A-maze-ing Edibles at Borough Market
April 3, 2010
LONDON, UK – You’re lost in a labyrinth of gourmet chocolate, organic cherries, potent espresso, and chorizo sandwiches. Whatever shall you do?
Such is the brainteaser at the center of Borough Market, the expansive maze of fruit and vegetable stalls and fine food purveyors collected under London Bridge. The sprawl of alleyways lined with merchant booths has been around since the Romans built the bridge and retains a decidedly Old World atmosphere. Although there are signs in this warren, you can easily get lost. And at that point, there’s only one real solution: eat your way out!
Before you’re faced with this edible conundrum, however, you first have to find your way in. The entrance can be a tad confusing: in addition to the labyrinthine central area, there are two self-contained markets. Further complicating things, the market is under “redevelopment” (translation: a pesky Thameslink rail project that’s threatening the market’s historical integrity).
But no matter where you enter, you’ll instantly be swept up in the lively smells and sounds of culinary commerce. Though there’s been a food market on this site for over 700 years, it’s only in the last decade or so that Borough Market has transformed into the bustling community market and foodie haven that it is today, attracting gourmands, hungry locals, and tourists alike. It’s one of the largest wholesale fruit and vegetable markets in the world and also home to beverage, meat, fish/seafood, dairy, and bakery/confection vendors. The selection is absolutely unbeatable — you can easily pick up anything from staples like primo olive oil to treats like organic cherries to obscurities like an emu steak. Prices vary from stall to stall; produce stalls are comparable to supermarket prices while gourmet stalls tend to be pricey (okay, I’ll admit, some are ridiculously overpriced…but so irresistible).
My ideal day at the market: throw on my favorite jeans, tennies, and a hoodie (it’s very casual); arrive via picturesque walk on the Thames Path (parking is ridiculous — take the Tube or use your feet); and proceed to sample my way through. Some olives here, a taste of cheese there, some delectable chocolates or pastries at one of the coffee stands along the way. But I’ll save a little room for something heartier like one of those chorizo sandwiches from Tapas Brindisa or a venison burger from West Country Venison. If I need to slake my thirst, I’ll go with fresh juice from Natural Smoothie Co, rare beer from Utobeer, or espresso from Monmouth. Quite a smorgasbord, wouldn’t you say?
If you want to further unravel the riddle of this labyrinth, pick up a copy of the Borough Market Cookbook: Meat & Fish along with your bag brimming with foodstuffs — because getting lost in your own kitchen isn’t nearly as pleasurable as losing yourself in the market’s maze.
RL contributed to this post.
Learn more about Borough Market on The Purple Passport.