It’s an oft-forgotten fact that ‘Clerkenwell’ is actually short for ‘Clerken-well-did-you-know-about-the-fantastic-precinct-tucked-away-in-this-district-of-central-London?’ That precinct is, of course, Exmouth Market.
An active marketplace since the late 1800s, today it’s a lunchtime food market surrounded by a beguiling assortment of independent shops, eateries and drinkeries (you heard). It doesn’t have a tube stop of its own – but that only adds to its status as a hidden (albeit hugely well-known, sure) gem. Plus it’s located north of Farringdon, south of Angel, with Old Street to the East and Russell Square to the West – so there’s basically nothing it’s not at least quasi-near, and which is why you’ve no excuse not to explore its myriad delights.
EXMOUTH MARKET SHOPS
Sure, there’s an artisan plant shop – the splendid Botanique Workshop – and don’t panic, there’s Marby and Elm for all your bespoke, foul-mouthed letterpress stationery needs (yep, it’s one of those sort of streets – and, if you’re truly honest with yourself, you love it). If you base your consumer choices purely on pun-names (as is your right), then browse distinctive brightly-coloured bags and accessories at Bagman and Robin and go for a trim at offbeat unisex hairdressers Barber Streisand.
CAFÉS IN EXMOUTH MARKET
You’ll struggle to escape Exmouth Market uncaffeinated. There’s the typically excellent Caravan, which also offers a joyously comprehensive brunch menu (seek out the broken lamb meatballs with grilled aubergine and tahini labneh), while be-oom is a Korean tea shop and café, where you can enjoy a restorative cup of loose leaf tea and Korean snacks in a sun-drenched conservatory. There’s also Briki Coffee, which offers delicious single estate coffees which are all part of the Taf Sustainability Coffee program – so you can be sure that your jittery and slightly anxious feeling was ethically sourced – along with a strong selection of pastries, soups and salads.
BARS IN EXMOUTH MARKET
Basically everywhere along Exmouth Market serves good drinks (even the coffee shops). But as for some other highlights, for goodness’ sake get yourself to Mikkeller Brewpub, which is Danish in all the best ways, and was, implausibly, set up by Mikkeller founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and his childhood hero Rick Astley (yes). There’s draft beer brewed onsite, plus delicious Scandinavian food. Then there’s Café Kick, which is like a dive bar in a film (which is to say – extremely beautiful), and The Exmouth Arms, which is, simply, a very fantastic pub.
RESTAURANTS IN EXMOUTH MARKET
The mighty Coin Laundry offers a particularly attractive menu, including kimchi fritters, prawn and crayfish taquitos, goats cheese ‘bon bons’ (that’s right) as well as a formidable Sunday roast offering. Moro is a well-established and well-loved Spanish restaurant, whose menu changes regularly, as does its little sister’s next door, Morito. Meat cravings will be swiftly sated by Black Bear Burger, or the mouthwatering slow-roast lamb at the eminent Berber & Q Shawarma Bar. Finally, French restaurant La Petite Ferme will fulfil all your darkest raclette fantasies. Yep, even that one.
THE FOOD MARKET
As for the stalls – come early and come hungry. Running every weekday lunchtime, the market offers crepes, burritos, jollof rice tubs, samosas, strudels, cheesecakes, and you’ll be full before you’ve scratched the surface of what’s on offer.
Which is why, of course, you’ll need to come back.
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