London Food Haunt No 4: Borough Market

Borough Market is foodie paradise. It’s a bit congested by tourists and people looking out for free samples, but (a) it’s still awesome, and (b) the free samples are too. This exceptional market, spilling out from under a railroad bridge in London’s Borough neighborhood and into the nearby streets, has a wealth of produce, fish, exotic meats like ostrich and kangaroo, a huge range of dessert and pastry stalls, some ready-made food vendors, and more. At one stall a Turk hawks about sixteen kinds of Turkish delight; next to him is the jam lady, with her cherry-and-port or mango-and-ginger jams; then you have the meringues, Artisan du Chocolat with its bags of misshapen factory rejects (they still taste great!), a whole row of exotic olive oils, Parmesan cheese, cheeses from Comte in France with a poster showing pictures of the dairy farms which make it, a guy handing out samples of venison sausage, and a table stacked high with loaves of artisan bread. Uto Beer sells a range of hundreds of exotic beers from around the world. An Italian stall proclaims prosecco the new champagne. Somebody’s even selling tortilla chips and salsa.

This is what foodies see on their street-corners in heaven.

Borough Market is a great place to stage an urban picnic. My parents and I had one there during my first week in London, with the aid of Comte cheese and venison sausage.

Yum-in-progress.

If you’re more patient and want to cook at home, you’re in great luck: nearly every ingredient imaginable is here, at places like the specialty shop for Spanish ingredients or the truffle oil stand. But if you just want to pop in for a bite to eat, life isn’t all that rough either. The exotic meats stall gladly sells ostrich steak sandwiches, scrumptiously off-the-beaten-path. The Spanish place will put chorizo in nearly anything. And then there are the two guys with a gigantic pan who roast duck all day.

Duck sandwich?

Your duck sandwich comes in a roll baked elsewhere at the market (I think), with mixed greens and a light helping of (non-murderous) mustard. The duck is fatty and melty and delicious.

If even that’s not doing it for you, head across the street to the Posh Banger Boys. Bangers are, of course, the English word for “sausage,” and they’re usually served as “bangers and mash”: sausage and mashed potatoes. Aside from being possibly the most meat-and-potatoes meal of all time, bangers and mash is maybe the least colorful, and not without nutritional question marks. So why not add some green veggies, a dash of vivid color, and in all probability even more nutritional question marks? Well, that’s just the Posh Banger Boys’ job:

Appearing in this family portrait: grilled Toulouse sausages, caramelized red onions, lettuce, mustard, toasted bread roll.

Also across the street from Borough Market: The Rake, Uto Beer’s pub, in which they serve something like 300 different bottled beers as well as a rotating selection of five international beers on tap. Important: don’t order something you’ve heard of before. That’s just boring.

Borough Market is just about the ideal “out to eat” experience. You walk around, you see lots of amazing things, you have a number of free samples, you buy some great jam and misshapen but saintly chocolates, and then you pig out on a duck, ostrich, chorizo, or sausage sandwich (or an equally lavish salad, or the vegan stuff I didn’t try). The fresh juice stands hook you up with something to drink, as will the prosecco guys and the beer shop. Sure, it’s crowded, but people flock to Borough from across London for a reason. It’s got something for everyone. What’s not to love?

Some of the many temptations I'd be glad to be led into at Borough Market.

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