Last Updated: 24th April 2019
If you’re in the market to taste some of London’s finest, freshest produce, then you’re going to want to make sure it’s Borough.
Borough Market is the oldest food market in London. It’s been running for over 1,000 years. And yet, if you look at its history, it’s consistently reworked itself to fit in with the ever-changing wants and needs of the city, meaning it’s also still one of – if not the – best.
It was originally a wholesale market, set up closer to the river, near the original London Bridge, before it moved to the middle of Borough High Street. Literally. Throughout the 1700s, Borough Market consisted of a number of stalls – some of which traded in livestock – that were sprawled along the edges, and at points in the middle of the high street, which is the reason it was later closed down, charged with blocking the road and people’s route to London Bridge and The City. At this point traders were offered the chance to buy a pitch on what is currently the Borough Market site, which some of them did, and they kept trading until the 1970s when the market closed again after a dramatic shift in the way London businesses sourced their food. Supermarkets started popping up everywhere and the independent traders of Borough began to suffer. It was only in the 1990s, when individuals became properly interested in their food, and where and who it was sourced from, that it opened again, this time as a public market, with 100% less live cow.
Nowadays you can head to Borough Market for everything from fresh bread to independent booze – chocolates, cheese, charcuterie, and more, much of which is sold by the producers themselves. There are specialists in rye bread; specialists in goat’s milk ice-cream; seventh-generation oystermen; and a stall entirely dedicated to tomatoes from the Isle of Wight. Although it’s not just traditionally British produce you’ll find here. Temptings serve Punjabi-inspired chutneys and pickles; Gastronomica import a whole range of Italian produce; and Jumi Cheese offer cheese from the Emmental region in Switzerland. It’s a sprawling mix of colours, smells, and flavours from around the world, many of which you can taste (if you double-lap with enough savvy you can probably skip lunch) and the producers or traders are on-hand and open to questions, and conversation should you feel the urge.
If taster portions don’t quite cut it, you’ll also find a whole range of street food traders dotted in and amongst the other stalls. Stand outs include Gourmet Goat who serve Eastern Mediterranean-influenced dishes (flatbread wraps and pilaf bowls) centred around goat meat; Kappacasein who serve toasted cheese sandwiches and raclette melted over new potatoes; and Scotchtails who offer ten different varieties of scotch eggs alongside an array of chutneys: apple & pear; spice plum & apple; caramelised red onion; and picalilli.
There are also a number of restaurants offering tables and chairs for great Mexican food (El Pastor); Spanish food (Brindisa); seafood (Wright Brothers); pasta (Padella); and more. Alternatively, if you’re just after a cold pint post-market there’s The Miller, or The Wheatsheaf which has a little beer garden out back.
Although don’t worry if it all feels a little too over-whelming, you can also book yourself onto a guided tour. Or, if you’re looking to pick up a new skill, there’s a year-round calendar of foodie events definitely worth checking out – demos, talks, and masterclasses – all of which you can book into here. Although they book up fast, so if you’re interested…
…try not to stall.
NOTE: Borough Market is open weekdays 10am-5pm (6pm Fri) and Saturdays 8am-5pm (closed Sundays). Entry is free, and you can find out more HERE.
Borough Market | 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL
Big on markets? Read about Old Spitalfields Market here.