Adventures with food: Tips for visiting London's Borough Market
Apologies for not posting sooner, but it's been, well, a rather strange trip. For those of you who regularly read this blog, you know that we have had some wonderful excursion. This trip, so far, has been more misadventure than adventure.
It started with going to the wrong airport. Since then, we've had some poor weather, delayed visits, poor internet connections and, for some reason, a hard time acclimating to the new time schedule. We promise to catch up real soon!
Our traveling companions are foodies.
This has partially defined our trip as they are extremely knowledgable and interested in London's food scene – actually, they're pretty savvy about food in general. This is not something that's ever been part of our traveling experience, partly because Pete has a serious, life-threatening food allergy.
Our eating on vacation is often limited to restaurants we know and trust. It's just safer that way.
Not this time.
This time, we explored all kinds of fun foods, and Pete was even able to eat some of them. In fact, there's a whole cuisine that he can now eat, we think. But more on that later.
For any foodies traveling to London, the obvious stop is the Borough Market. Although we hadn't been there before, to be fair, it had been on our radar. This time we made it there, not once but twice.
It was amazing.
We walked around for a bit, buying a burlap bag at the “Borough Market Store.” There were so many stalls, it was honestly a little overwhelming. At Borough Market there are vendors selling cheese and salami, tapas and tea, fruit and vegetables, and so many more things.
Then we found the area kind of outside the building – full of excellent ethnic foods. Our traveling companions were transported. They looked at everything there, and then settled on a bhujia, sold by a Sri Lankan vendor. We opted for a spinach and cheese burek from the Balkan food kiosk. The bhujia was wonderful – a lovely fried ball of onions and veggies that melted in your mouth. Our burek was flaky and tasty, too. We also had a kiwi, apple and orange smoothie. Our friends ate many other things, in small quantities, and enjoyed them all. There was not a dud in the whole experience.
Then we found the desserts. Borough Market seems to try to group similar vendors together, and in the dessert area was a plethora of wonderful things – every pastry in the world, made in various ethnic ways. Lots of brownies. And macarons. And bees. I was a little turned off by all the bees all over the sweets, but it didn't seem to bother anyone else. The fudge at Whirled was amazing. You choose a bag from the 20 or so varieties, and pack it up yourself – I chose chocolate peanut butter, clotted cream and toffee, though later I'd return for more clotted cream, plus cinnamon (my favorite) and coffee. The chocolate peanut butter was the only disappointment – it was neither chocolaty nor peanut-buttery. The clotted cream was fabulous.
We finished our trip this time with coffee from Monmouth Coffee, which I had been told was the best in London. I had the Ethopian, and loved it. I would have liked to get a huge, giant, enormous coffee like we sometimes get in the US, but only smaller pour-over cups were available. Sigh. When we went back later, the line was too long to get more.
Our second trip to Borough Market happened after our foray to Maltby Street Market, which I'll post about tomorrow, so we weren't really hungry. Though we had thought to have some of the donuts available, the line was huge and we didn't want to wait. Saturday is NOT the day to make inroads into this market – way too crowded! Although we bought more fudge and walked around (if you could call it walking with all the people) it was not the great experience that it had been earlier in the week with fewer people.
So here are a few hints about going to Borough Market:
*We'd read that it was good to go after 1 p.m. to avoid the lunch rush, and we found that to be true. The vendors were still open, still stocked, and the crowds were not too bad.
*Make sure you check out the many food options just outside the market, too. The side streets teem with many shops selling all kinds of foods. In some cases, these are more convenient, as some have seating areas, which the market itself is short on.
*Try something new. You can find American food there – Boston Burgers comes to mind – but why? London is a melting pot of different cultures, and each has a rich food tradition.
*Don't load up on any one thing. Try to share and have room to try more things that way.
*Don't ignore dessert. From fudge to pastry to doughnuts to ice cream, almost anything you fancy is available.
*Decide on a meet-up place if you're with a group. It can be very crowded and hard to stay together.
*If you can, don't go on Saturday. Possibly Sunday would be crowded as well.
*Go. Just go. It's an amazing place!