London's Street Food Markets
London’s foodie scene is thriving – and not just in its restaurants. Sarah Riches shares her favourite food markets
Back in the dark ages – and I mean before the UK’s food revolution at the turn of the millennium – it’s fair to say that the UK wasn’t exactly known for its cuisine. London has always had bustling food markets – Borough Market is probably London's most famous food market and has traded since around 1014 – but the food on offer was more wonky carrots than emu burgers and rainbow toasties. But now every neighbourhood has some kind of market, so here are my favourite.
Good for convenient location
If you’re walking between Coca-Cola London Eye, Underbelly Festival and the National Theatre, Southbank Centre Food Market – held in the square behind the Royal Festival Hall – is a handy spot for a break (Fri-Sun). The market has 40 stalls, plus eight pop-up bars this summer. Korrito, which serves Korean pear-infused bulgogi beef, is unusual, but my favourite is Shrimpy’s signature dish, the Shrimpster: a grilled shrimp burger with avocado and samphire in a bun. Sit on the steps overlooking the square or on one of the benches lining the River Thames.
Good for hipsters
Street Feast knows what hipsters want: Negronis, neon and food stalls with witty names like Mother Clucker. If that scene appeals, head to Dinerama (Wed-Sat), a two-storey food hub in Shoreditch which fits up to 1,000. The space has nine food stalls and 10 bars including a rooftop cocktail bar and tiki hut. Look out for Caribbean chicken wings from White Men Can’t Jerk and ice cream desserts from Chin Chin Labs, which is famous for its flame-grilled marshmallows, gold salt and signature dry ice. The Street Feast team is also behind Hawker House, a warehouse for 3,000 in Canada Water; Giant Robot, a rooftop for 700 in Canary Wharf; and Model Market, an old 1950s market for 1,000 in Lewisham.
Good for families
Kerb (pictured above) holds markets across London in Paddington, St Katharine Docks, West India Quay, near the Gherkin in the City and near Coal Drops Yard behind King’s Cross Station (Wed-Fri). The King’s Cross one is the original Kerb market and my favourite, as it’s held in Granary Square by the canal. It has about 10 stalls; I usually go for a bowl of rice topped with diced tuna or salmon, edamame, pineapple and seaweed from Lords of Poké. Stalls vary between sites, but look out for paella from Jamon. Jamon and ginger beer-buttered chicken nuggets from Only Jerkin'. Children will love splashing about in the fountain, while hot-pink beanbags keep Instagrammers happy.
Good for experiencing a local vibe
If you want to experience London like a Londoner, visit one of the capital’s 30 or so farmers’ markets. Among the most central are Westminster Bridge (Thur), Parliament Hill (Sat) and Marylebone (Sun). My favourite – and my local – is Alexandra Palace Farmer’s Market (Sun), which has 40 stalls. Make a day of it by visiting the park’s garden centre and café, boating lake, pitch and putt and ice rink, or see a show at Alexandra Palace Theatre.
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Good for the history
Berwick Street Market in Soho is one of the city's oldest markets, dating bacl to 1778. Highlights include curry and rice at Afghan Delights, fluffy pitta filled with souvlaki (skewered meat) at Greek2Go and Carribean cuisine at Lime Hut.
Good for vegans
While you are there, visit Soho Vegan Market, which opened in spring. The Saturday market on Rupert Street has stalls including Zoe's Ghana Kitchen, Little Leaf Pizza and Planty Hugs, with gluten-free, raw cakes.
Good for weekenders
Canopy Market is held on weekends by the canal behind King's Cross. While it sells work by artists and has music on Friday evenings, it's Korean rice or arancini balls will grab your attention. Dont miss Growlers, which serves pregos (a Portuguese sandwich). Co-founder Charley Friedman says: "This isn't first-date food! When you eat a prego, you'll get steak juice on your chin, butter on your lips and breadcrumbs down your top."
Good for an alternative to Borough Market
Borough Market has been challenged by its close neighbour, Maltby Street Market, which runs alongside railway arches. Arrive hungry and fill up on messy burgers from African Volcano, cheese toasties from The Cheese TRuck and salted caramel treats from Bad Brownie, which, in their words, "are so good they're bad."
So go on - take a bite out of the capital's street food markets.
If food al fresco is your jam check out our guide to London’s hidden restaurant courtyards and secret dining terraces
Images courtesy of istock and Kerb