In this age of fast food, disposable everything and home delivery food services it is a refreshing and rewarding experience to visit an authentic outdoor food market. The Borough Market in Southwark, London, along the south bank of the River Thames, is one such market that will have you coming back more than once.
This amazing market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, dating back to at least the 12th. century with the present buildings having been constructed in the 1850’s. Although the Market’s official opening date is largely in question the best available date is in 1014.
The Borough Market is the ultimate embodiment of the global Slow Food movement as it supports a low impact approach to food production along with an emphasis on local traditions and customs. In short, it is the very antithesis of “fast food.”
On our first of two visits we were overwhelmed by the riot of colorful produce and foods as well as the sights, sounds, smells and of course, the throngs of hungry visitors. We spent an hour or so ambling through the market, tasting numerous samples and taking far too many photographs (!) before settling into a lively yet cozy second floor restaurant with a view of the action below. You wouldn’t think that we would be hungry considering that every food vendor offers samples of their individual specialty from paella, Argentinean sausages, cheeses from around the world, giant pans of sauteed mushrooms as well as numerous other international foods. And lest I forget, my wife’s favorite Iberico ham from Spain! After a satisfying lunch we headed back into the market for another go around before taking the train back to our guest house near Richmond Park.
The history and age of this market may cause the casual visitor to regard it as nothing more than a museum to food. However, nothing could be further from the day-to-day reality of this dynamic and ever-changing centuries old institution. Here food transcends the current trend of “farm or sea to table” rising in popularity in so many parts of the world. In this amazing place you are in direct contact with farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, olive and bread specialists as well as growers of all stripes. There are also numerous food kiosks along with wine shops, florists and personal care shops.
Along with this dedicated emphasis on the freshest produce and foods possible another of the Market’s goals is to put every leftover piece of food or packaging to the best possible use. These efforts include everything from the way that foods are packaged to recycling of all paper, plastic, glass and wood. In addition to these forward thinking efforts the Borough has developed multiple partnerships with local charities by supplying them with leftover and surplus food rather than simply throwing it away at the end of the day.
The Borough Market’s amazing collection of purveyors, shops and restaurants truly reflect London’s status as an international city, with traditional British standards selling alongside regional specialities from around the world. An added bonus to your shopping and dining experience is the amazing space that the market occupies. It is a testimony to thoughtful architectural restoration situated under a bridge with an active commuter train rumbling overhead every few minutes. Noisy…yes. Chaotic…you bet. But who could ask for more?
As an enthusiastic, modern day “hunter-gatherer” and one who prefers to shop outside the normal big box chains I found myself in complete harmony moving around this world class emporium with its gregarious, knowledgeable and generous purveyors.
The market hours can be found on their website
Jim preparing a meal for our hosts in London. Baked Scottish salmon with asparagus and shallots and a Greek salad. Simple and all fresh ingredients from the Market.