Aussie travellers love London and there’s no need to wonder why. If you want to rub shoulders with the locals, uncover corners of the bustling capital that normally escape the tourist radar and eat fantastic local produce along the way, then you’ve come to the right place. A tour of London’s food markets is the perfect way to experience an array of global cuisines, sample unusual ingredients and really get to know the city from an insider’s perspective.
Stoney Street, Southwark
Nearest tube: London Bridge
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday
One of London’s biggest, and easily the busiest, food markets, Borough Market’s countless shops and stalls spread out higgledy-piggledy among the railway arches of an old train station. There’s something incredibly romantic about this foodie haven. Wander down the stone steps next to Southwark Cathedral (the oldest church building in the city) and be greeted by the scent of seafood paella and the sound of sausages sizzling on a huge open grill. Make sure you visit with an empty stomach as there are loads of takeaway food stalls alongside the produce on offer. Our highlights? A charred chorizo and roasted capsicum sandwich from Spanish food purveyors Brindisa, washed down with a cup of coffee from Monmouth just over the road. Pick up a wedge of red wine-soaked cheese from Jumi, Polish juniper sausages from Topolski and velvety-smooth mushroom pate from the friendly team at Pate Moi.
Nearest tube: Bethnal Green
Open 9am-5pm Saturday
Lively and often bizarre street performers, packed-out pubs and heaps of cyclists. There’s a real neighbourhood buzz about this place – after all, it was volunteers from the local traders and residents association who set about transforming the once struggling fruit and veg stalls that inhabited this narrow East End street. Running from the boathouses lining Regent’s Canal to the historic London Fields Park, you’ll find bookshops, antiques and vintage clothing stalls, not to mention some of the finest cakes the city has to offer. The insanely pretty cupcakes from Violet are a real highlight and sell out fast. Dine from one of the Vietnamese banh mi vans, grab Mexican at The Taco Stand, or tuck into a blue cheese-topped burger from Lucky Chip just around the corner at spin-off Netil Market. If you want a really authentic East End experience, order hot jellied eels from F. Cooke’s Pie & Mash Shop, which first started trading in 1900.
Chalk Farm Road
Nearest tube: Chalk Farm and Camden Town
Most stalls and shops open daily 10am-6pm
Punk, rock, rave – music and Camden go hand-in-hand and the area has long held a reputation for being home to ‘alternative’ London. It has one of the hippest high streets in London – with rows of multicoloured shops decorated with large-scale artworks – and the multiple markets are equally cool. First stop is Stables Market, a labyrinthine nest of cobblestone paths leading through brick archways to a host of antique, retro fashion and furniture stalls. Why the name? The market was once the site of a hospital for the horses who used to pull canal barges (nearby Camden Lock is home to a market of its own, with lots of alfresco food stalls). Today, Proud gallery is one of the newer occupants of the 200-year-old building – it’s a great venue for live music and art exhibitions. When it comes to food, head to West Yard for When Mac Met Cheese. As the name suggests, this stall only sells variations on the classic American dish. Our favourite is ‘cheesy green afro’, which consists of vintage Stilton, mozzarella and broccoli. If that’s not for you, head to nearby Inverness Street Market for crepes at Artisans Crepier.
Whitechapel, East End
Nearest tube: Aldgate East
Open Saturday 11am-6pm and Sunday 10am-5pm
Head east and you’ll find another market-saturated area at your fingertips. First stop for food has to be The Old Boiler House at The Old Truman Brewery – it’s easy to spot, just look for the tall red-brick chimney. Built in the 1830s, it’s now home to Brick Lane’s buzzing food hall. From vegan West African food to Japanese okonomiyaki, the stalls regularly rotate so there’s no guessing what you might find. Just around the corner on Hanbury Street is the Sunday Upmarket (open Sunday 10am-5pm). There are more than 200 stalls here and another covered food area. Indulge your sweet tooth at Kooky Bakes – purveyors of US classics such as whoopie pies, tray-baked brownies and soft, chewy cookies. When you’ve had your fill for the day, head to the designer digs at The Hoxton just a few streets away. This boutique hotel has some of the city’s coolest bars on its doorstep.
Nearest tube: Brixton
Open daily and Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings
Ok, so Brixton Village isn’t technically a market, but this covered café and restaurant precinct has a wonderful communal feel and demands a food crawl of epic proportions. Simply put, it’s London on a plate – from Japanese to Jamaican cuisine, this recently revitalised area is a testament to the city’s vibrant multiculturalism. The actual food market is next door and well worth a visit – here you’ll find the decades-old stalls (and stallholders) proudly displaying an array of great African and Caribbean produce. One of the first places to open in the new-look Brixton Village, Franco Manca (unit 4) continues to serve deliciously simple thin and crispy pizzas topped with award-winning mozzarella and ricotta from Somerset. Next up, Honest Burgers (unit 12) made with 35-day aged chuck steak and triple-cooked, crispy chips sprinkled with rosemary salt. And to sample the area’s Caribbean heritage, grab a handful of napkins and feast on Take Two Grill’s jerk chicken. One of the market’s original businesses, it cooks jerk chicken the traditional way – over coals in a kettle drum rather than in the oven. Their sticky chicken wings are seriously finger-lickin’ good.
If you’re after somewhere to stay, Aussie travellers tend to book hotels south and north of Hyde Park. Try the Grand Plaza Serviced Apartments in Bayswater if you’re looking for somewhere to cook up a storm with all the produce you’ve picked up at the markets. For more ideas, see Expedia’s London Holidays.
Images by Sharking for Chips and Drinks, Borough Market and the Boiler House