Whoever started the rumor that London cuisine is awful, oatmeal-like gruel either has no clue what they’re talking about or they didn’t know “The Mac Factory” exists tucked away between food stalls in Camden. London is home to high-tea and biscuits, but also offers a wide range of neighborhoods, each housing their own food-and-craft market.
The markets vary in feel, location, and products available, but there is certainly no lack of interesting & intriguing food and beverage. This makes selecting what to get incredibly hard. In a city full of amazing sweet treats to try and Indian food for the record books, it can be overwhelming when you first enter the designated foodie areas.
Here, we’ll tell you what tops the charts at the four most popular markets in London. But anything you get, you’re sure to deem “smashing.”
Location: 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL, United Kingdom
Hours: 10 am to 5 pm daily (closed on Sunday)
Borough Market takes the cake (literally) for the best specialty foods and baked goods, as they offer everything between handmade granola to sandwiches piled with rotisserie-melted cheese. Located under a aqueducts that serve as train tracks to and from London Bridge station, this outdoor marker is a cross between a farmer’s market of fudge, locally baked breads, and various lunch options such as pad thai and made-to-order falafel.
While everything is fresh and you feel your eyes growing quite larger than your stomach, it can get insanely busy on the weekends during peak breakfast and lunch times. Go for snacks and stocking up the kitchen on truffle oil to avoid becoming #hangry waiting for your friend to decide what she wants to eat.
Bread Ahead is a nearby bakery that has a stall in the covered half of the market that is constantly overflowing with their popular jam and custard donuts, stacks of these buttery breadsticks that are packed with green olives and melted cheese, and loaves of fresh-baked focaccia topped with tomatoes and basil. If you’re lucky, the foot-long breadsticks will be just out of the oven and the smell of garlic, cheese, and warm bread will make you dive right in.
Location: 215-216, Chalk Farm Rd, London, NW1 8AB, United Kingdom
Hours: 10 am to 6 pm daily
Camden Lock Market is by far the coolest market in all of London as it sits half-inside and half-outside a brick warehouse by the canal, and acts as the grand finale of Camden High Street (the most colorful area in terms of building decor and the people you’ll find). Think of it as the steam-punk, too-edgy-for-you (with a touch of tourist) area of the city that seems out of “Alice in Wonderland.” Entering the market, there is a food court with fried Oreos, churros, and other delicacies such as nitro-frozen ice cream and fresh-squeezed-right-there orange juice.
Walk in a little bit further and there’s a courtyard packed with carts and stalls emitting the most amazing smells from around the world. There are cartons of Indian food full of rice and masoor, falafel and chip wraps, and gourmet grilled cheeses. It’s all there! Count on a crowded but exciting experience as you travel through happy people eating incredible looking food, and then shop for antiques and oddities for hours after.
Make sure to grab some Nostalgic Mac from The Mac Factory. This mac & cheese is famed for being the richest, best Cavatappi in the city with a menu full of fancy add-ins such as truffle oil or popcorn chicken, and is right in the middle of the Camden Lock Market food courtyard. Mixing up the cheese blend and noodles in a giant cast-iron skillet right there in front of the constant crowd it’s as fresh as can be, and once you get the *heavy* cup of Mac Factory topped with breadcrumbs you better be ready to eat. Be adventurous with one of their creations or just go with the classic mac. Everything is beyond your mom’s mac.
Location: 192A Portobello Rd, London, United Kingdom W11 1LA, United Kingdom
Hours: Opens at 9 am Monday through Saturday
Nestled in the very famous Notting Hill area of London there is a stretch of sidewalk fairs known as the Portobello Road Market, with table after table of oddities, jewelry, and knick-knacks that seem too cool to pass up. With every building a different pastel color or a deep red it’s an Instagram-worthy area at every turn and not only do the buildings speak volumes, but the food does as well.
Fresh salads in giant bowls, crepes being flipped before your very eyes, and some cute cupcakes make for an aesthetically-pleasing spread. If you’re not hungry there are lots of tea shops or espresso carts, and even some luscious bars with open-window fronts to allow proper people watching while enjoying a pint. Saturday is sure to be busy, but go on a Tuesday and you’ll have the whole market to yourself to taste.
Make sure to stop by the Jerk Shack. This stall is sure to please with coleslaw, rice & peas, and out-of-this-world curry all for less than a tenner. They even have “festival buns” which are sugar-coated sweet buns that make for a great breakfast or for a post-meal snack to add a little sweet to all the spicy. The chicken wings have astounding reviews and are not lacking with juicy meat and serious seasoning, and if you’re feeling adventurous they have curry goat on the menu as well.
Location: 91 Brick Ln, London E1 6QR, United Kingdom
Hours: Saturday 11 am to 6 pm, Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
Brick Lane Market stretches all through Shoreditch on the weekends creating a winding path of food, grocery, and odds & ends amidst the graffiti-covered walls in this Wicker Park-like area of London. What’s known as the hot spot for Banksy street art to appear overnight and famed Indian food is home to some of the most authentic old-school Jewish eateries making it a unique and somewhat mystical place to visit.
The market takes you from coffee shop to bagel shop to a row of Vietnamese restaurants leaving little to be desired and a promised full stomach. The cafes are many but high in quality, many offering in-house brews and cakes (and check out the Cereal Killer Cafe).
Pick up a a Nutella Beigel or Salted-Beef Beigel from Beigel Bake. Beigel Bake is open 24 hours on Brick Lane, and yes, you read that right. Owned by some of the hardest-working people in London, this bakery offers beigels (i.e. bagels that are boiled) slathered with peanut butter, Nutella, and cream cheese or packed with tuna and other meats for less than a British pound, as well as an assortment of baked goods. From strudel to brownies, they have it all making it the #1 stop for a mid-day snack while walking around the market, and stocking up for later when that late afternoon carb craving hits. The salted beef beigel with mustard and pickles is the most popular on the menu. Insanely good, insanely cheap.
Londoners, you lucked out with these tasty bits. We’ll be back to try more soon, we promise.