Thursday, April 5, 2012

London's Borough Market & Elliot's Café

Borough Market is London's oldest and most renowned food market, a veritable gourmand's delight, boasting a mouthwatering range of fresh food stalls under its Dickensian wrought-iron roof. Known in its heyday as London's Larder, the market has been a part of London's food culture since the 13th century and has existed at its current location since 1755 — there was even a market here in Southwark at the time of the Roman conquest in the 5th century. Located on Borough High Street, just south of Southwark Cathedral, on the southern end of London Bridge, the Market draws over 70 organic farmers, artisanal producers, world-class bakers, and gourmet food importers from all over the world, in addition to local favourites Neal's Yard, Monmouth Coffee and lots of fabulous little restaurants. 

The Art Deco entrance to Borough Market from Borough High Street, built in 1932

A fashionable place to buy food, Borough Market has even found itself on British television cooking programmes — Jamie Oliver often shoots here, and it was also used in several well known movies including Bridget Jones's Diary, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban. In one of the Potter films, Harry careens through London's lamp-lit streets on a purple three-decker bus that dumps him at the Leaky Cauldron. In this film, the pub's exterior was shot on rough looking Stoney Street at the southeast edge of Borough Street Market, outside the florist Chez Michele.

Chez Michele was transformed into The Leaky Cauldron in one of the Harry Potter films

Hobbs Roast Meat

Michael and Julie Hobbs know how to get a queue started. Located just inside the main entrance to the Market, you can smell the fragrant fare of Hobbs Roast Meat before you even see it. They serve hot meat baguettes chocked full of roast loin of pork with stuffing and apple sauce, turkey breast with stuffing and cranberry sauce and salt beef with dill pickle and mustard. There was a long queue when we arrived in the morning, and an even longer one when we left after lunch. Londoners know what they like, and they love Hobbs.

The vaulted glass roof of Borough Market protect's vendors and shoppers from inclement weather

Borough Market's wholesale fruit and vegetables

Borough Market has been home to wholesale fruit and vegetable traders since long before its renaissance as an upscale retail market. These wholesalers continue to work through the night, supplying restaurants, shops and delicatessens with high quality produce, from 5am to 8am five days a week.

Meat pies from Wild Boar to Lancashire Pork

The revered Melton Mowbray pork pie, named after a town in Leicestershire, became popular among fox hunters in the area during the late nineteenth century. This quintessential English pie is made with a hand-formed crust and is baked free-standing, which gives the pie a slightly irregular shape after baking with the sides bowing out. Seeking protected geographical indication status for this world-famous pork pie, the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association applied for protection under the European "Protected designation of origin" laws as a result of the increasing production of Melton Mowbray-style pies by large commercial factories far from Melton Mowbray, and recipes that deviated from the original uncured pork form. Protection was granted on 4 April 2008, with the result that only pies made within a designated zone around Melton, and using the traditional recipe including uncured pork, are allowed to carry the Melton Mowbray name on their packaging. 

The revered Melton Mowbray Pie now has DOP status

Founded in Covent Garden in 1979 by Randolph Hodgson, Neal's Yard offers a stunning array of cheeses sourced from over 70 specialist cheesemakers on farms all over the UK and Ireland. Many of the cheeses are aged in Neal’s Yard Dairy’s maturing rooms under the brick railway arches of Bermondsey. A team of five takes care of the cheeses, carefully turning them and sometimes brushing or washing them until they ripen. The morning we were there, we were offered a taste of two Neal's Yard cheeses which were so ripe, runny and delicious, I was tempted to buy a whole wheel and to smuggle it home. 

The fabulous purveyor of cheese — Neal's Yard

Inside Neal's Yard with wheels of cheese stacked to the rafters

Oysters being sold al fresco — 12 oysters shucked and dressed for just £5

Merchants come from all over England and Europe to sell their produce. Delicious local fruit, fish, meat, milk, cider, beer, fruit juices and preserves take their place alongside olives, olive oil, pasta and sauces from Italy, cheese, wine and bread from France, a thousand and one wursts from Germany, oranges from Spain and Portugal and Biltong, a cured meat delicacy, from South Africa.

Biltong, a cured meat delicacy from South Africa

Lovely loaves of Pugliese and other artisanal breads

Runny, stinky and perfectly ripe French cheeses — yum!

The South Portico from the Covent Garden Floral Hall was dismantled when the Royal Opera House was reconstructed in the 1990s, and stored in Wales until it re-erected and brought back to life, when Borough Market was rejuvenated in 2004. The top floor is now occupied by Roast, serving the best British food from fresh ingredients purchased in the market. 

Borough Market Hall, the magnificent portico of the old Covent Garden Floral Hall,
which was re-erected on site in 2004

Considered to have the best coffee in London, Monmouth sells their black gold either as whole roasted beans, ground to suit your desired method of brewing or brewed on site to drink in or take away. Their wide variety of beans are sourced from single farms, estates and cooperatives from around the world, and judging by the never ending lineups, they've also got the recipe for success. 

London's most popular coffee house — Monmouth

Working closely with Borough Market traders, Elliot's sources its ingredients directly from the Market each and every day, offering a daily changing menu that reflects the range of produce available. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday, they offer unusual wines from small vineyards with a particular interest in the organic, bio-dynamic and natural approach, in addition to cider from the New Forest and beers from a range of London based small scale brewers. A tiny restaurant, we were very lucky to get the last table inside for lunch. 

Elliot's in London's Borrough Market

We started with half a dozen Rock Oysters which arrived as cold as if they'd just been plucked from the sea. Thick and juicy, they were among the best oysters I've ever had. As entrées, we ordered the Warm Smoked Salmon with buttery and creamy scrambled eggs on toast, garnished with organic baby radishes and microgreens, as well as Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Cucumber Salad and hot sauce, and a bowl of Roast Potatoes with Mayonnaise and a Radicchio, Fennel & Caper Salad with Watercress which came with each entrée. Wonderfully prepared and absolutely delicious, Eliott's was the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing lunch and glass of wine before heading off to explore further unchartered realms of Borough Market — although that could take a week or more. What a delightful notion!

Half a dozen rock oysters from Mersey

Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Cucumber Salad and hot sauce

Roast Potatoes with Mayonnaise and a Radicchio, Fennel & Caper Salad with Watercress

Warm Smoked Salmon with Creamed Scrambled Eggs on Toast, 
garnished with organic baby radishes and microgreens

The tiny casual interior of Elliot's

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