Go when you’re hungry and once you’re back home, you will dream about it for months. A chronicle of overstimulation, it combines Victorian commercial hubbub with glorious, farm-fresh flavors, rendered as finger food for visitors. About a dozen greenmarket vendors sell their countryside meats, cheeses, and vegetables all week long, but the market blooms beneath its metal-and-glass canopy Thursdays through Saturdays, when more than 100 additional vendors unpack and the awe-inspiring, touristy scene hits overcrowded swing. The least crowded time is Thursdays between 11am and noon; Saturdays are plain nuts.
If there’s any country that has farming down, it’s England, and this market is its showplace. Follow the crowd across Bedale Street, past the artisan drinking chocolate at Rabot 1745, to the west end of the fence by the cathedral to Kappacasein dairy from Bermondsey (www.kappacasein.com), which places great wheels of cheese under burners and sloughs bubbling swaths of it onto plates of boiled new potatoes (it’s called raclette, £6, and the only thing to rival it for decadence is the same booth’s goopy grilled cheese, £5, which you’ll taste all day after eating). Roast Hog (www.roasthog.com) slices pig off a turning spit; Le Marché du Quartier (www.marketquarter.com) does duck confit sandwiches (£5); you can’t export either melt-in-your-mouth Bath soft cheese (www.parkfarm.co.uk) or aromatic unpasteurized Gorwydd Caerphilly cheese (www.trethowansdairy.co.uk). The Brindisa booth (www.brindisa.com) facing Stone Street, feeds a steady line of punters its grilled chorizo sandwich with oil-drizzled pequillo peppers from Spain (£3.75); and Shellseekers, the fishmonger in the center, is known for hand-dived Devon scallop, served in its own shell and topped with a bacon and sprout stir-fry (£5.50). Roast (www.roast-restaurant.com), which runs an expensive restaurant upstairs, has a stall for rich meats such as roast pork belly with crackling and Bramley apple sauce and beef with horseradish cream (both £6.50). At Maria’s Market Café, the moon-faced, second-generation proprietor slaves over a stove making fresh bubble (kind of a mushy version of home fries) for vendors and visitors alike (it’s £2 on a roll). Outside on Stone Street, opposite the well-stocked Market Porter pub, three more finds: Monmouth Coffee (www.monmmouthcoffee.com), which sends emissaries to check its single-farm beans in the field, is one of London’s most revered roasters; Gelateria 3bis has an ultra-creamy fior di latte flavor made from rich English milk plus a warm chocolate fountain for pre-filling cones; and Neal’s Yard Dairy (www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk), stacked high and tended by clerks in caps and aprons, is the gold standard for English cheese. Like almost everything at Borough, it’s food you can only enjoy in London—and there are dozens more delicacies if you’ll explore with an empty stomach.