As the eyes of the world focus this month on London and the 30th Summer Olympic games I thought it timely to write up my final piece about our recent trip and most specifically our visit to the famous Borough Market.
Sitting on the south side of the Thames, near London Bridge, the history and fortunes of London’s Borough Market has waxed and waned over the last 800-900 years. Originally adjoining the end of London Bridge, it has historically been a source of fresh fruit and vegetables, but in the mid-18th century it became so busy that the congestion it caused in the surrounding roads led to it being abolished by an Act of Parliament. The Act allowed for the market to be moved within the area and during the 19th century it became one of London’s largest and most important fresh food markets, thanks to it’s proximity to the riverside wharves in the important “Pool of London” stretch of the Thames.
Owned by a charitable trust and administered by a board of volunteer trustees who must live within the area, the Borough Market of today is one of London’s largest and most significant tourist attractions. Its use as a popular filming site for television food and cooking shows has made it something of a foodie mecca in London and it has evolved away from it’s historical focus on supplying the locals with fresh produce. Trading to retail customers is limited to two half days and one full day per week and, while still selling some fresh everyday produce, the market has now grown to over 100 stalls which sell an impressive variety of both British and international produce. It has become a very fashionable place to shop and, I have to say, the prices reflect this.
We had visited earlier in the week when it was officially closed and found, as is the case in Adelaide Central Market when closed, only a few stalls open and not a lot of life. On our last day in London we headed back in on the tube, arriving right on opening time. I like to be thorough with markets, so we did a first complete reconnoitering lap checking out all of the stalls and their wares, then a second lap making regular stops to buy urgently desired victuals to eat on the spot, then a third lap to fill a bag to take home to share with our hosts at afternoon tea.
As expected, there was an amazing array of products for sale – most of which I wanted to buy or at least try and fortunately most of the stalls offered tastes. There were products that I had not encountered before, like fresh licorice root, an amazing selection of summer produce including another diverse selection of tomatoes, hot roast meats, paella, local seafood, French saucisson of all flavours, some very “interesting” looking cheeses, fresh made goats-milk ice cream, fresh-made confectionery and an array of cakes and baked goods that just about had me weeping with desire. By the time we were ready to leave the place was really bustling and seating was at an absolute premium. Regardless of the fact that we were to fly out that evening we still managed to leave with our carry bag significantly laden and The Husbands wallet correspondingly lighter – I’m afraid I just couldn’t help myself.