A few Sundays ago, on a bright and sunny Autumn day, my partner and I took the DLR to Shadwell to have a mooch round Wapping Market.
Launched at the end of June this year (and the latest project of Toby Allen who is chief organiser of Brockley Market), I was enticed by descriptions of buttermilk fried chicken, gloriously sticky jams and tables of cured meat and cheese. But I admit that the biggest draw for me was the prospect of handmade doughnuts from the Crosstown Doughnut stand.
The market was smaller than I expected. I had envisaged a lot more stalls heaving with trendy Londoners armed with hessian tote bags and even though it’s open from 10am-2pm every Sunday, when we arrived at 10.40am there was only about two other people and their dog. And us.
You’d think that beating the crowds would be a bonus when it came to getting served but I stood for 10 mins (no exaggeration) waiting to order and pay for 2 bacon butties while the bearded young chaps frying the bacon chatted about their Saturday night. I would have given up after about 5 mins but the bacon smelt pretty darn good so I waited another 5 (they could SEE I was waiting!) before walking off in a bit of a strop to get coffee.
At the coffee stand I was second in the queue but somehow managed to get sidelined so that the two newly arrived people behind me got served before me (most irksome). This was not a good start. Spotting the slight flare to my nostrils (like a horse about to kick off) my partner quickly steered me towards the Crosstown Doughnut stand and oh joy of joys! One mouthful of their Creme Brulee doughnut (a sticky caramel outside with a fresh vanilla creme centre) and all was well with the world! Resentments towards any perceived slights were forgotten.
We walked around Shadwell Basin watching the various kayakers and canoists having a morning row (as in “paddle in the water”, not an argument) until a suitable time when it was justifiable to try a fried chicken burger with Korean hot sauce from Spit and Roast. That too, with a side of their coleslaw, was incredibly tasty.
If you fancy checking out this Sunday market, my suggestion would be to head there around 11.30ish for a coffee (and if you want a doughnut, buy it sooner rather than later as they quickly sell out), have a look at all the stalls selling fresh produce then have lunch (there are stalls catering for vegetarians as well).
This market is quite small so if the docklands area is a bit of a schlep for you, you could make a whole day of it and head over to Columbia Road Flower Market in the afternoon.
TOP TIP #1: By going late afternoon to Columbia Road Market, flowers and plants start getting reduced so that market traders don’t have to lug all their plants and flowers back to base. You can pick up some real bargains by timing it right.
So, despite a disappointing start, I ended up enjoying a meander round Wapping Market. The experience made me want to test out a few more of the foodie markets happening in the capital. So here’s brief outline of what’s taking place and when.
- Brockley Market – the more established, big sister market to Wapping. Held Saturdays 10am-2pm. Click here for details.
- Partridges Food Market – every Saturday in the Duke of York Square in Chelsea from 10am -4pm. There are now around 70 stalls filled with fresh farm produce, artisan bread, cake vendors, international specialities and health foods. See here for details.
- Broadway Market – stalls in this Hackney Market open from 9am-5pm and there are over 100 selling a range of food and baked produce with also some vintage clothes and accessories in the mix. Check it out here.
- Walthamstow Market – there’s a daily market which stretches the length of Walthamstow High Street and also a farmer’s market every Sunday between 10am-2pm. Particular highlights of the farmer’s market includes stalls by SeaFayre fish from Kent, free-range pigs from Giggly Pig in Romford, Quarry Farm ethical veal, and Brambletye Farm biodynamic eggs and fruit.
- Real Food Markets – there’s one every weekend at the Real Food Market behind the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank and also one in Kings Cross. Check out dates, times and the kind of stalls there are, here.
- Islington, Blackheath (near the station) and Peckham (near the library) are well served each weekend with a farmer’s market. Have a delicious coffee whilst you browse the stalls of cheese, bread, meat, cakes and jams. The Blackheath one often has a plant stall as well selling indoor and outdoor plants and flowers. Find your nearest London Farmer’s Market here.
- Borough Market – this has undergone some renovation and expansion of late with a new roofed area – very handy on those rainy London days. This is probably the mother of all food markets and is very popular with tourists and locals alike. The stalls are pretty permanent throughout the week but weekends are especially packed. It can be quite pricey but you’ll get some great food and some unusual stalls can be found here – ones specialising in liquorice or Turkish delight for example.
TOP TIP #2: You might be stuck for a cash machine near some of these outdoor food markets so take cash. Bear in mind you’re likely to spend more than you think. Organic local produce, artisan breads and home-made jams will be much more expensive than your supermarket prices but you’ll know the food is of a good quality and is usually grown and reared to high, ethical standards. Without the impact of air miles, buying local British food is much kinder to the environment. Paying these farmers properly for high quality produce is definitely worth supporting if you can afford it and going to a market is a lovely thing to do of a weekend. Cut down on the plastic bags and pack a few of those hessian tote bags too.