While London is a good food city, it is a big city, and the pace and layout of the central core can often make you feel pressed for food buying options in terms of quality, if not quantity. That’s why wandering into Borough Market, in the very heart of things, is such a treat. It feels a bit like you’ve taken a wrong turn and unearthed a hidden gem (the Diagon Alley of food).
This sprawling urban market offers a range of prepared foods, produce, specialty and artisanal products at stands, small shops, and carts.
It also includes a bright glassed in atrium that’s perfect for food lectures, cooking demonstrations, and chef interviews.
Because of it’s location in the city, the quality of it’s products, and the popularity of the visiting speakers and cooking demos, Borough Market can be quite crowded at times, particularly at lunchtime, when workers from nearby office towers escape for a quick bite and a chance to stroll and ogle the luscious products on display.
That said, while often crowded, many of the market’s expansive open halls are tall and under skylights, meaning you can still breathe and avoid feeling claustrophobic or bathed in the harsh light of a supermarket.
Although the market is mostly covered by a series of roofs, skylights and awnings, some portions are open, and, because the market is quite large, the occasional unavoidable dash between sections of the market is bound to subject visitors to the elements. In short, curious cooks and hungry eaters visiting the market may have to dodge a few raindrops (or worse), or gusts of wind, moving from here to there within the market. But Borough Market is also a fantastic place to duck into in bad weather.
But for me, as much as I love this market, after a couple of hours spent wandering and doing research (tasting this and that and filling my bags for later), and listening to a lunchtime cooking demonstration, I did run afoul of one of Borough Market’s shortcomings: seating is quite limited.
If you are content to wander and nibble as you go, or take your purchase elsewhere, great. You’ll have no problem.
But if you want to sit, organize your purchases, or just enjoy your lunch at a relaxed pace, there’s precious little seating in the market, and you may run out of shopping steam before you’ve taken care of everything and everyone on your list.
Despite that lack of seating, the breadth and depth Borough Market’s offerings make it a good place to find interesting and unusual products as gifts for the culinary minded on your gift lists. I tried some locally made pemmican that was excellent; I even bought some to share with friends (though I’m not share it actually lasted that long). And elsewhere in the market I loaded up on spices at Spice Mountain and relived my trip to Croatia by buying a fig cake from Taste Croatia.
And, on the rare occasions that stalls didn’t have exactly what I was after, the staff were excellent at recommending other shops in the market or across town. And it struck me that these are people who genuinely like food. They’re not just selling. They are evangelical in the way of all curious cooks.
So, whether you are ravenous and on the hunt for a quick bite, avoiding the weather, stocking up for adventures in your own kitchen, or buying gifts for a beloved foodie, Borough Market, in the heart of London, is there for you. And whether they have exactly what you need or not, the friendly and knowledgeable staff will doubtless have suggestions for where to go, or alternate ideas to satisfy your needs. And, on a bad weather day it’s simply a pleasant place to wander and let your eyes feast, and the ideal spot to take your senses of smell and taste out for a spin.
Text and photos by Glenn D. Kaufmann
8 Southwark St.
London SE1 1TL
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1. Personal Interviews and experiences