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London’s Borough Market

Situated just south of London Bridge is Borough Market, one of London’s many culinary treasures. As the city’s oldest food market, it oozes tradition while celebrating British cuisine and international culinary delights. Think mouth-watering produce; mix it with great surrounds and a friendly atmosphere and it’s no surprise that Borough Market is a favourite with OrganicFoodees and chefs alike. But are the proposed plans for the overhead railway leaving the markets outlook in the balance? Here, Rosie Dyer investigates the speciality foods on offer, and considers Borough Market’s future.

Wandering through the twists and turns of Borough Market on a cold crisp morning I feel as though I have stepped back in time. Hidden between the cobbled streets of South East London, it’s a stones throw away from the hustle and bustle of the modern financial district of this ancient city, and yet it still possesses the old-fashioned charm of a Dickensian novel. To my left a weathered-looking fruit and veg seller bellows in a thick cockney accent “Avocados!!!! two for paaand!!!”, while to my right is a stunning display of real ale bottles, their olive green necks glistening in the morning sunlight. Deeper into the market lies Maria’s café where gingham-dressed tables are jam-packed with hungry customers tucking into their steaming hot bubble baps, a traditional British sandwich filled with mashed potatoes fried with cabbage. Looking around at their cheery faces I become aware that this is not just any market – to people who appreciate good, real food this is THE British market.

Despite having just celebrated its 250th birthday, a plan for rail development at London Bridge Station poses serious problems for the future of the Borough Market. If the estimated £3.5 million (US $7 million) funding for the scheme is raised, much of the original structure and surrounding areas could be destroyed, leaving the future of the market in the balance. British Rail’s plan is to build a concrete and steel viaduct through Borough High Street and destroy over 20 Grade II listed and unlisted historic buildings.

Save the Borough Market Area is a local campaign set up by the public in the hope to put a stop to the destruction of one of London’s greatest attractions. The campaign is run entirely through the aid of volunteers. You can be a part of this campaign by signing the online petition.

Borough Market has a rich history dating back further to AD 43 when a similar bazaar was discovered by the Romans at the end of London Bridge. There was, however, no written record of it, and it was not until two centuries later that it was recognised. Considered a pest by nearby residents and a permanent cause of traffic congestion, Parliament ruled for its closure in 1754. In1851, Borough Market moved to a nearby area of London called Southwark, where the structure that now holds the majority of stallholders is situated. The stunning art deco entrance was added in 1932. It has continued to grow over the years, and is now one of the largest in the World.

Today, much of this history remains with regulars and tourists travelling from near and far in search of fresh organic produce.

“I come here every Saturday. You can’t beat the quality of the food on offer. It may be a bit more expensive than your local supermarket, but what does that matter when it tastes a whole lot better?” comments Greg Saywell, an elderly onlooker. His wife Rita continues:

“The puddings are to die for – you have to try the cheesecake, I’ve never tasted anything like it.”

As well as organic foods, customers can expect to find the best of British meat, game and fish, freshly baked bread and cakes, a mouth-watering array of specialist cheeses and home-grown fruit and vegetables. If you are looking for something with a continental European flavor, browse through the Spanish stalls and pick up some fragrant spices or a rich chorizo sausage.

Shopper Noreen Mansfield proclaims: “I’m having a Spanish themed dinner party tonight, so I’ve come here for all the ingredients. Where else can you go and buy everything you need under one roof?”

Borough Market is open Thursdays: 11am – 5pm, Fridays: 12pm – 6pm and Saturdays: 9am – 4pm. It’s wise to get there early to give yourself plenty of time to look around.

If you want to experience the true hustle and bustle, go on a Saturday, but make sure you are hungry so you can take full advantage of the delicious free samples. Stallholder James Court explains:

“You’d be amazed how many samples people try when their browsing around the market, if you have one of everything it’s like eating a meal without limiting yourself to just one dish.”

However, if you’d like to sit down and enjoy a meal, I recommend you try a restaurant named Roast. Situated on the first floor of the market, you can people watch to your hearts content while sampling the best of British cuisine. Breakfast and afternoon tea is also served. Habib Ramano, a Roast customer, comments:

“I’ve just had the liver and bacon and it was superb. I think it’s great they’re taking advantage of all the great produce from the market.”

While the future of Borough Market hangs in the balance one thing is for sure; it’s a fabulous place to visit if you happen to be in London. Showcasing the best of British organic produce as well as unusual organic and traditional foods from other countries, Borough Market is a refreshing step away from junk. Expect a warm and friendly atmosphere. Stall holder Michelle Rodriguez comments:

“Here at Borough Market we’re all like one big happy family. Everyone knows everyone, and we all help each other. That’s what I think is so nice about it.”

Looking around at the delighted faces it cannot be deined that Borough Market is an OrganicFoodee’s dream come true.

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