This article comes somewhat belated, after a traumatic weekend of my laptop kicking the bucket... and so that all my good efforts of venturing out to the Borough Market to take some pictures are not in vain, I have decided to publish them anyway, even if I am late for the second instalment of Maki's Food Destinations.
Now, I have, of course, written about the Borough Market before, but had always found it too cumbersome to take a good camera, especially since while I was still working full-time I mostly found my way there on Saturdays, which is extremely crowded. Last Friday, it was still busy, but I did manage to fight my way through the masses despite having to manoever a camera, a pram (with toddler) and a considerable bump around... not to speak of the bags hanging from the sides of the buggy, growing more numerous every minute despite all my intentions of only going for the sake of the pictures. The crowd of people is also different on a Friday afternoon, as you get lots of business people, fully suited, quickly hopping across the Thames from their City offices to grab a bite to eat, whereas the pubs around the market fill up with a more leisurely crowd of local workers enjoying an early start into their weekend.
So here are some impressions of the market for you to enjoy.
The Borough Market is very different from other markets I have visited and many friends who've come over to visit, have pointed this out as well. Firstly, most greenmarkets tend to focus heavily on fruit and veg, with the odd farmer selling meat, preserves or bread sprinkled in for good measure. With the Borough, it's the opposite: apart from three large greengrocers, it consists entirely of speciality stalls.
Be it the two chaps you'd be forgiven to miss behind their massive wheels of Comte (which is all they sell), the farmer's wife displaying various cuts of wild beef, the lady with the ostrich meat, the German delicatessen, the Cool Chile company (you guessed it, chilli in all shapes and forms and other Mexican condiments, is their trade), or the one stall selling four varieties of Polish sausages, another stall with a single type of blue cheese and the old Indian lady selling home-made curry sauces... the number of booths concentrating on one particular product is higher than on any market I have seen before in my life.
So I come to the Borough to find fresh mushrooms (ceps, girolles, pieds bleu, puff balls and an even stranger variety called "chicken in the wood" if I remember correctly), hand-carved Joselito or Serrano ham at Brindisa, fresh truffles, rare vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes, fresh nuts and horseradish, fresh foie gras, speciality sausages from Sardinia (truffle again being my favourite) ready-planted herb gardens and many other things I would never find at my local supermarkets. And every time I go, I discover something new, as seasons change, new stalls crop up or somehow I am lucky enough to get to the front of a stall I had previousy only been able to experience through the "ahs" and "ohs" of other visitors.
Secondly, a fact to which David keeps singing his praises, people are incredibly friendly (most of the time). They seem so passionate about what they sell that there's rarely a stall (butchers and the like excepted) where you aren't offered to sample the fare.
This makes for a peculiar mix of people who go there for their weekend shopping and of those who just come to eat. In all honesty, even without tucking into the many tempting offers for snacks (grilled chorizo, tomato & rocket ciabatta on Brindisa's outpost, venison burger, souvlaki, raclette, freshly shucked oysters, etc) you can easily go there and feast on the samples alone. Last Friday, for example, I went to Neal's Yard to buy four cheeses for a platter and ended up tasting nearly half the shop!
And while many people complain that the prices are steep, I count myself lucky to have such a variety of genuine trades at my doorstep... well, not exactly my doorstep, maybe, but what are 30 minutes to travel for food in a city where the average commute to work exceeds an hour?
To read Maki's round-up of entries featuring markets from Australia to India and Switzerland, please click here.