Anglotopia Day 17 – London, Borough Market
Victoria Station teemed with people coming in from everywhere in the UK, and I had a lot of time to kill before I could “check in” to the apartment where I was staying in Pimlico. I wove through the crowds and hopped aboard the Tube, wanting to visit the Borough Market for a few hours before retrieving my bag from the train station.
I knew about the Borough Market only because another AirBnb’er had mentioned that in the description of their apartment, if one was a foodie, staying in Bermondsey or thereabouts was a foodie paradise because of the restaurants and Borough Market. I thought to myself, “hmm … foodie paradise”, did a bit of recon on the market itself, and from what I saw, I decided that I would make a trip there. Even in the face of the daunting task I had set for myself to see so much of the touristy parts of London.
I had visited London when living in Oxford only twice for short periods of times, and when I had made one short weekend jaunt, I found that I didn’t particularly care for the city. I persisted in saying “I’m not much a fan of London” for about eleven years until I got the chance to really dig into the city, even beyond the touristy stuff. I wanted to get a taste for this foodie paradise. It looked too good to pass up – and heck yes, it would have been a shame to skip it.
Borough Market, a large, very old market in Southwark, has been operating, in some fashion or another, for about 1,000 years. The history of the market put it as starting in 1014, so it celebrated its 1,000th birthday in 2014. Seriously. I don’t think anything in America is anywhere near that old except for the natural things we have. The Borough Market as it is now is quite “new” (1756) when compared to its humble old-school origins.
The green-steel and glass covered market was indeed a foodie paradise. It was hard not to fall in love with the sharp fragrance of cheese, the earthy smell of veg just picked with dusty roots still attached, the unmistakable scent of truffles, and the spicy hints of stewing curries painting the air a fiery chili red. Walls of spices, wines, cheeses, jams, and juices lined the stalls. Cured meats hung from rope, and freshly-butchered meats were packed and wrapped with papers. Ropes of sausages tempted the browsers as they walked by, as the stands were grilling them and topping crispy buns with soft, caramelized onions and Dijon mustard.
Of course, there was fresh tea leaves in large glass jars, tempting me with colours and fragrances, and, despite living in Asia, I had to at least buy some sort of concoction. Coffee was being ground at several small stands, adding its caffeinated aroma to the mix.
This was food as we imagine it to be – right at the source, real, and messy at times. It makes one almost adverse to big-box supermarket shopping after an experience like this.
Within the confines of the market were many stands, stalls, and pop-up restaurants. I popped by one selling salted beef sandwiches, the kind on thick rye bread, with homemade pickles and mustard on salty bits of beef. I was so hungry I ate both pieces right off, not bothering to keep the second large bit for later. I certainly wasn’t going to be sharing!
After strolling around for an hour, I thought of how much I’d love to live in London just to be able to visit the market for meals or to pick up things for cooking at home. Everything smelled so damn delicious.
While not a major tourist site in and of itself, the Borough Market is centrally located near other major sites such as St. Paul’s Cathedral (across the Thames and down a bit), the Globe Theatre, Millennium Bridge and a host of other places near Southwark. The Shard isn’t too far off either. As I found out the next day, when strolling from the Monument toward St. Paul’s after crossing London Bridge, I was able to take a side detour through the market again, and I discovered that there were loads of restaurants on the fringe of the market as well.
I found one place selling cups of sangria, and next door, I sought out the greatest invention of all food-kind – creamy macaroni and cheese topped with pulled pork. Oh. My. God. I pulled up to a lawn table with my sangria and lunch and let the macaroni melt in my mouth. It is an absolute, absolute must to try – look for the Cathedral nearby, and it’s a restaurant right on the edge of it. I can’t find the name of it on the Market’s website, but hot damn, don’t miss it!
I want that mac ‘n’ cheese and pulled pork again. The picture makes me wish I had a place nearby that sold something half as good.
All I know is, next time I’m in London, I’m going back there to find the restaurant and revel once more in that dish.