London’s food markets offer sizzling global street food and delicious produce to take away. These are some of the city’s best.
Some of these sites – like the famous Borough Market – have been offering a wide range of food for centuries. But London’s markets increasingly feel like destinations rather than pit stops. Take your pick, from ceviche and bao to blue cheese and sourdough pizza. Individual stalls come and go, meaning there’s always something new to discover.
This South Bank legend offers everything from Dorset scallops to French comte, Taiwanese bao to Estonian stout. There’s been a market in the vicinity since the 12th century, when this riverside stretch was right at the city’s edge, and traders sold meat, beer and fish to travellers heading in or out of London. These days, it’s a treat for browsers, who can wander through alleyways and arches, checking out over 100 stalls before heading into one of many restaurants or pubs such as Market Porter, which dates back to the 17th century. Many stalls are closed on Monday and Tuesday, and it gets busy at weekends.
8 Southwark St, SE1
Sat at the southern end of London Fields, where the borough of Hackney hits Tower Hamlets, is Broadway Market, an East London institution. Typical of the East End recently, it’s out with the old, in with the gentrified. The remaining pie and mash shop closed, but you’ll find hip alternatives like burgers, brownies, crepes, seafood, pulled pork and succulent olives. The stalls run up the centre of the street on Saturdays, flanked by some excellent restaurants and delis and appealing pubs. It’s not just about food here – there are records, art, books and clothes to check out, and watching coffee-clutching, hangover-nursing market-goers meander through the hubbub is part of the fun. The main market day is Saturday.
Broadway Market, E8
As the name suggests, there’s an Italian theme at Mercato Metropolitano, a covered market south of the river near Elephant & Castle. But while the main deli has some excellent Mediterranean ingredients, the food stalls proffer global flavours: Jerk chicken, raclette baguettes, Colombian ceviche, vegan burgers and gluten-free pasta are among the offerings, alongside excellent hot dogs topped with gouda, chicken scratchings or flaked plantain. It’s a more spacious spot than some of its rivals, and a good place to hang later in the evening, when benches fill with beer-drinking punters.
42 Newington Causeway, SE1
Seven Dials Market
Run by street-food specialists KERB – who host market halls across the city – Seven Dials is a two-storey feast of red brick and tempting grub near Covent Garden. This well-designed, open-plan space was once a warehouse for bananas and cucumbers, and the layout plays on its heritage, with Cucumber Lane focussing on local producers, while the larger Banana Warehouse has street food and restaurants. Diners can perch on bar stools at the various counters and eye up the likes of conveyor-belt cheese, fresh pasta, vegan tacos and brioche-clad burgers. There’s a good craft beer range, and at different times it can feel like either an escape from the jostling West End pavements, or a proper party.
Earlham St, WC2H
Market Hall Victoria
Superclubs were one of the big nightlife trends of the early noughties, but today you’re more likely to find a gaggle of friends congregating around a street food stall than dancing around each other’s coats and handbags. So it seems fitting that the huge building by Victoria station that once housed the glam club Pacha is now Market Hall Victoria, part of a London-wide chain offering piping-hot fare at the rattle of a buzzer. There are some excellent stalls here, offering udon soup, vegan falafel and Asian-inspired soft-scoop ice cream. There’s an outdoor terrace for drinks, salt-beef bagels from Monty’s Deli and classy Malaysian comfort food at Gopal’s Corner.
191 Victoria St, SW1
Brixton’s markets have a fine history, taking in much loved railway-arch stalls, pop hits (Eddy Grant’s ‘Electric Avenue’) and food that’s become so successful it’s gone national: UK mini-chains Honest Burgers and Franco Manca both started here. Today, Brixton’s Afro-Caribbean heritage and recent gentrification rub shoulders, with classic fruit and veg, hipster finger food, and lots in between. There are several sites: Brixton Village and Market Row are housed in historic arcades and offer stalls and restaurants (there’s Portuguese, Caribbean and French food, as well as produce stalls), Reliance arcade is more shop-focused, and Station Road Market has offers second-hand, vintage goods and crafts on Saturdays.
Behind Brixton tube station, SW9
Southbank Centre Food Market
Set on a riverside stretch that – thanks to great views, striking arts venues and a regular stream of tourists – always bubbles with life, this is a great pit stop. Tucked between Waterloo Station and the Southbank Centre, it offers sausage sandwiches, South Indian street food, crepes and sweet treats, and there’s cheese and baked goods to take away. Better still, you can sip your coffee and guzzle your food, soaking up the surrounding street life, from skateboarders to theatre-goers, while planning your next adventure.
Belvedere Rd, SE1
Flat Iron Square
With a chunky courtyard (great fun in summer) and a compact interior, Flat Iron Square feels more focused than some of its sprawling rivals. Instead of wandering between great alleys packed with stalls, you’ve around 12 food options to choose from, including sushi, Texan BBQ, Turkish manti dumplings and ramen, plus posh fried chicken from Mother Clucker. There’s separate wine, coffee and craft-beer bars, plus a ‘chalet bar’. It’s just off busy Southwark Street, on the South Bank, but feels nicely insulated from the outside world, and is a good bet for a midweek lunch or an evening drink. Vinegar Yard, just east of here, is run by the same gang.
53b Southwark St, SE1
Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall
Once in the not-too-distant past, Chinese food in Britain was mostly just ‘a Chinese’, with only a handful of regional dishes. Today there’s a much wider range, and this gleaming food court in Colindale, North London, is a great place to sample it. Around 40 stalls offer everything from accessible delights (dim sum, Cantonese duck, honey-roast pork, bubble tea) to more full-on fare (rice porridge with intestines). There’s Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese food too, a full restaurant upstairs and long benches and counters to munch at, plus some Chinese beauty parlours, if a simple post-prandial glow isn’t enough for you.
399 Edgware Rd, NW9
Maltby Street Market
Created by stallholders who felt Borough Market had become too commercialized, this Bermondsey gem is focused on a single alley called the Ropewalk, which heaves with market-goers at weekends. Stalls sit in the open-air and under the railway arches. It’s a smaller, hipper selection than its bigger brother, with Brazilian grills, gyoza, British sausages, scotch eggs and Mediterranean snacks, along with Japanese baked goods, Little Bird Gin and the legendary jamon-by-the-slice at Jamon Bodega. Getting a seat is tricky, but worth it. There’s great coffee and some fine veg to take home. And if the food gives you a taste for beer, the Bermondsey Beer Mile is a short walk away.