If you live in London, you’ll end up browsing Borough Market food at least once a year. It’s just a fact of living here, like schoolkids playing the new Chris Brown single on full at the back of the bus, or being indescribably terrified of getting bumped onto the tracks while you’re waiting for a tube.
Accepting this inevitability means that you also need a plan of attack before you head for the market. Ideally, you’ll be able to get to all the best stuff without joining any old queue because you’re worried that you’ll miss out, and you’ll minimise the time you spend sandwiched between French tour groups. Here’s our guide to make sure that happens.
Start here. Monmouth has some of the best coffee in Borough (if not all of London), and their filter coffee is especially good. Just try to get here in the morning or mid-afternoon if you want to avoid the peak time queues. It’s especially nice to stroll around with a hot cup of caffeine while fantasising that you might actually do something with those expensive vegetables you just bought.
Good cheese is basically proof that God exists, and there aren’t many better places to get the heavenly stuff than at Neal’s Yard. Just off the main part of Borough market, you can get everything here, from a nice Gruyere for that dinner party you’re dreading, to a ridiculously good Stichelton (the original Stilton) that you can eat at home on the sofa.
The chorizo roll at Brindisa is one of London’s best sandwiches, full stop. All you need to know is that there’s some sweet pepper, some spicy chorizo, and rocket in a white bun and that you definitely won’t be mad that you ate it. Double up on the chorizo if you like to live dangerous.
You can get fresh shucked oysters at Richard Haward in the market, and you’re going to want to do that. Grab a seat and order up a few along with a chilled glass of wine. For feeling like a baller on the cheap, this is pretty much unbeatable - just don’t take a date here if you’ve promised them a slap-up seafood meal.
Speaking of sandwiches, we love the cheese toastie at Kappacasein. If you want to keep your hands kind of clean, get the new potatoes with melted cheese instead. There will be a line at all times of day, but it moves fast.
We like to hit this Indian place up when we’re pretending that we’re being a bit healthy, as we often conveniently forget that ‘vegetarian’ isn’t the same as ‘healthy’. Even if you’re not familiar with half the menu (Indian street food dishes like papdi chaat, pau bhaji), rest assured that it’s all excellent and it’ll just mean you can eat more free salami samples later on.
A market isn’t a real market without donuts, and the donuts at Bread Ahead are properly good. If you bring a box into work, you’ll pretty much be guaranteed a raise. Your boss said so.
When you walk into Borough Market, one of the first things you’ll see is the massive beer and wine stall. What you might not notice is that the owners also have a pub behind the market, which is where you should go if you want to do some serious beer drinking It’s a tiny bar but they have a small outdoor bit for warm days, and the staff are freakishly knowledgeable about their craft and proper ales. The Rake is a perfect escape while your other half is cooing over some wild mushrooms.
Don’t let the weather put you off - the ice cream at Gelateria 3BIS tastes just as good in the rain as it does in the sunshine. The stracciatella and hazelnut flavours are our favourites, and the answer should be ‘yes’ if they ask if you’d like some chocolate sauce. Wandering around the market with one of these is a pleasure, especially if you happen to be around when the crowds thin a little.
There are enough stalls at Borough that you could spend an entire day there if you tried to hit at each one. But the market also has some very good sit-down restaurants that are worth slowing things down for, and Elliot’s is one of them. Elliot’s is a wine bar/cafe with French and Italian-influenced sharing plates and a killer cheeseburger at lunch that’s definitely better than any of the burgers in the market itself.
If we were with our aunt Kate and our cousins in the market, and wanted to get away for a meal that didn’t involve standing up, we’d head to Padella. Here, you can sit at the bar and eat handmade pasta for a fiver that’s as good as any in London these days. Get the pappardelle with slow-cooked meat, or the ravioli with herb butter and goat’s cheese. Though you can grab a seat, there’s still a chance you’ll have to queue, but unlike half of the stuff at the market, the food here is actually worth it.
Wright Brothers is our favourite spot to perch with a beer and a pint of prawns, because it feels like you’re in Borough market without having to actually deal with the craziness of the market itself. It overlooks the stalls and specialises in seafood, so you can get everything from a snack to a full-blown seafood tower if you’ve had a bit too much too drink / have lost a bet. Sitting here in the sunshine with a cold tipple is a quintessentially London experience and perhaps the one thing we’d unequivocally travel to Borough for.