Countless visitors cite it as a highlight of their London vacations. This popular complex combines Victorian commercial hubbub with glorious, farm-fresh flavors, rendered as finger food for visitors. If there’s any country that has farming down, it’s England, and this market is its showplace. About a dozen greenmarket vendors sell their country meats, cheeses, and vegetables beneath its metal-and-glass canopy all week long, but the market really blooms Thursday through Saturday, when more than 100 additional vendors unpack and the awe-inspiring scene hits its swing. The least crowded time is Thursday between 11am and noon; Saturdays are plain nuts. It’s best to pay with cash—most dishes are around £6 to £8—and you’ll eat standing up. Buy a flute of Prosecco from one of the vendors selling it and feel your palate lighten. Some don’t-miss stops (you’ll find more of your own):
* Under the Victorian glass canopy of Three Crown Square, Le Marché du Quartier (www.marketquarter.com) does duck confit sandwiches.
* Sample never-exported cheeses like melt-in-your-mouth Bath soft cheese (www.parkfarm.co.uk) or aromatic unpasteurized Gorwydd Caerphilly (www.trethowansdairy.co.uk).
* 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; a bathtub-big pot of paella bubbles at its neighbor Bomba.
* The Green Market, along the fence by the cathedral, is a carnival of individual stalls serving various international dishes. Roast Hog (www.roasthog.com) slices pig off a turning spit; Greedy Goat scoops lactose-free goat milk ice cream (rhubarb custard, “Billi Vanilli”).
* Artisan cacao in drink and food at Rabot 1745 on Bedale Street.
* Roast (www.roast-restaurant.com), which runs an expensive restaurant upstairs, has a stall for rich meats such as roast pork belly with crackling, or Bramley applesauce and beef with horseradish cream.
* At Maria’s Market Café, the second-generation proprietor slaves over a stove making fresh bubble (a mushy version of home fries) for vendors and visitors alike.
* The Brindisa Grill booth (www.brindisa.com), facing Stoney Street, feeds a steady line of punters its grilled chorizo sandwich with oil-drizzled pequillo peppers from Spain.
* Outside on Stoney and Park streets, by the well-stocked Market Porter pub and casual sit-down restaurant Elliot’s, are more finds: Kappacasein dairy from Bermondsey (www.kappacasein.com), which melts great wheels of Ogleshield cheese into decadent raclette or a goopy grilled cheese sandwich; Monmouth Coffee Company (www.monmmouthcoffee.com), for 40 years one of London’s most revered roasters, which sends tasters around to world to monitor the single-source growers of its beans; and Neal’s Yard Dairy (www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk), the gold standard for English cheese, tended by clerks in caps and aprons.
It’s all food you can only enjoy in London. You may locate all or none of these delicacies among the clamor; this overstimulation of the senses is an individual game. This was the setting of a shocking terrorist knife attack in June 2017 that began on London Bridge and ended when the three assailants were shot dead in front of the Wheatsheaf pub. You will not find any reminders of that dark night, and workers prefer not to be asked about it (several of them were injured or killed). In London, the market goes on, as it has for centuries on this very spot. There has been one on this very spot since the 1100s. Welcome to its story.