo fresh off the grill paired with roasted red peppers and rocket is stuffed into a ciabatta roll – a real mouthful of Spain.
Our visit on Friday this week came some time after our last meeting with the market, since then sadly the place has become more well known for the terror attack during which people barricaded themselves in the nearby bars and a terrorist was shot dead outside one of my favourite pubs, The Wheatsheaf. A happier atmosphere greeted on a chilly Saturday and the market’s swing seemed unaffected as tourists and locals queued up for the numerous delights that Borough has to offer.
First to catch my eye was the salt beef sandwich stall ‘Northfield Farm’ which sells a choice of either salt beef in a sandwich or in a bagel. Normally this stall is rammed with people holding up their money and jostling to get their hands on the goods. This time, however, the stall was dead, so not wanting to miss an opportunity, I went ahead and ordered a salt beef sandwich at £6.50 ($8.60 US).
Watching the lady slather mustard onto the bread and top it with sliced gherkin, shredded red cabbage and finally the beef made me fear the sour/hot combination that I was about to dig into. I’m not a huge fan of gherkins or red cabbage so as the sandwich began to build, so did my anxiety.
What was I worried about? This sandwich is awesome. The crunch from the cabbage and gherkins plus the fresh, sour hit from the juice along with the heat of the mustard goes superbly well with the salt beef – which is very salty. For me, I can handle salty, I even like salty. Some may find it a bit too much but when you’ve got mustard and sour pickles to even it out it’s a superb sandwich. There’s also an option for the same filling but in bagel form at the cheaper price of £5 ($6.62 US).
To wash the sandwich down we stopped at the ever-popular Turnip’s juice stall, here you can find stacks of fresh juice, all different flavours at £2.50 ($3.30 US) per cup. A zingy, fresh cranberry lemonade provided the perfect refreshment on this occasion.
We headed towards the back of the market at which you can find an abundance of various street food vendors – it’s basically a scaled down version of the world’s food spread across 10-12 stalls. This area is extremely popular with the stall’s specialising in sausages, falafel and Thai street food the busiest on our visit. We were feeling something sweet after our hot, sour and salty sandwich and stopped by at a waffle stand.
These waffles come with a scoop of ice cream and a choice of chocolate or caramel sauce. We opted to share a portion with caramel sauce and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. My one gripe about this stall is that for the thick end of a fiver (that’s £5 for the benefit of our international readers) you would expect the waffles to be cooked fresh. Instead we got a pre-made waffle, placed into the iron and heated until crisp, a real let-down.
The ice cream was okay and the sauce was sweet, the waffle itself was nice but you can’t beat a freshly made version and at this kind of place at these kind of prices that’s what you should expect. We finished our waffle and people-watched for a while before calling it a day and heading off to our hotel at Westminster.
If you are planning a trip to the market, do arrive early at lunchtime. You may have to wait a little while from some stalls to open but you will thank me for it – it really does get manic, particularly on a Friday or Saturday. The quality of food and the friendliness of the vendors makes Borough Market a pleasant outing to get a real taste of London’s incredible and varied food scene. Incidentally do not arrive at Borough tube station instead head to London Bridge station and follow the signs for the market which is right outside.
Opening times: Monday – Thursday 1000-1700
Nearest Tube: London Bridge (Northern Line)