Saturday, 5 July 2008

Borough Market is the new black

The ubiquitous chocolate brownie mountain photo - mmmnnnn

I have been slow to jump on the Borough Market bandwagon, but we finally made it there this weekend. There's been a market operating in this area since Roman times, but I suspect it didn't always have quite its modern character. Ever since Jamie Oliver let it be known that he likes to pop along there on Saturday mornings, foodie Brits from all around have swarmed to pick up their gastronomic delights in the graceful lee of Southwark Cathedral. We'd stayed at Munchkin Granny's flat the night before (all well, cat happy to see us) so we managed to get there at a reasonable hour and it was still on the quiet side. We were glad we arrived when we did as even half an hour later it was filling up noticeably.

Piles of mouthwatering chocolates and breads

Was it worth the trek? Did it live up to expectations? We were smitten from our first glimpse of the bread, brownie and fruit-laden stalls. It's usually my prerogative to get giddy in foodie places, but The Scientist got quite excited too. It's by far the biggest market I've been to, and the array of specialist and high-quality stalls is just amazing. There were bread stalls with loaves I could never even contemplate, cakes beyond belief, stands selling just different varieties of Emmenthal, gouda or parmesan, oils, salads, tomatoes, mushrooms, wines and juices. There was a stall selling monster cheese toasties where I would have stood happily smelling the aroma for some time, lots of beautiful berries and vegetables, tofu, Greek, Middle Eastern and German food vendors, and lots of weird and exotic meats. There was a Mexican chilli pepper stand where I was intrigued to find chipotles in adobo - an ingredient I've seen in American recipes and which Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe blogged about just a few days ago. I tasted a bit and it nearly blew my head off so that didn't make its way into my bag. We were going on to a tour of Lord's Cricket Ground afterwards (the original purpose of our visit) so we couldn't get too carried away, but I came away bearing a single bagel (very restrained, I thought), a whole bag of cherry tomatoes, a couple of stripy regular-sized tomatoes, some English gooseberries and cherries, and a glorious box of mixed salad and pitta from Love Veg which was the best lunch I've had in ages. The Scientist is a more convincing foodie really as he actually sampled more things - all involving varieties of meat in bread which I preferred not to enquire too closely about. We also picked out a nice bottle of wine for The Scientist's dad's birthday, thanks to the expert guidance of a vintner guy. Because the vendors are so specialist they really know their goods and really enthused about the background and history of their foods. I would have loved to have bought some more veggies and some of the different cheeses but it wasn't practical this time. We'll just have to go back...

My tasty lunch box!

The Lord's tour was good fun too. The tickets were a Christmas present to The Scientist from his parents, and we selected a weekend when there was no match on so that we could see around as many areas as possible. I'm not too much of an expert on cricket myself, but I've imbibed it vicariously from the various men in my life, and was happy to go and see the original home of the game. We had a very knowledgeable guide (perhaps too knowledgeable - the tour ran over by about half an hour), who showed us the Long Room, the Committee Room, the media centre, the changing rooms and the member's bar. We learnt lots of new things: did you know that the players have to walk through the members' Long Room after they're out - to resounding applause or deathly silence; that Shane Warne hasn't scored 100 at Lord's or got 5 wickets (because McGrath keeps cleaning up first); that the Ashes trophy has only twice ever left the Lord's Museum - including travelling on its own first class ticket to Australia last year; that the trophy Vaughan was photographed with after we won the Ashes (no need for a year there!) is a replica; or that the covers for rain 'hover' and can be out on over the wicket in 35 seconds? We left, replete with new knowledge which may one day be useful in a pub quiz, and swayed home with our foodie purchases. You would hope we had some sort of gastronomic feast after the inspiration of the market. Nope: scrambled egg on bagel. It was a tiring day :)


LisaRene said...

Oh my gosh, that brownie tower is amazing! Wilson would have gone nuts as he is a brownie lover. I would be excited about the breads and cheese :)

Chipotle in adobo is amazingly hot and an excellent addition to many recipes. If you decide to purchase some the next time you get to the market, keep in mind that once you open the can you can freeze what you don't use in single serving amounts.

I have been pondering this for some time - what exactly is your avatar a picture of?

Johanna said...

It must be borough market season - this is the third post on it I have read this week and I really want to go there! The brownie stack was new to me - they must have these in heaven! Your trip sounds great - I would even be happy to do a lords tour - my days as a cricket fan were in my dim and distant youth so I don't know much about today's cricketers but would find it interesting still.

And I did the same curious taste with the chipotle peppers when I opened the tin and ran for water (I know I should have had milk but can't stand it) - a little of that stuff goes a long long way!

Lysy said...

It was amazing - if either of you is over here any time, do put it on the list of things to see! The brownie servings were pretty generous too, and there were enough different breads to keep anyone happy (it sounds as though you and Wilson have a similar split in tastes to The Scientist and I, Lisa!). Thanks for the tip about the chilli, too - I might pick some up next time, knowing that (and with your caution in mind, Johanna!)

A lot of the Lord's tour was about the history of the place, so it was fun even for a non-expert like me.

Ah, the avatar picture! It was trying to be a picture of Mausel playing with some string, but it was quite a dark day and she kept moving before the camera flashed. I thought the one just capturing her tail was so funny that I adopted it, though the door-stop is rather unfortunately placed! I keep meaning to try to photoshop it out. Maybe I'd just better pick a new picture!

LisaRene said...

I guessed it was your cats tail but the arch is so perfect I had to question it :)

Bron said...

The good news is you can get a loyalty card for the brownie mountain - buy ten get one free! We're about three quarters of the way there...

Borough is the best -

Lysy said...

Bron - wow, I didn't know that! That's a whole lot of brownie (enough for a mini mountain, I suppose :)