Borough Market is one of the best foodie shopping experiences in the world. The market also receives a fair dose of criticism for being too touristy, too expensive, and too exclusive. Those accusations aren’t all wrong, but skipping the Borough Market experience on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday would be wrong.
A Hella Popular Market
Saturday is Borough Market’s largest (both in terms of vendors and visitors) and most jammed packed day. To make the most of this very large, very busy market, arrive early, bring a list of the things you actually want to buy, and get shopping before the crowds (including full tour groups) bottleneck the main lanes. If all goes according to plan, by the time the crowds pour in you’ll be on the sidelines sipping a beer, enjoying some sun (hopefully), and snacking on one of the delicious treats you’ve found along the way.
Borough Market has just about every culinary treat you could need. And then some. Pasture raised animals, fresh caught fish, and all their byproducts are available in myriad shapes, sizes and forms. Fresh baked bread and pastries pour off vendor tables in every direction. Seasonal and local produce (as well as lion’s share of imports, mostly from Spain and Italy) and prepared food create a symphony for the senses.
Borough Market isn’t huge on bartering, but we found prices fair for the quality. Vendors were incredibly friendly, and when not slammed with a line of customers most were happy to pass out samples and cut you a deal.
Some Unpopular Politics
Borough Market has been in operation since before the 10th century and the market has been providing farmers a place to sell their goods on same exact street since the 13th century! After nearly 1000 years the market has obviously developed a strong fellowship and cultural roots. For vendors, getting into Borough Market is being handed a golden ticket to success. You’ve made the big game and are guaranteed exposure to thousands of eager food-minded shoppers week after week.
Demand for a Borough Market stall far outweighs supply. Local farmers, bakers, and craftsmen are perpetually stuck in limbo on the long wait list to join the market. Outsiders cry unfairness and political favoritism and look on as Borough Market vendors sell out week in and week out. Several vendors have decided to boycott Borough Market for the fledgling Maltby Market which runs the same time as Borough Market Saturday. We loved the artesian feel, pre-made snacks, and brunch offerings up and down Maltby Market, but for actual grocery shopping, Borough Market really can’t be beat.
Borough Market remains the undisputed heavyweight champion of food markets in the United Kingdom, so it’s easy to see how small artisanal food producers can feel left out. It’s great to see markets like Maltby springing up to keep quality up, and diversity in bloom.
By far and away our favorite part of Borough Market (possibly U.K. cuisine in general) is all the truly outstanding U.K. produced cheeses. It’s no secret that England is home to some of the best cheese on Earth and Borough Market is a damn good showcase for many of them. Weather it’s sampling cheeses directly from the producers, heading just outside the main market grounds to mingle with the rockstar mongers at Neal’s Yard Dairy, or indulging in the must-eat gooey delights of a melted (what ‘merican’s call grilled) cheese sandwich at Kappacasein, we couldn’t get enough Borough Market cheese. It’s the perfect place to sample a killer selection of English cheeses under “one roof”.
Combine all of the above with a healthy dash of casual day drinking, and you have yourself a winning combination. Enjoying a spritzer, beer, cider or cocktail with your Saturday shopping is not only accepted but encouraged. US farmers markets (and state liquor boards) should take note.
At end of the day (and it might be a tiring one), the crowds my be inevitable, but no trip to London is complete without a visit to Borough Market.