Borough Market: Shopping (London)

We’ve been in London just over six weeks now. We’ve barely done any hardcore touristy stuff yet. This is not because we are too cool to do hardcore touristy stuff; it’s because we figured we were going to be here three months and so didn’t need to rush to do any touristy stuff. Well, now there’s only another five weeks and change to go and despite living literally steps away from Westminster Abbey, and passing it every day on the way to the tube station, we haven’t yet gone in. Soon we will go in. But first on Friday we took the kids to Tower Bridge and walked back some of the way along the Thames. And when it came time to figure out lunch, we were right by the Borough Market in Southwark (right by London Bridge)—which is yet another iconic London site that we’d been meaning to but hadn’t yet managed to visit. Well, now we have and I have come back with a very large and somewhat haphazard gallery of images that will hopefully convince you to visit Borough Market whether you’re here for twelve weeks or twelve days. (Well, actually I’ve come back with two large and somewhat haphazard galleries of images, but the second will follow in a week or so.) 

You may already know about the Borough Market but just in case you don’t, here’s a brief catch-up: it’s an outdoor market whose history (in more or less that location) goes back at least a thousand years. You can read more about this history on the market’s excellent website. If you take a look you’ll learn that for most of its history it was mostly a massive outdoor produce market—think a major farmers’ market in the US (or for that matter the mighty Jean-Talon market in Montreal). You’ll also learn that the market’s history is not continuous—it has (been) closed and reopened a number of times. This current incarnation of the market stems from the mid-late 1990s and was apparently driven by the participation of retailers such as Neal’s Yard Dairy (whose outpost at the Borough Market is larger than the Covent Garden store, which was the original). The market now features a large number of formal food stores, many of them selling foods from all over Europe and beyond.

This is not to say that you can’t buy produce at the Borough Market. There are a number of vegetable and fruit vendors as well. And most pertinently for me, there are also a number of excellent fish mongers and butchers. I’ve known this is the case for a while but hadn’t gone there to shop (despite the market being just a few tube stops from us) because the kitchen in our flat is pretty small and not very well equipped. I figured that I would see a lot of very tempting things that I would not be able to cook. Well, this was mostly true on Friday but I decided that I need to do it anyway—this was mostly after seeing the excellent fresh fish on offer at a number of fishmongers (consider, for example, fresh whole turbot for less than $12/lb); I doubt, however, that I will be able to take full advantage of what’s on offer at the Ginger Pig.

What follows is a somewhat random snapshot of the market. I would not call it a guide as there was no real order to our movement through the market and in any case I know nothing about the relative merits of the establishments. None of this is comprehensive either—though the large number of photographs might make you think otherwise; I merely photographed what caught my eye and interest while we careened through the very crowded market. It’s true that there are a lot of cheesemongers at the market (which is a sense you will get from the pictures) but it’s not necessarily true that there are very few vegetable sellers just because I only have photographs of a few (it’s also not the case that I photographed the best in every category—again, in most cases I don’t know what the best would be).

Take a look and then scroll down to find out what the next installment will cover.

So, the second gallery of images. If you’ve never been to the market and don’t know much about it, you might conclude from the above that there aren’t very many vendors of prepared food at the market. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not pictured at all above are the many, many vendors of freshly cooked food at the northeast corner of the market (close to Southwark Cathedral). And there are food vendors within the market proper as well. We perused these offerings closely as well and my next post on the market will focus on these. I will not, however, have any coverage of the more formal restaurants on the outer fringes of the market.

(You’ll also have noticed above that I don’t have much here on Neal’s Yard Dairy—perhaps the most famous purveyors of British cheese in the world. This is because I’ll have a completely separate post on Neal’s Yard Dairy soon that takes in both the Covent Garden and Borough Market stores.)

If you know far more about the Borough Market than I do (not hard), please write in below if there are fish and meat retailers that you would particularly recommend, and also if there are places that are better than the competition for charcuterie and bread. And, of course, also please pitch in if there are small cheese vendors you’d particularly recommend—given how much I liked the Gorwydd’s Caerphilly I purchased from Paxton & Whitfield I will certainly be buying some direct from the source very soon.

Important information: the market is closed on Sundays and not all the vendors open for business on Mondays and Tuesdays. The market was jammed on Friday morning/afternoon but I suspect this is a Friday thing. I’ll be back next Wednesday to buy more fish and I’m hoping there’ll be less of a crush then.

2 thoughts on “Borough Market: Shopping (London)

  1. I really enjoyed Borough market the last time we were in London. Is the Argentine Empanada stall still operating? It was pretty good as I recall.

    On London, have you tried Xi’An Taste or whatever it’s called across the street from the Arsenal/O2 stadium’s gift shop entrance? It’s tiny but absolutely delicious. Try house-made noodles and the sandwiches and just about everything else. Again, my info is about 2 years old.


    • I don’t recall seeing the empanada stall but the food area was very crowded when we were there so I may have missed it—we probably will go back soon: I need to buy and cook some turbot before leaving London.

      We haven’t had cause to go out towards the Arsenal stadium yet and it’s unlikely we’ll make it there in the few weeks we have left but I’ll file the rec away.


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