Hungry for London: Borough Market

The best pies in London? Possibly! From Sillfield's at Borough Market. (Sorry, Mrs. Lovett!)

Not long ago, I got lucky enough to visit London for the first time in about five years, and I was excited. And I was hungry! But being on a modest budget, I had to consider: Would London have affordable–and hopefully quirky–food options? Is it besieged with food trucks like NYC and L.A.? Given the rough exchange rate, can a Yank snack and not break the bank?

Thus, my visit became a quest to sniff out some reasonable (dare I say, cheap?) eats in London. What I found were some must-see food markets, a killer tapas lunch, a great Soho street full of cute, affordable eateries, and a couple of great cafes that while touristy, are still FAB! Plus, my London-based architect friend Ian gave me his own personal recommendations about where to find the best bits of global fare all over London. (It’s all coming in future posts. Stay tuned!)

BIG, BUSTLING, BODACIOUS BOROUGH MARKET

As my food quest began, when I’d mention to Londoners I was looking for good eats and fun food markets, they all said right off: “Borough Market!” And yes, this throbbing foodie destination is the go-to place where weekend foragers cram in amid the stalls of upscale/rustic grub to sample good eats of all sorts.

The market is housed scenically beneath the railway viaducts between the Thames and Borough High Street in South East London. It’s a mad maze of paths and eateries. I went on Saturday, the most popular day, at about 1pm and it was a mob scene. But, even given the throngs of attractive eaters and shoppers, it was well worth the effort.

As a tourist bunking in a hotel, I was soon wishing I had access to a full kitchen as so many of Borough Market’s many stalls are jammed with great fresh produce, meats, sausages, big hunks of cheeses, pies and baked goods, that you want to buy everything, invite 10 friends over and create a feast. But for the nosher on the go, Borough Market still an amazing place to forage for snack after snack.

Sauteed scallops from Shellseekers? Yes, please!

Diving in, I snarfed down a serving of fresh fried scallops, dressed with bits of herbs and crumbly bacon at the Shellseekers stand. I then leered at the amazing array of meat pies at the Sillfield Farm kiosk but headed over to Maria’s Market Cafe for a Lamb bap (a sandwich on a thick white roll) with rocket (arugula), olive oil and mint jelly. Yum!

Next, I sampled little bits of free cheese morsels from about six vendors, had a glass of mulled wine (it was a chilly early November weekend and several stalls had steaming, fragrant pots) and then somehow also managed to snarf down a wrap filled with hot just-grilled prawns and fresh fish chunks doused with cajun spices from Applebee’s Fish Shop–all prepared and cooked right on the street (and all for a just a few pounds each). So good!

I then bought some big chunks of chocolate from the Rabot Estate store (from Santa Lucia in the Caribbean) and it was time to move on. The market is notably less crowded on Thursday and Friday afternoons, from about 12noon til 5-ish. If you hate crowds go then. If you want the full-on effect, go Saturday. But GO… It’s a browsers’ haven, a people-watching bonanza, and an eater’s must-visit.

Applebee's (No, not that Applebee's) grills up prawns and fresh fish at Borough Market. Mmmmmm…

NOTE: If you’re in London during the 2011 Christmas season, Borough Market is the place to go feed for holiday-themed fare and over-the-top Brit Xmas atmosphere! From Dec 15th-24th the market will be buzzing daily (instead of the usual Thurs-Sat schedule) with food, holiday treats, decorations, carollers… Yule love it. (Heh!)

BOROUGH MARKET RUNDOWN

Borough Market
8 Southwark St.
(between the Thames River and Borough High Street)
London , SE1 1TL
tel. 44 20 7404 1002
Hours: Open Thurs 11am-5pm, Fri 12pm-6pm, Sat 8am-5pm
info@boroughmarket.org.uk

Got game? Fowl play at Borough Market.

Shellseekers Fish & Game
Borough Market
Middle Market area
8 Southwark St.
London , SE1 1TL
Hours: Open Thurs-Sat.

Sillfield Farm
Borough Market
Middle Market area
8 Southwark St.
London , SE1 1TL
Hours: Open Tues-Sat.

Maria’s Market Café
Borough Market
Middle Market area
8 Southwark St.
London , SE1 1TL
Hours: Open Wed-Sat

Applebee’s Fish Shop
Borough Market
5 Stoney St.
London , SE1 9AA
44 (0) 7407 5777
Hours: Open for lunch & dinner, Tues-Sat.

Rabot Estate
Borough Market
2 Stoney Street
London , SE1 9AA
44 (0) 7403 9852
Hours: Open all-day, Mon-Sat.

STAY TUNED: More London food updates are coming to NNN asap, clueing you in to killer, offbeat street markets, fab and affordable eats in Soho, some touristy places worth a visit, and a rundown on where to find the best global grub all over the UK’s capital.