List Words : Thomas Rees | 19 February

The 6 best food markets in London

To the delight of food loving Londoners and visitors alike, the capital's markets are experiencing a golden age. Thomas Rees hit the streets to bring you six of the best

Thanks to the capital's insatiable appetite for artisan produce and the emergence of street food as the height of urban cool, specialist food markets are springing up all across London. These six are among the highlights, a must for travelling gourmets.

Borough Market

Invariably packed at weekends, but with good reason, Borough offers an unrivalled selection of  produce, with traders selling everything from British charcuterie to winter truffles.

There are fruit and veg stalls for all budgets. Bowls of slender red peppers and buttery avocados go for just over a pound in the Green Market behind the recently renovated Market Hall. A little pricier but with a bigger selection, are the stalls along Middle Road and Stoney Street, the place to find striped Italian aubergines, brightly coloured chard and heritage tomatoes.

Bakers, butchers and fishmongers are similarly plentiful. For soft English muffins, artisan loaves, and the kind of croissants that make hollow mockery of their powdery supermarket imitations, don't miss bakery stall the Flour Station. Carnivores should make a beeline for Yorkshire butcher The Ginger Pig, suppliers to award-winning steak-house Hawksmoor and many other of the capital's top restaurants.

As comprehensive as the ingredients on offer are the street food stalls, with Soul Food's jerk chicken, decadent grilled cheese sandwiches from Kappacasein, and chorizo rolls from Spanish deli Brindisa among the highlights.

Tote bags and bottles of fragrant olive oil make great gifts, as do cheeses from the excellent Neal's Yard Dairy on Park Street. If you're in need of a pick me up, coffee from Monmouth and independent roaster Notes is close at hand, though expect to queue.

Top tip:

The crowds reach their peak around lunchtime on Saturday. Arrive around 4.30pm for end of the day discounts on bread and fresh fish.

When: Wednesday 10am-5pm, Fridays 10am-6pm, Saturdays 8am-5pm
Where: SE1 1TL , London Bridge tube

http://boroughmarket.org.uk 

Brixton Market

Reggae-fuelled and gloriously frenetic, Brixton is worth a browse whether you're buying or not. The market is famed for its multicultural offerings, which include Caribbean staples such as green coconuts and plantain, halal meat and exotic fish at a fraction of central London prices.

Lunch options abound in the recently gentrified  Brixton Village, a once dilapidated arcade of shops which now houses many of south London’s hippest cafés and restaurants. Joints like Honest Burger and Pakistani street food café Elephant, have a cult following among London food bloggers while the Neapolitan sourdough pizzas served at nearby Franco Manca are frequently hailed as the best in the city.

The majority of traders are here throughout the week with a specialist bakers' market and a range of vintage clothing stalls on alternating Saturdays (10am-5pm) and a farmers' market between 10am and 2pm on Sundays.

Top tip:

Those looking for a taste of the Brixton market of old can still find jerk chicken stands and no-frills Colombian Cafes serving plates piled high with grilled meat, rice and soupy pinto beans. Restaurante Santafereno, is among the best.

When: The main market is open 8am-6pm (3pm on Wednesday) from Monday to Saturday.
Where: SW9 8HE, Brixton tube

http://brixtonmarket.net/

Whitecross Street Food Market

A haven for overworked city boys and anyone looking for a more inspiring for lunch than a supermarket sandwich, Whitecross Street has fast-earned a reputation as the must-visit food market in London's Square Mile. There are a few stalls selling take-home staples including elegant cakes, freshly baked bread and fruit and vegetables, but most come to Whitecross for the streetfood. The highlights are many. Luardos, in their hand-painted Citroën van, serve some of the capital's best burritos, warm tortillas filled with shredded pork, rice and black beans,  thick with guacamole and sharpened with lime juice and fresh salsa. Venison burgers from the Wild Game Co. also rank highly, with plenty of meat-free options, including Vietnamese noodle soups, curries and Brazilian fish stews, to choose from too.

