The Ultimate Guide To Eating At Borough Market

Pick your perfect dining destination at London's food paradise

By Journy Admin

3 August 2018

The History Of Borough Market

As one of London's top destinations for food lovers, it's easy to dismiss Borough Market as a tourist trap. But a market has existed in some form or another on this site for at least 1000 years. Borough market celebrated a millennium of history in 1014, charting their founding back to a passage in Ethelred the Unready's memoir that mentions a market town in Southwark (the London borough where the market exists today).

Other historians estimate the market's history stretched back even further to Roman Britain. Since most people wouldn't have had space in their cramped houses to cook, they would have eaten primarily outside, at markets. It's likely that Ethelred's "market town" evolved from this slap dash collection of vendors as necessary.

Charter from Ethelred the Unready's reign | Cambridge University.

The market hasn't always had a happy relationship with the City of London, just across the London Bridge. While several markets were set up on the southern side of the river, City officials were upset that these markets tended to undercut their own traders with better prices and selection. In 1270, the government even forbade their residents from crossing over to Southwark to purchase their groceries.

By 1550, Edward VI had sold Southwark to the City for £1000. It now ran four days a week and hosted a riotous three-day fair for City residents in September. Just over a hundred years later in 1676, the market was decimated by a huge fire that swept through Southwark. But this did little to deter vendors, who continued to set up shop to such an extent that the market was deemed an impediment to bridge traffic.

Borough Market in the 19th Century | South London Club.

It's around this time that the market as we know it came into being with a £2000 sum to build a market house that would contain all the food selling carriages. Since then it's grown in size and shifted from a wholesale operation to a consumer driven affair. Many credit the arrival of Neal's Yard Dairy, the artisanal cheese purveyor, with the arrival of Borough Market as we know it today.

What hasn't changed, however, is the overwhelming size of the market. For the first time visitor, it's hard to figure out what among the stalls is worth the stomach space. While there are a few iconic market foods, that doesn't mean those are the ones you should be eating. Our concierge have run through the must-visit market stalls to help you figure out which ones are right for you to fall in love with the market.

Pici cacio e pepe at Padella Pasta | Ideal Magazine.

If You Don't Mind Waiting For Sit-Down Pasta, Dine At Padella

Padella is a restaurant located on the side of the market and hits the sweet spots between hip, not-expensive and so-good-you'll-want-seconds. Since the restaurant is none too large and very popular (see above), you're going to have to wait for your table.

Once you're sitting down, here's your game plan: start with the carpaccio or burrata, then move on to pici cacio e pepe, pappardelle with eight-hour beef shin ragù or fettuccine with 'nduja. Fortunately, the portions are sized like an Italian's primo piatto, giving you enough stomach space to devour more than one.

Grilled cheese sandwich from Kappacasein | Essbeevee.

If You Don't Mind Getting Your Hands Dirty, Order A Grilled Cheese Sandwich From Kappacasein

Sure, a cloak of racelette oozing over new potatoes might give you the better cheese pull photo for your Instagram, but if you want crispy cheesy delight, Kappacasein's grilled cheese stuffed with garlic, onions and leeks is a must.

Made with Poilane's famous sourdough (which you can buy at Waitrose supermarkets in London), this sandwich comes with a thin layer of cheddar crisped on the edges for max deliciousness.

Owner Bill Oglethorpe is also known for his Ogleshield cheese made nearby in Bermondsey, which uses full-fat, unpasteurized milk for an unmistakable rich and grassy flavor. Pick some up while you're there!

Cats Love Athens.

If You Want To Understand What All The Fuss About British Pies Are About,Get A Proper One At Pieminster

While Pieminster has become a mini empire producing proper pies, you know you'll get the freshest ones when you head to their Borough Market kiosk.

The options range from traditional meat pies to veg-friendly renditions, and all are delicious. Pies are heated to order and you can even get a range of traditional sides like mushy peas to go with.

Cheese and green olive bread sticks | Slow Vegan Travel.

If You Want To Make Bread Like The Pros, Take A Class And Buy Loaf At Bread Ahead

Not only does Bread Ahead offer some of London's best sourdough bread, focaccia and cream-filled doughnuts, it also hosts a range of classes for amateur and pro bakers to hone their kitchen skills.

A loyal following debates the absolute of their freshly-fried doughnuts, but their honeycomb and vanilla are perennial favorites. This is the best place to stop in the morning, when all their products are freshest from the oven. Pick up something to munch as you explore the rest of the market.

Justin Larissa.

If You're A Bivalve Nerd, Sample English Oysters At Richard Haward's Oysters

Hold your skepticism oyster snobs—Richard Haward's freshly shucked oysters are worth a visit. If not for the fact that they're shucked to order, then for the ability to sample a British oyster that's sure to make you reconsider the age old debate between east and west coast allegiance.

Haward himself comes from a family of oyster harvesters who have been scouring the shallow creeks around Mersea Island for the best bivalves since 1792. His speciality is cultivating Gigas and Colchester oysters, which are briney like east coast ones. Slurp them standing at the counter.

Brindisa's chorizo sandwich | Infatuation.

If You Just Need To Grab An Ace Sandwich For Lunch, Opt For Brindisa

Sandwich lovers in need of a meal that's quick but doesn't sacrifice deliciousness know that Brindisa is the best option in Borough Market, if not in all of London itself.

A crusty ciabatta roll is stuffed piquillo peppers, arugula and chorizo grilled to order. The combination of flavor and textures has made this sandwich a market stalwart for ten plus years. Get there early if you want to avoid the crowds that line up for it around lunch time.

Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market | Whiskers + London.

If You Don't Believe A Country Of Tea Drinkers Can Do Coffee, Line Up For Freshly Roasted Beans From Monmouth Coffee

Monmouth Coffee is hands down one of the most popular stalls in Borough Market and the lines rarely abate. But it's for a good reason—whether you crave a creamy cappuccino or prefer the tea-like quality of a single-origin Ethiopian Monmouth has it, and does it better than the competitors. The best option is to go there first thing and take your coffee to-go as the crowds get ridiculous the later it gets in the day.

Moong dal dosa at Horn Ok Please | Drive on the Left.

If You're Craving Healthy Street Food, Grab A Dosa From Horn Ok Please

The name Horn Ok Please comes from a slogan frequently emblazoned on the back of vehicles in India. But in London, it's the name for some of the best vegetarian-friendly and totally delicious Indian street food. The offerings range from a dense moong dal dosas to the aloo tikka chaat, which has more textures and flavors than we have words to describe.

Duck confit sandwich | Migrationology.

If You Want A Satisfying French Sandwich, Dive Into A Duck Confit Sandwich From Le Marché Du Quartier

Forget French cuisine's reputation for formal steak dinners and light-as-air croissants—the duck confit sandwich from Le Marché du Quartier proves that the French can do over-the-top street food just as good as any one else. Head for the sizzling paella-style pan of luscious duck confit, which gets scooped onto a long, soft roll pre-slathered with spicy mustard. For just £5, it's one of the best deals at the market.

Garry Knight on Flickr