The key word for food markets these days is “options”. We have gone from stalls serving lukewarm flask tea and throat scraping flap jacks, the breeding ground for the most exciting versions of burgers, dumplings, mac-and cheese this fair city might be able to cope with. Here are the top spots to wander through on a sunny day and take the option to eat an eclectic range of amazing dishes.
Check out the rest of our Summer Guide here.
Camden at the weekend is like every embarrassing adolescent moment you’ve ever had, rolled into a few hundred metres of tattoo parlour, goth store, and vape cafe. Skip the Stables Market and wander over to KERB which, while still completely bumrushed at the weekend, has far better eating options. Of these, the fried chicken and burritos from Mother Clucker and Luardos still do it for us, and the mac ‘n’ cheese from the Mac Factory. There’s a lot of instahyped stuff too - you can safely avoid the halloumi fries and vegan tacos, and don’t even bother with the cheese wheel.
Is there a better nighttime place to hang out with great food and drinks than at POP Brixton? We don’t think so. It’s a neon-lit complex of shipping containers packed with street food vendors and mini restaurants, hawking everything from fancy Spanish tapas and Ghanaian comfort food, to the greatest fried chicken sandwich in London. You’ll come here and never want to leave. It’s awesome for a group, and an excellent plan of action would be just to rock up to Brixton at the weekend with a few friends and bounce from one stall to another all evening.
Sometimes you don’t want to go all night. Sometimes you just want to chill at a picnic table with a few mates, share a pizza and some noodles, and get slowly drunk in the sunshine. Flat Iron Square’s probably the most chilled of London’s street food hangouts, with a laid-back vibe that’s largely due to its unassuming Southwark location beneath some railway arches, but also due to its relative obscurity. Unlike Dinerama, you won’t find any lairy youths here. The food, though, is very good. Hit up Ekachai for Malaysian char kway teow noodles and dim sum, Savage Salads for, er, nice salads, and Bar Douro for fancy Portuguese small plates.
When it opened in autumn 2016, street food market Mercato Metropolitano looked pretty glum - like London itself, it was pretty grim in the winter, all grey and wet, and the random location between Borough and Elephant definitely didn’t help. In warm weather though, it makes sense - it’s a good spot to rock up at the weekend with a few friends and eat and drink in the sunshine. On top of the usual craft beer, burgers and hot dogs, there’s an Italian slant (clue’s in the name) and as well as a build-your-own tiramisu and Italian sandwiches, there’s a grocery where you can pick up some fancy cured meat and cheese. Give it a visit when you want something a bit more chilled out than the usual street food scene.
Open air food markets aren’t as common in West London as they are elsewhere, presumably because when you have so many private squares to day drink in, you don’t really need Korean burritos. Pergola Central is a nice addition in Paddington, then, with a setup that’s halfway between an open food court and a Mediterranean garden, with loads of pretty plants and a beachy vibe that’ll make your Instagram followers think that you’re in Mykonos. The food lineup is decent - burger from Patty & Bun, tacos from DF/Mexico and trendy Southern cooking from Decatur - and there’s heaps of space for your whole crew.
Welcome to one of the best hangout spots in all of London - Maltby Street Market is so good that we even come in the middle of winter. In summer though, it’s unbeatable - it’s a narrow street packed wall-to-wall with excellent food vendors and the odd antique store, and if you don’t leave a couple of kilos heavier, there could be something wrong with you. Besides excellent food options and plenty of space in the area to perch with a drink, it’s bookended by some excellent restaurants, including St John’s Maltby outpost and small plates specialist 40 Maltby Street. Plan to get here at the weekend and spend at least a couple of hours eating your weight in doughnuts.
Being in the middle of Shoreditch sets up a couple of ways to do Dinerama, a vast indoor space with plenty of eating and boozing options. You can drop in for a casual and cheap bite to eat before hitting some of the bars on the high street, or you can bring a huge group easily at the last minute and make a night of it. The food options are excellent - the cheeseburger from Burger and Beyond’s up there with the best in town, and the wood-fired pizzas from Fundi are dead-cert crowd pleasers. There’s also Swedish barbecue (we’re not sure what makes it Swedish, but it’s good), and plenty of craft beer and cocktail options to lubricate you for the night ahead. You’ll need it.
There’s a reason why your trendiest mate upped sticks to London Fields - at the weekend, it’s one of the best places to hang out in London. It’s even better in the summer, and Broadway Market is a big reason why. Hit up Dumpling Shack for some tasty (if pricey) pan-fried dumplings, Black Bear for killer cheeseburgers, and Butchies for a brilliant fried chicken sandwich.
Just next door, Netil Market is home to the original Bao (of Soho queue fame), where you can grab a fluffy, porky bun without waiting for ages. Afterwards, wander over to one of the surrounding bars for a drink and some A+ people watching, or collapse in London Fields for a nap. It’s a scene, but it’s an incredibly entertaining one.