Wax stereotypical all you want about English food, London will keep you stuffed and satisfied with flavors from every nook and cranny on the planet. And I’m not talking fish and chips or bangers and mash (those are good too, natch). Nor am I talking about the city’s famed luxury restaurants. Nor about what seems to be the edge of pop up restaurant culture – also very cool. Not even talking about the throbbing local/slow food ethos that seems to have cut into the very mainstream of food service.
Somewhere between this, that and the other, there lies the origin of this cornucopia: London’s markets. The places where food has been bought, sold, eaten and chased with booze for a good millennia. The places where all those other places got the produce and products they need to make their own magic. And after centuries of crisscrossing and exchanging and learning and cooking, they now bring to you some of the most delicious, popular street foods from England and around the world.
And boy do they know how to do markets. While there, I got to traipse around the most famous of them all, Borough Market, and Brick Lane – a perfect Saturday/Sunday pairing. Want more salt with that? Read on.
Borough Market (under the bridge downtown)
It’s known as the oldest of London’s Markets, and yet still one of its trendiest – and that’s certainly the vibe you get when you get there. Atop the grit that could only come from centuries of rotting vegetable clippings are classic 21st century fixtures waiting and ready to serve the throes of market goers. Tucked under an elevated tube station, the market doesn’t cover a massive surface area, but boy do they pack it with variety. Of course you have the traditional colorful vegetable stands and the stands made of towering enormous loaves of bread and focaccia. Nestled between the fruits and veggies is where you fin the real gems: espresso booths serving up smooth blends with picture perfect foam designs, oystermen shucking oysters to order, and fresh pressed exotic juices.
Craving something with a little more…. Umph? Sweat not, this is your weekend hangover paradise. Try an English toasty made with raclette cheese and onions, or go fully traditional and grab a banger in a bun. I personally tried one of pork sausage with bacon, fried onions, lettuce tomato, and spicy mustard…. But if you’re REALLY hungry and feeling adventurous get all that plus blood sausage, cheese and pressed potatoes!
Brick Lane (international hipster smorgasbord)
Looking for something with a little more bite? You can get your fill at Brick Lane Market, a veritable international crossroads of street foods set to the sounds of a human beat box and double bassist playing live. I tried counting, but I’ll be honest, counting is not my strong spot. Let’s just say there are foods from lots and lots and lots of countries. Here’s the short list of what was on offer: Thai pad thai and curry puffs, Chinese pot stickers, Malaysian crepes, Korean pho, Japanese onigiri, Cuban ropa vieja and deep fried sweet plantains, Jamaican beef stew, Barbadian jerk chicken, Turkish spinach and feta crepes with yoghurt and mint sauce, Moroccan tajine, Ethiopian injera and wats, Spanish paella, Italian panini, German curry wurst , Mexican burritos and fajitas, Peruvian saltados….. but why belabor the point? Pictures below.