Borough Market is like a magical mirror that shows you your true self. The first thing I noticed about Borough Market is the astonishingly large amount of expensive camera equipment sloshing around it, as tourists and amateur photographers alike pour into the Market to capture this truly authentic London thing. The first thing Spouse saw was a display of Franchi seeds (Italian culinary seeds which produce ugly but delicious fruit and vegetables, and are very difficult to find, especially at three packets for a fiver).
I’ve been to Borough Market twice now, and I have been pleasantly surprised both times. Getting out of there having spent less than £10 – is heavily dependent on how much of a foodie you are, and how strong your willpower is. All the guide books tell you to come, but to come early and prepped: it is easy to pay over the odds for the delicious grub. We visited one Saturday morning to get some bits and bobs for a lunch we were having the following day. Spouse is a generous host, his wallet opened again and again as he bought an infinite array of exotic French cheeses, curious mushrooms and the obscure British samfire.
He even went so far as to buy me lunch, the poshest hot dog perhaps in creation. I ate venison sausage with handmade tomato sauce in a focaccia. Happily I did not risk the English mustard which spouse had dolloped liberally over his wild boar sausage. He had to quietly wipe it all off, tears flowing down his cheeks all the while. I felt a tinge of guilt at the foccacia, as all bread is banned under my poxy diet. Including tea and coffee, lunch cost £13.70, which I thought was really good value. We ate our lunch in front of Southwark Cathedral, our feet dandling companionably over the wall, before I asked my beloved to take my photo. Since I started writing this blog I have lost 19lbs, and cut and dyed my hair, and the fact is I no longer look anything like any of my photos. So, just so you know, this is what I look like these days.
As Spouse and I trogged around, him sampling the free wares, me turning every man jack of them down because nothing is allowed under the Dukan diet apart from lean dead things and broccoli. The crowds got fuller and fuller, and spouse got more and more heavily laden with grub. We snickered over the bottles of myrtle beer (in Sheffield, the word myrtle means something very rude indeed). We held hands as he robustly tested the peaches for his Melba. He dragged me physically from the cupcake stall where he knew I was on the point of weakening, and he chuckled at the sign for beef curtains, and refused to tell me what was funny about it.
Feeling sorry at the monstrous sums of cash he seemed to be hemorrhaging, I bought Spouse a mug for £10 with a blue lobster on it. Ever since he saw a David Attenborough documentary about the spiny tailed lobster, he has felt a great kinship with the lobster. Apparently the lobster is a remarkably intelligent and peaceful creature, despite those whopping great claws. He told me this one evening in Portugal, when I had managed to persuade a seafood restaurant to show the Eurovision Song Contest. Sadly, our table was in plain sight of a very large tank full of lobsters, all clambering over each other as they tried to escape. As I watched the Eurovision Song Contest without the aid of Terry Wogan, Spouse drank comparatively heavily, and began to plot an escape plan for at least one of the lobsters, thus showing what an ingenious and kindhearted chap he is. I persuaded him out of it, on the grounds he was planning to take the lobster to a beach where the fishermen caught crustaceans.
I like Borough. Given the number of celebrity chefs who bang on about how brilliant it is, it is remarkably unpretentious. The people who work there really seem to love both the food they sell and the place they trade in. Everyone goes on Saturdays – if you can, go on Thursday or Friday when it is calmer and quieter. The last time I went it was a Thursday afternoon. I spoke for about 15 minutes with a chap who sold first flush Darjeeling tea: he told me about the estate where it grew, what the difference between the flushes were, how to brew and serve it, and he did so joyfully, proudly showing his book in which various celebrities had written how nice his tea was. His tea sold for £5 a packet – rather less I think than the equivalent at the (marvellous) Twinings tea museum. I bought a brownie for Spouse who was gutted that he couldn’t join me for my first trip. The lady on the brownie stall was sympathetic about his plight and gave him the largest brownie on the stall: it was about an inch thick and lasted him the best part of a week.
So go to Borough. Go early, go light, go with comfortable shoes on. Go when you aren’t hungry, or dieting, or on the point of entertaining, go with an iron will, go ready to eat all the samples, go ready to chat with the people who made your food. And if you can, go with a kind man who you love, and hold hands as much as you can so you can’t get parted in the crowds. This is the best way to do Borough, in my humble opinion.
Full details of Borough Market’s opening hours, and how to get there are here: http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/