Ever since Jamie Oliver, or some TV chef, announced that they got their produce from Borough Market, it has become ‘trendy’ – compelete with flocks of tourists and a few pristine-looking stalls with the haughty signs: ‘only customers allowed to take photos’.
However, these small changes are not yet threatening to take the market away from its roots – delivery trucks still honk and shudder their way through the street cutting down the middle of the market, trains still rumble and shake overhead. And most of the stalls, in the old stone buildings, are not too polished, still just offering high quality produce from fruit and veg to artisan meringues. And as a place to travel the world in food, it is unparalleled.
Cheery red and yellow umbrellas cast a warm glow over the global produce – from parma ham to empanadas, the outdoor area is a treat for the senses. Traders stand behind their stalls, flipping through a newspaper, chatting to a neighbour or, occasionally, advertising their product. It is a relaxed, casual atmosphere, set against a background of international chatter from shoppers and traders alike.
I just love London’s Victorian architecture and it’s pleasing to know that, despite the odd touch of ‘trendy’, most of Borough Market is holding true to its roots. There is nothing ‘converted’ or ‘refurbished’ about these warehouses, they are old and functional, simply a space in which to set up shop. In fact, the market here has a history far older than the Victorian era: a market has been held in this area since the Early Middle Ages. This gives it an even earthier, basic feel and it seems to fill a human instinct within me to know, when I listen to the call of a Cockney trader, selling spuds and carrots, that nothing much has changed with the passing of the centuries.
But I have to admit, my favourite Borough Market treat is not something traditionally British; it is a stall run by a charming Italian lady selling her wonderfully indulgent Drunk Cheese. Now, I’m a cheese lover anyway, but this is something special. Great wheels of cheese sit piled on top of one another, pale cheese encased in a deep purple rind. The cheese is matured in barrels of wine, a unique all-in-one take on the magic of cheese and wine. It is called Umbriaco, which means ‘drunken’ in Italian. And it’s delicious.
I hope with all my heart that Borough Market will stay the way it is: unpretentious and with a love of food at its heart. This is why it became such a popular place in the first place – and any encroaching ‘trendiness’ has the opposite effect. Borough Market, I love you just the way you are. Especially your drunken cheese.