Borough Market: Outdoor Whole Foods

I’ve tired of hearing so many people rave about the Borough Market only to sheepishly respond that I’ve never been there. Now I understand the appeal.

It’s unusual to me.. Its fascinating history doesn’t reflect. Architecturally, it’s surprisingly uniform in style, if not in layout, and orderly, despite being grown over time, not as a planned market.

DSC_0008 One of the oldest markets in London, it pre-dated the railway tracks that now shelter it. It sits on the southern bank of the Thames, a very convenient location for boat traffic. It wasn’t hard to imagine what a bustling market it must have been back in the day.

The market is largely covered. A corner extended outside, but was partially sheltered by the railway above. Clearly gentrified, the entire market was furnished with green fencing and doorways. A path is marked to keep pedestrians walkways clear.

The products featured felt both varied and monotonous. There were quite a few bakery stalls, featuring very similar breads and pastries,  even though they tried to carve out a niche: I am French inspired! I am organic! I feature potato dough! Fresh produce was surprisingly sparse while  displays of jams and oils and other non-perishable products rather established. I found only a handful of seafood stalls, disappointing given the proximity to the water (and the lack of good ones near my residence).

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While some things are reasonably prices, the other half the stalls felt expensive. £6 for two small Portuguese egg pastries! Loaves of bread are cheap, individual pastries, expensive. While I do favor artisan vendors, I’d be hard pressed to be convinced that I should come here instead of the closest market to my home.

Personally, I prefer the crowds and smells of a wet market, even the sticky wet floors. This one, I felt, was yuppified. The vendors weren’t even shouting. Or mingling, for that matter. Maybe I came at a wrong time.. that I should have come during the traders’ hours, not when it’s for the pedestrian customers.

I’m a sucker for any market, though.. and I walked away with a full carrier bag. Souvenir double oven mitts, a loaf of rosemary bread, potato buns, chocolate, a mesh sack of mussels. Guess what I’m having for dinner tonight. My first homemade mussels.