Defuse the ensuing food coma with a shot of fruity espresso from Giddy Up Coffee, an Australian-run stand that pitches up everyday in Fortune Park, just off Whitecross Street itself. Beans come from award winning London roaster Square Mile with loose-leaf teas and home-made pastries also on offer.

Top tip:

Don't leave it too late. Come 2.30 pm, the selection is limited and most stalls are beginning to pack away by 3pm. There are benches in Fortune Park if you prefer to tackle your burrito while seated.

When: 11am-3pm Monday-Friday
Where: Whitecross St. EC1Y, Barbican tube

Real Food Market

Another Southbank stalwart, some would argue that the street food here is better than at nearby Borough. Between them, the stalls offer a globetrotting menu with everything from handmade gnocchi to confit duck and Indian dosa.

A stall run by London grocer Turnips has a good selection of fruit and veg, though it comes with a hefty price tag. Deliciously nutty Comté from the Jura region in France makes for a better investment, stop by the Borough Cheese Company for a sample.

While no longer among the regulars, you can occasionally catch Poppy and Sebastian, who sell some of the most beautiful cakes in the city, decorated with tempered chocolate, summer fruits and edible flowers. Flavours change with the seasons and include innovative combinations like pistachio and quince, peanut and salted caramel, and jasmine and lychee.

For a faultless flat white, look for Ethiopean coffee stall, Ground Control. Owner Anteneh Mulu will talk you through the blends on offer. If you're in need of something stronger, there's cider from Somerset, a champagne bar and a stand run by local brewers Meantime nearby.

The market is open until 8pm on a Friday and makes a popular after-work hangout, particularly during the summer months.

Top tip:

Special events, including a cheese and wine festival are held throughout the year, keep an eye on the market's calendar.

When: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX
Where: Friday-Saturday 11am-8pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm

http://www.realfoodfestival.co.uk/market/

Maltby Street

Every weekend this scruffy set of Bermondsey railway arches transforms into a food-lovers paradise; the place to find Normandy cheeses, locally smoked salmon infused with juniper and beech wood, and New York-style deli sandwiches.

The St John Bakery sells an excellent range of sourdough bread, along with sugar-dusted doughnuts filled with custard and blackberry jam, that have acquired near legendary status among London gourmets. Other breakfast options, including waffles and American pancakes, can be found at a branch of Bea's of Bloomsbury.

Killer gin cocktails from small-batch distiller Little Bird are a further highlight. As is Tozino, run  by former jamon carvers to the Spanish royal family, and Brambletye Fruit Farm which sells biodynamic veg, eggs and pressed apple juice.

Top tip:

Many stalls are cash only and the nearest ATM is a walk away. Come prepared.

When: 9am-4pm Saturday, 11-4 Sunday
Where: Maltby Street, SE1 3PA

http://www.maltby.st/

Broadway Market:

Hackney resident Broadway is an eclectic mix of traditional barrows and achingly cool hipster hangouts that arrived following a revamp in 2004. It's a winning formula and one that has seen the market rise to prominence over the last few years. It now features over 80 stalls selling cheap and cheerful fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and homemade preserves along with French patisserie, coffee and loose-leaf teas.

Lunch-time offerings include curries from the all-veggie Gujarati Rasoi (think spiced cauliflower and warming dhal with yoghurt and tamarind dressing) as well as salt beef, and Mexican tacos. Middle Eastern delicacies such as baklava, can also be found, along with cakes and beautiful handmade chocolates courtesy of  Cocoa&Me.

East-end trendies like to mix food and fashion and the market also does a good line in vintage clothing. For designer labels at a fraction of the price, it's worth giving the sale racks a postprandial browse.

Top tip:

Broadway takes its eco credentials seriously. You can buy one of the market's elegant cotton totes or bring your own. Either way, it's best to leave the plastic bags at home.

When: Saturday 9am-5pm
Where: E8 4PH

http://www.broadwaymarket.co.uk/