If someone asked me what was the one thing I thought made everyone happy then my first answer would be delicious food. Of course what delicious food means to each and every one of us can be very different, but the pure joy from eating something super tasty is universal.
It’s this type of sheer happiness that when I take a moment to pause I’ve really started to notice at London’s food markets and it made me realise that if you ever want to see or make a happy Londoner the market is the place to go.
I take a little bit of this London food happiness back to Birmingham every Christmas by gathering a collection of food gifts from a market. There’s such a variety and plenty of experimental flavours to be found in the city’s markets that I always manage to find interesting things to take back and it’s safe to say it goes down a treat. Of course, it’s also fun to shop for as I get to go to a food market and not worry about buying things that at times are a bit extravagantly priced. I also try to go to a different market each year, which means I’m slowly working my way round them all!
As you can guess by the title, I chose Broadway Market this year because it’s one of the last few established markets on my to do list. The reason for this – it’s way out East. I’m a South Londoner and at the weekend when I’m south of the river and wrapped up in my duvet, the 45 minute journey
sometimes always feels like a mission. Add on a 10 – 15 minute walk from Bethnal Green tube, the need to get to the market before sun down, and it could be on the other side of the country. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but as the winter wind howled as I pounded the pavements I still had a moment of doubt about whether I’d made the right choice.
Then as I crossed the bridge the smell of a delicious mix of food wafted over me and all that doubt melted away. I was itching to start exploring. But first, coffee.
I made a beeline to Pavilion, a small bakery run by the guys behind Pavilion Cafe and Elliot’s. Aside from their mouth-watering bread, they serve coffee using Square Mile and offer a great selection of pastries.
With my hands wrapped around molten happiness, I had an initial wander. I’m not sure if it was the caffeine buzz or the choice in front of me but I suddenly felt a bit overwhelmed, where to start, what to eat myself, what to buy for gifts?
Let alone, the desire to snap every tasty sight. (Turns out that markets are also places to make photography lovers happy too. There’s so much colour and variety!)
One of the upsides about Broadway Market, which I quickly discovered, is that the stalls stretch down the street in a straight line so there’s no chance of getting lost, or confused about where the stall you wanted to return to could be found.
I figured a good place to start was at the beginning of the street and I picked up some fiery chutneys and honey made from London bees. I wasn’t in the market for cheese (I’ve made the mistake of forgetting it or it accidentally disappearing from the fridge…) so when I stumbled across this stall I managed to slow down my excited *buy all the food* pace.
Then I found the colourful cabbages and cauliflowers and admired the healthy living in front of me. There was so many varieties that you just don’t see in the supermarket.
I had to question whether these were turnips or if my vegetable knowledge THAT bad?
As someone was gathering up ingredients for what I was sure was going to be a tasty dinner I started to feel inspired about one day coming back for that same task.
How exciting would these mushrooms look on the dinner table?
But I was quickly brought out of my daydream with market hollers. “APPLES AND PEARS” *Done in my best trader voice*
(Did you know there are more than 7,000 varieties of apple?!)
My mind returned to the task at hand so I sampled every flavour of fudge on offer before once again being drawn to colour like a photography magpie.
After a good hour or so of rummaging, buying treats and taking pictures, my stomach started to rumble and luckily I’d reached the end of the market where all of the take-away food was being offered.
Scotch eggs (for the egg lovers out there)…
Oysters for the sea food fanatics…
Delicious treats for the sweet tooth.
And more coffee to wash it down with, if you wish.
There’s even a delightful looking bookshop to spend time in whilst you let all the goodness sink in.
But like any decision in London, I was influenced by the fact that there were more options just around the corner and I had to make sure I was taking an informed decision. There’s nothing worse than food regret!
A short walk later and I arrived at Netil Market.
After the big open space of Broadway, Netil Market felt small and cosy. I could see most of my options from the entrance but wanted to have a good look round just in case.
Terrone coffee is hard to miss.
I’ve heard great things about their coffee but I can only manage one coffee every two or three hours so I had to miss out this time.
I’ve also heard great things about Bao Bar and unlike the Soho restaurant it wasn’t all that busy.
A bold claim but I have to admit their cakes did look delicious.
This could have been a fun lunch.
Prosecco and pizza has got to be a good combination.
As usual, I got a little side-tracked by the small collection of non-food stalls and wanted to buy the whole Earl of East London collection.
I satisfied the urge with a scented candle gift.
Of course whilst I was there the crowds got bigger but nothing I couldn’t handle.
I wandered back to the beginning and pondered all the choices.
Eventually settling on Bao Bar. The juicy pork bao bun was definitely the right choice! 🙂
I left East London with the contentment of a good meal and a food haul that would make others happy.
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You can find both of these markets around here. But you might want to remember that sadly they’re only open on Saturdays.
I hope you liked my tour of Broadway and Netil Market. Do you enjoy visiting food markets?