Monday, January 11, 2010

London: Market to Market

After a hectic holiday, work took me to London the second weekend of January. It was a quick trip, and I literally had 36 hours of free time. But I made good use of the time, seeing a show ("An Inspector Calls"), dining in two of my favorite quick casual restaurants, attending evensong services at Westminster Abby (I think I prefer St. Paul's, but still worth checking out) and of course, visiting two of my favorite markets: Greenwich and Borough. Greenwich, just down the Thames from London, is a really cute college town I got to check out on my last visit (in October). Back in late October, the weather was still nice enough to take the river cruise to Greenwich. However, with the bitter January weather, I decide to take the train. And the one hour journey (tube to DLR) was worth it for the shopping and food. Greenwich market has a ton of stalls selling everything from handcrafts to fashion to accessories. And many offer unique items at reasonable prices. The market is also lined with really interesting stores specializing in clothing, jewelry or home goods, so you could spend the whole day there. On this visit, I picked up two makeup purses at Afxentiou. I discovered the stall on my last visit, the bright graphic prints (one could say almost Orla-Kiely-esque) catching my attention straight away. And since it's a small, London-based company with prices that are most definitely not Orla-Kiely-esque, the purses make great gifts too. I also couldn't resist buying a funky chicken doorstop from refab (despite not really having a door to prop up!). And then there's the food. From Portuguese to crepes to "Louisiana sausages," you could eat around the world from the food stalls. I decided to try a lahmacun wrap. The flatbread was crisped on the griddle and then stuffed with salad, hummus and a yogurt sauce. Nice and compact for eating on the go. Later that day (after training back to London, meandering through Soho and attending services at Westminster), I walked across the London Bridge to Borough Market. Sadly, I arrived a bit too late. By 30 minutes before closing, most stalls had gone or were breaking down for the day, including Kappacasein. With no cheese toastie for me this visit, I followed my nose (and the scent of grilling meat) to a new stand -- Northfield Farm. Northfield operates in the market as both a butcher and food stall. On one side, you can get your raw meat product and the other, cooked meat product. The "cooked side" had quite a menu -- from beef to pork to lamb. Although I was hoping for a sausage, by the time I made it to the front of the line, all they had left was lamb, lamb or lamb. So I opted for a lamb burger with mature cheddar and a sweet curry mustard. Once I peeled off the top bun (too much bread!), I actually enjoyed the burger. The lamb patty had been seared a deep brown on the outside but was still moist inside. And the cheese, although cold and not melty, was a nice touch. The burger really couldn't compare to a cheese toastie, but was a good substitute, especially since I was cold and hungry! The moral of the story is, when visiting either market, go early, go hungry and go to the ATM, as there's a lot of temptation at London's food, bric-a-brac and antique markets! Greenwich Market is open Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Take the DLR to "Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich" station. For more information, visit Borough Market is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday but most of the food stalls are only open Friday and Saturday. Although the market closes at 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, many stalls begin breaking down much earlier. Take the tube to London Bridge. For more information, visit

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