Tucked away in the Elephant and Castle, just off Borough High Street, sits Mercato Metropolitano. A food court with a range of stalls spanning a range of cuisines from all around the world. Braving the post-work crowds, we wandered in to check it out.
Mercato Metropolitano originally started in Milan, Italy. An old railway station was converted into a small food market, not too dissimilar to what it is now in London. The market was so successful that the company expanded overseas and London became the lucky recipient. Sadly the Milan branch closed in 2016.
The market is easily accessible from Borough tube station or Elephant and Castle. No doubt you’ll hear the beat of the DJ’s set or smell the tempting aroma’s to confirm that you have arrived. If those two elements aren’t enough, there is a large sign above the entrance declaring ‘MERCATO METROPOLITANO’.
Inside, the atmosphere was lively. This being the evening and with many people having just finished work, it was probably to be expected. Large outdoor areas for seating are scattered around the site. Many people were taking the opportunity to enjoy a beer, a cocktail, a smoke and more importantly, the sun.
We weren’t quite prepared for the scale of the site. On the various pictures and reviews that we have seen, it looks a little like Dinearama in Shoreditch. Just a ‘one room with all the vendors in’ sort of an arrangement. At Mercato Metropolitano, there are at least 3-4 rooms full of traders specialising in street food along with shops outside selling Italian products.
The choice is incredibly vast. The amount of cuisines from around the world available really does give you a headache when it comes to what to try first. Some trader stalls were empty such as Cuban sandwiches, one of my favourites, which was a little disappointing. Many of the popular stalls seemed to involve cooking with fire.
Turkish Kebabs were doing a roaring trade as was the Neapolitan wood-fired Pizza stall. Vietnamese Banh Mi were tempting as usual but we have been practically living off these lately, so we gave them a miss. Other stalls were selling firm favourites like Venezuelan Arepas and Pasta dishes, all for around £8-10 per portion.
With the crowds beginning to build and the noise level rising, we headed outside for a liquid refreshment. Around 3 stalls all sell cocktails, gin and beers to the merry Londoners passing by, all at very London prices. We stopped by a stall named Fruitler to grab ourselves a couple of freshly made cocktails.
For £10, I treated myself to a Jimm’s cocktail, seemingly a relative of Pimm’s. Ali opted for a Strawberry & Watermelon Daiquiri, lovingly made with freshly blended strawberries. At £9.50 this wasn’t a bad investment but if a glass isn’t enough you can go for jugs of cocktails for £24-28.
Getting a seat at peak time is a real challenge. With large numbers of communal seating at a premium, many people get selfish and spread themselves across the benches. This is a real gripe of coming to Mercato Metropolitano along with the loud music making conversation difficult. Great for the young crowd but for anyone wanting a more tranquil experience, perhaps not.
By this point, we were starving. So we went ahead and ordered something typically Italian – wood-fired Pizza. The stall in question is La Pizza Napoletana who boast a huge oven filled with burning embers in order to cook Pizza in around a minute.
The process of ordering is simple, just approach the cashier and give your order. You then receive a ticket and a vibrating pager. Once the order is ready, the pager will vibrate and the Pizza is ready to collect from the counter. We decided to order a Pizza with Parma Ham. Exactly as it says on the tin but without any tomato sauce on the base. Similar to a Pizza Bianco.
Watching the ‘Pizzaiolo’ at work was the best way to pass the waiting time. The speed at which these pies are in and out of the huge oven is incredible to see. Within 5 minutes, our order was ready to collect.
For £10.50, this was a Pizza done extremely well. This comfortably fed the both of us. When a crust has that light, spongey edge and beautiful leoparding around the outside, you know that it’s good. Lovely and chewy with quality mozzarella, Parma Ham, basil and olive oil on the top, we would happily dig into this all over again.
Mercato Metropolitano is undoubtedly a great addition to the London street food scene. In our opinion, if you want to get the best from the experience it’s highly advisable to arrive early. Depending of course if you prefer a loud, lively scene or a slower pace. The quality of the food is right up there, as are the cocktails. A return trip is a must the next time that we’re in the capital.
Opening Times: Monday-Friday 0800-2300, Saturday 1100-2300, Sunday 1100-2200
Nearest Tube: Borough or Elephant and Castle