This is what we wished for in terms of ultimate food shopping: Borough Market but without the crowds. Borough is fabulous of course if you can get there first thing on a Friday morning, or late in the afternoon, but come Saturdays, which is when most of us have time to peruse a market place tasting cheese and buying single estate chocolate, it’s like Oxford Circus at Christmas – impossible.
But guess what? Just down the road, under some railway arches in Bermondsey’s Maltby Street, there’s a small but perfectly formed version of Borough every Saturday from 9am to 2pm, and, whisper it, there are no crowds at all. It started when Monmouth Coffee, who have their warehouse there, decided to open their doors and sell coffee to anyone who might be milling about. Before long, lots of folk were – and not just for the delicious coffee either. Fern Varrow, of the Black Mountains (one of the best organic farms in the country, and a favourite of Nigel Slater’s) quickly set up stall selling wonderful vegetables, fruit, lamb and beef, and so did others, all of them excellent purveyors of really delicious things to eat, including:
St John – the best bread in London. Do also make sure you have one of their Eccles cakes and a custard donut.
Kappacasein – raclette and toasted cheese sandwiches from heaven.
Neal’s Yard Dairy – unbelievably good selection of British cheeses, oatcakes and things like veerjuice, which are hard to get anywhere else.
The Ham and Cheese Co – fab Parma ham, mozzarella, salamis and parmesan.
The Kernel Brewery – really locally brewed beer – as in made right there under the arches.
Plus loads more great stuff including cakes, ice cream, fruit, wine, eggs, pickles and other delicacies. It’s become our favourite place to go on a Saturday morning, not least because the stall holders are so knowledgeable and passionate about what they are selling, and have time, while you sip your coffee or chew on a pain au chocolat, to give you a recipe or tips on the best way to eat or cook whatever you might be buying. So we browse, we shop and most of all we eat – a lot. And we feel happy.