The streets surrounding London’s oldest wholesale greenmarket have become a shopping and dining haven. Susan Welsh surveys the scene
IN THE MARKET
On weekends Borough Market draws some 70 organic farmers, artisanal producers, world-class bakers, and gourmet food importers from all over the world. Brave the queue for the juicy venison burgers sizzling on a large grill at Westcountry Venison, which also produces a prizewinning venison terrine made with Madeira, brandy, and juniper berries. For fresh-pressed olive oils—ranging from gold and mellow to green and peppery—and cured meats (this is your chance to sample Ibérico ham), go to Brindisa Spanish Foods. Stop by Turnips, a produce stall that sells unusual fruits such as tangy plum-like greengages and Italian strawberry grapes, to add the finishing touch to a picnic hamper. Gamston Wood Ostriches purveys all things ostrich, from meat to old-fashioned feather dusters.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Roast (Floral Hall, Stoney St.; 44-207/940-1300; dinner for two $75), an airy, glass-enclosed space in the historic Floral Hall overlooking the market, with views of St. Paul’s cathedral, packs seasonal organic ingredients into traditional British dishes (dressed Dorset crab; roast Herdwick mutton). Rub elbows with City bankers and trendy East Enders at Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House (11 Stoney St.; 44-207/403-9554; dinner for two $90), where ultra-fresh oysters are always on the menu, including the Duchy of Cornwall variety, farmed by proprietor Ben Wright at the Prince of Wales’s oyster farm in Cornwall. Set under Victorian railway arches, Brew Wharf (Brew Wharf Yard, Stoney St.; 44-207/378-6601; dinner for two $75), a cavernous microbrewery with mosaic tile floors, pairs house ales with solid brasserie fare such as braised pork belly and red cabbage. The tiny bar Rake (14 Winchester Walk; 44-207/407-0557) stocks more than 100 obscure brews drawn from every corner of the world, including Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, a "smoked" ale from Bavaria, and Bière Darbyste, a Belgian wheat beer flavored with figs.
The arrival of Paul Smith (13 Park St.; 44-207/403-1678), which sells the British designer’s colorful, sharply tailored clothes alongside vintage books and kitsch collectibles, may herald the neighborhood’s evolution into a fashion as well as food destination. With its soaring ceilings and massive open counter, Neal’s Yard Dairy (6 Park St.; 44-207/ 645-3554) is a temple of cheese with 50 varieties on display, including British all-stars such as Montgomery’s Cheddar and Colston Bassett Stilton. Domestic goddess Nigella Lawson is a fan of the deliciously moist cakes (chocolate rum, orange lavender) and whimsically decorated pastries (boardshorts-clad gingerbread men) at Konditor & Cook (10 Stoney St.; 44-207/407-5100).
DESTINATION Borough Market, London, a 4.5-acre market site (8 Southwark St.; 44-207/407- 1002; Fridays noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
TUBE STOP London Bridge (Northern or Jubilee line)
DON’T MISS The free food samples offered at many market stalls
Konditor & Cook
Beloved by every sweet tooth in London, this darling bakery was founded in 1993 by German pastry chef Gerhard Jenne. Since its opening, the shop has expanded to six different locations, enticing soon-to-be-loyal-patrons with gorgeous displays of irresistible treats prepared with high-quality ingredients like organic free-range eggs and natural butter. Scrumptious sandwiches and savory quiches are available, but the stars of the show are the shop’s sugary masterpieces, including gooey toffee brownies, frosted carrot cake, tangy lemon moons, berry almond tarts and rich cranberry brownies. Visitors can take their goodies to go or snag one of the bakery’s cozy tables.
Neal's Yard Dairy
More than 200 varieties of creamy, crumbly cheese are packed to the rafters at this famous fromagophile heaven in South London’s Borough Market. Founded in 1979, the shop now has two locations in London and has become renowned for its dedication to quality artisan cheeses from the British Isles. In Borough’s Market, an antique dark blue storefront reveals stacks of enticing wheels and wedges, although most patrons are drawn in simply by the mouthwatering aromas. Inside, the amiable staff offers knowledgeable advice and scrumptious samples of favorites like the slightly sweet Coolea, salty Strathdon Blue and rich, nutty Montgomery’s Cheddar.
Paul Smith Park Street
Although British fashion king Paul Smith owns namesake shops across the globe, this funky branch near Borough Market is said to be one of his personal favorites. His affection for this particular shop stems from the inventory, which includes not only his traditional-meets-quirky clothing but also the striking artworks and lovely oddities purchased by Smith himself in places like Delhi and Saigon. Once the gang headquarters in a Guy Ritchie movie, this quaint green storefront now hosts a gang of diehard Paul Smith fans who can’t get enough of his unique casual wear, vibrant accessories, mesmerizing paintings and elaborate mirrors.
Hopheads and foodies alike enjoy this stylish restaurant and microbrewery in Brew Wharf Yard, just outside Borough Market. Beneath soaring arched ceilings, surrounded by beautiful exposed brick, classic wood furniture and plenty of TVs showing the big game, patrons expand their brew-rizons with an exceptional selection of beers from across the globe as well as two ever-changing house brews. Equally impressive is the mouthwatering modern European cuisine, including delicate beef carpaccio, perfectly crisp beer-battered haddock with scrumptious chips and, for dessert, ambrosial fig and almond tart. On sunny days, diners can also savor their dishes outside on the lovely patio.
Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House
The best British bivalves paired with superb wines and ales make Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House one of the most celebrated seafood spots in London. Set in bustling Borough Market, the well-loved eatery employs an unwavering sea-to-table approach that ensures diners are chowing down on amazingly fresh, mostly local seafood. Patrons can either snag a spot in the always-buzzing dining room, featuring a gleaming bar and blackboard menus, or sit outside at a charming wine barrel table. In addition to the legendary oysters, diners also rave about the fresh fish pie and the savory beef, Guinness and oyster pie.
A sophisticated mainstay in Borough Market, this second-story dining room is a study in casual elegance complete with lofty ceilings, lovely white linens, and wall-to-wall windows offering impressive views of the market and St. Paul’s. On sunny days, light also filters through an enormous arched window, and this cultivates an atmosphere nothing short of dazzling as patrons enjoy seasonal dishes from renowned chef Lawrence Keogh. The bountiful Full Borough breakfast is a favorite dish, as is the crisp, roasted pork belly paired with fluffy mash and fresh Bramley apple sauce that's followed by chocolate banoffee pudding with Devonshire clotted cream.
“The Rake is my local in London!” exclaims one of the many brewers’ signatures sprawled across the wall at this tiny but impressive specialty beer bar on the edge of Borough Market. Opened in 2006 by Richard Dinwoodie and Mike Hill, owners of Utobeer, The Rake is a truly phenomenal hophead haven featuring 10 ever-changing taps and an average of 130 bottled beers from across the globe. Patrons can try to snag a spot in the small, sparsely adorned bar area or head outside to the cozy heated patio to swill perfectly poured pints and munch on market-bought bar snacks.