One of my favourite pastimes is to head to the food markets of London. Am I a clichéd late-twenty-something foodie? Yes, of course I am. But if you’re a budding photographer, food fanatic or just want to show your visiting parents that the city you’ve recklessly moved to isn’t a soulless, drug-mired wasteland, or you simply haven’t explored the glorious grub of London’s streetfood culture, you’ll thank my predictable ass for this!
Scattered beneath the railway arches of London Bridge, Borough Market is London’s oldest fruit and veg market and boasts gourmet food from Britain and around the globe with more than 100 artisan stalls, shops and restaurants. City workers stroll across the river for an after hours drink, families make a day of it, and locals nip in for their top-grade meat and freshly baked bread.
If you want to boost the experience, why not go for a sourdough masterclass at the Bread Ahead Bakery School? My personal favourite is to drift away to cheese heaven at the Borough Cheese Company with towers of gouda, pecorino, manchego and cheddar wheels proudly piled high. And remember to visit Bridget Jones’s house – although the idea that a junior PR in publishing could own a flat next to Borough Market is fiction at its finest.
Camden Lock Market
One of London’s most recognisable neighbourhoods, we think of Camden as sticky floored clubs, tattoos and homemadeT-shirts of dubious design. You’d be right to be enticed by its ‘coolness’ and colour but you’ll stay for the sprawling collection of food stalls, night markets and pop up stores. Head down on a Thursday night for ‘Out the Box’ street food and the odd loon yelling profanities.
Smithfield’s Meat Market
This historic meat market in Farringdon is my go-to spot for the finest meats on the market sold at the best prices, but there is a catch: as the market is mostly concerned with supplying London’s restaurants, their hours are a little out of the ordinary – 2am to 8am, to be precise. If you fancy a real food adventure and don’t mind going all nocturnal, it’s absolutely worth a trip to see the bustle and vigour of this institution and pick yourself up the best meat you’ll ever taste. However, if you’re not the night-owl type, fear not! Just across the road from the Market proper is Smithfield Butchers, which sells the same quality produce at wholesale prices when the sun is up. Besides the produce on offer, the Market’s red brick and Portland stone makes for a worthwhile crane of the neck. And rest assured, if you do make the nighttime pilgrimage, you’ll be welcomed like family to the generations of men and women who have made it their entire life and business to deal with the best food at the best prices in the best way. Ask any single one of them where the meat comes from and how best to cook it, and you’re getting advice from the Gods.
Nothing particularly striking about the location, but here you will find some of my favourite street vendors in the business.
Buddha Bowls from the truly wonderful Charlotte and David Bailey in their 1973 Citroën H van – they easily sell 100 plus of them a day at Whitecross Street (and into the thousands during a day at Glastonbury). What is the Buddha Bowl, you ask? Massaman-style curry with new potatoes, pineapple and soya chunks; carrot and kimchi pickle; flash-steamed seasonal greens; omega seed sprinkle, grilled halloumi and short-grain brown rice – I’m salivating already.
Luardos Burritos demonstrates why the street food revolution continues to sweep London. You’ll need to be quick: there’s generally quite a queue and Luardos’ simple, fresh and value-for-money burritos are popular enough to be sold out halfway through a busy lunchtime. Whether vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free or a mega meat eater – you can customise the tastiest burrito you’ll ever chomp to your tastebuds.
Wild Game Co. offers up a taste of the highlands with award-winning Scottish wild venison burgers and venison steak sandwiches and salads. It’s been such a success that they now have a permanent restaurant in Charlotte Street (also well worth a visit).
If you’ve popped along to Harrod’s recently, you will spot that it has begun the biggest redevelopment in the department store’s 170-year history. This ambitious three-year project has kicked off with the reopening of the legendary food halls. Cakes arranged like precious jewels in glass cases, fresh spices beating their bell jars with rich aromas and a floor-to-ceiling altar of golden baked-bread. Harrods doesn’t do things by halves. The brand new Roastery and Bake Hall is imbued with timeless glamour. Be sure to take a seat and listen out for the bakery’s bell, which sounds every 30 minutes when fresh loaves and pastries are baked to perfection.
Photography by Kyle Galvin