‘I have often dreamed of finding a perfect place to do my food shopping…a slightly secret and hidden place, where supply goes with the ebb and flow of the seasons, where there is a constantly evolving group of traders bringing things to tempt and delight.’ This is what Nigel Slater said about Maltby Street Market when it won the Observer Food Monthly Best Newcomer Award a year ago. By then, we’d already discovered it (it’s food, right), and written about how much we loved it, here. But gradually, the original traders, the ones we loved the most – Monmouth Coffee, Mons Dairy, Neal’s Yard, The Ham & Cheese Co, La Grotta Ices, Kappacasein, The Kernel Brewery – began disappearing. There were compensations: new traders arrived and took over Ropewalk Market (just off Maltby Street), offering fabulous things to eat and drink. You can still get the best bread and donuts in London at St. John bakery, just around the corner on Druid Street. Tozino, which sells a wonderful selection of Iberian ham and cheese, has expanded and opened a bar, so as well as getting your acorn fed ham sliced to order, you can now eat it sitting down, along with some tapas – or in a sandwich (highly recommended), with a delicious glass of sherry or Rioja. Hansen & Lyderson sells the most delectable smoked salmon (smoked the proper Norwegian way, using juniper and beechwood), the Speck Mobile does great dumplings and apple strudel, Monty’s Deli has fabulous pastrami, and you’ll find loads of other things, from fresh fish to French tarts, hot sauces to locally distilled gin (called Little Bird, funnily enough). All good. All thoroughly worth the trip. We have remained loyal Maltby Street visitors.
Then we discovered Spa Terminus. If you thought Maltby Street was a secret and insider-y way to shop, it’s nothing to Spa Terminus, about ten minutes walk away, 500m further down the London to Dover rail track. The missing Maltby Street traders, unable to negotiate long leases for their businesses at their former site, have found new spots under the railway arches at nearby Spa Terminus. (The long leases are crucial because the companies involved actually produce their food at these sites, rather than just setting up stall, and so need to invest in the sites long term). And so there they all are, each one in its own arch, making cheese, brewing beer, baking bread, roasting coffee beans, churning ice cream, butchering meat - these wonderful artisanal food producers and sellers: Monmouth Coffee, The Ham & Cheese Co, Kappacasein, Mons Dairy, La Grotta Ices, Neal’s Yard, The Kernal Brewery, Natoora vegetables, English Preserves, The Butchery, and others. We went last Saturday, and bought, as well as fabulous bread, coffee, ale, eccles cakes, ham, cheese, bright red pomegranates, and a leg of lamb, a list of things that are hard to find anywhere else: fresh ricotta, borettane onions, poblano peppers, Scottish chanterelles, Chantecler apples, and the perfect seasonal ice-cream: a quince semi-freddo choc ice. We loved the whole experience and because you are being sold produce by actual producers, the whole place, both at Ropewalk and Spa Terminus, is a mine of food information and inspiration. Totally fabulous.