Borough Market was catapulted into the global eye early in June following a heinous act of terror. For some, it was their first time to hear of Borough Market, but for others Borough has held a place in their hearts for many years. Sarah O’Neill has kindly shared her Ode to Borough, and let us in on some of her gems from one of London’s most treasured markets.
I am unashamedly enthusiastic about Borough Market. Sure, it might get more than a little busy, but where doesn’t in London? It is, and always will be, everything that I want in a market.
The origins of Borough go as far back as the eleventh century, before being abolished by parliament in 1755. The perseverance of the local Southwark community could not be quashed though, and they raised £6,000 to buy an area of land known locally as ‘The Triangle’. This is the site where you can visit Borough Market today.
The local spirit that brought Borough Market back to life can still be seen and felt in its ethos today. Operating as a charitable trust, the market is run by a board of trustees and constantly strives to give back to the community which so adores it. The regular series of educational events marks its place as not only a food market but a place of food education and a space in which to discuss and share ideas. The popular demo kitchen events engage and encourage participation, while the traders themselves are always on hand for a chat and culinary advice.
So yes, Borough Market might be busy, but it has got heart and an honesty often hard to find in a city where trends are king.
My, my, where to start with this Aladdin’s cave of treasures? Many a cooking project has begun for me in Spice Mountain. Be not fooled by the name, as this store has so much more than spices: from dried herbs and freeze dried fruit powders to lentils. The staff, as well as fellow shoppers, are beyond helpful with recipe tips and advice. In fact, it’s not unusual to have your entire week’s menu planned while waiting in line to pay. Go, impart, receive and enjoy!
I dream about the smoked mozzarella I buy here. Unlike some, it retains the soft succulence of its unsmoked counterpart. I’m always comforted my small menus as it usually means the few things on offer have been devoted every care and attention; the same is true here. The Parma Ham and Mozzarella stand literally does what it says on the tin, and it does it very well.
I first fell in love with the olive oil, closely followed by what has now fondly become known in my house as “that crack cocaine tomato thing”. Yes, you’ve guessed it, this “tomato thing” is a highly addictive tomato condiment consisting of a hypnotic mix of chilli flakes, fennel seeds, wild oregano, sun-dried tomatoes and that olive oil. It goes exceedingly well with the smoked mozzarella above.
I have tried a lot of cheese at markets and one of my favourites is comté. Borough offers quite a lot of this hard, cows milk cheese and having tried them all, I have pledged loyalty to this one. Sometimes I surprise the taste buds with a sample from a rival, but one taste of this makes me forget why I doubted.
The thought of one of their sugar dusted-crisp on the outside but soft on the inside-almond croissants is enough to get me through even the most challenging week. I positively jump out of bed every Saturday with anticipation of the glorious first bite. This theme continues with Olivier’s range of pastries and bread.
This delicious Indian street food is a refreshing burst of lightness perched amongst rows of burgers and other carnivorous things. The dosa is a firm favourite and makes battling the lunchtime crowds worthwhile.
Come for the displays, and leave with a heavy bag. Turnips is the place to come to remind you why you really should, in fact, eat your greens. From the common house apple to a less domestic papaya, you’ll be sure to come across it in here. On my first couple of visits, I couldn’t imagine actually buying items here as it has a sort of novel aspect. However, as time has gone on, I find myself popping in here more and more for specific things I know I won’t find elsewhere.
I could go on. But like Borough itself, it is a topic worth revisiting.