After being exposed to a few London food markets and having to name my favourite one, Borough market would be a winner by far in terms of the selection of gourmet bites, a range of freshly made meals, cooking ingredients and some unexpected delectable surprises it has to offer every time I get to visit it. Here is a list of reasons that would tempt you to check it out or to come back even if you’ve visited it before.
Made by Bread Ahead using polenta and semolina flour, red Leicester and juicy green olives these bread sticks are a meal on their own. You can have them with wine or lightly toasted for breakfast. That’s if they’d last you that long before being eaten on your way home. And if you get seriously hooked on this delicious bread, why not sign up for Bread Ahead Bakery School and learn a secret or two on how to make bread at home?
Do you know what is the difference between white truffles and black truffles apart from the obvious – the colour? Neither did I until I came across Tartufaia with two fish tanks filled with these precious diamonds of the kitchen. Don’t be shy, lift up the lids of glass bowls and breath in the aroma. You should pick up that white truffles aroma is more intense and so is the taste. Compare the flavour by dipping some bread into olive oil infused with both kinds of truffles or try some truffle honey. If you have a weakness for this aromatic fungus, I am sure you’ll pick something up from the Tartufaia stall.
I won’t be able to name one stall that is my favourite it terms of cheeses: the choice is quite big and you can suit your taste. Towers of Parmigiano Reggiano, slices of blue vein, little rounds of goats’ cheese, lumps of fresh buffala – you name it. The Bath Cheese Co. is worth a separate mention: their creamy textured brie and blue vein cheeses simply melt in your mouth. Cone shaped soft Lord London by Alsop Walker is also interesting to try, but then what isn’t? Walking along the market you can spot limited edition cheeses, taste and compare those that are matured for a different amount of time, which affects the flavour ranging from nutty to woody and so on.
There are at least two places where they have a decent selection of olives that you can mix and match and of course try before buying. The place I had a go was The Turkish Deli. The olives stuffed with orange and haloumi were interesting to try and throw a few into the mix, but the winners were still obvious – firm green Akhisar and meaty Kalamatas.
New Forest Cider bar is good place to hang around while having a break from munching or shopping. Sample some ciders on tap or get a flute of premium fizzy from the bottles. You can always have a chat with the cider lady, who can tell and show you the differences between West country and East country cider and those get pretty obvious even from the colour – Eastern is light yellow and Western has an orangy hue. The taste is pretty different too: while Eastern cider is very light and crisp, made of sweet apples, Western cider is produced from real cider apples – sour and normally inedible, making the cider rich in tannins and sharp in flavour. No matter if you found your favourite cider while tasting it or a nice label from lined up bottles caught your eye, just grab one with you. It might be a good excuse to have a picnic somewhere in a park accompanied with all the nibblies picked up from the markets.
Getting hungry after sampling some tasty bits? If melted cheese is your thing, let your nose guide you to the right direction. You might need to line up for some 10 minutes while watching halves of Kappacasein Swiss raclette wheels being grilled under the fire and then the melted part scraped off on boiled potatoes. Add some pickled gherkins and pearl onions on the side, a couple of twists with black pepper mill, and you have a bowl of dangerously tasty goodness.
The Ginger Pig is an acclaimed butcher shop where chefs from Michelin starred restaurants come over to get their supplies. The range of produce is beyond one’s imagination: cured meats, cold cuts, nice duck breast fillets, quails, a variety of sausages and so on. Even if meat is not planned on your menu for the day, you can always pick up some sauces and chutneys or a cookbook for your future cooking inspirations.
Fresh made tortelloni are big cousins of Italian tortellini. La Tua Pasta would woo even those who don’t consider themselves being pasta lovers. Just sample one of their tortellonis and watch yourself lining up for a serve of freshly cooked ones or for a pound or two to take home with you. The most difficult part is to make a decision on which ones to choose: with crab meat or lobster, black truffles or duck. Did you say you’d like some of each kind?
You can get a snack of pan-fried scallops on a bed of bean sprouts or some freshly shucked oysters to savour on the spot, but seeing the selection of fresh fish and seafood might get you seriously tempted to pick some up home for cooking. Salmon fillet always looks fresh and clams inspire the visions of them in white wine sauce over linguine.
Borough market is endless discovery, so it’s almost guaranteed that every time you come here, you can find something you’ve never tried before. Here are some discoveries I made:
Tortelloni photo credits: Lumiere London