Forget tourist-stuffed Borough market; for a taste of London’s latest indie food spirit, head to Maltby Street, where a quiet revolution is taking place…
Tucked beneath some unlikely looking railway arches in Bermondsey, south-east London, a gastronomic crusade is bubbling away. While tourists trudge in their thousands to the more famous Borough Market, the grassroots movement that is Maltby Street is where it’s really at.
It all started in 2009, when the Monmouth Coffee Company opened its Maltby Street warehouse to the public each Saturday. As footfall increased, a number of traders (some from nearby Borough) were quick to spot an opportunity to sell their produce.
The seeds were sown, and since then, artisan producers proffering everything from matzo ball soup to award-winning Swiss cheese, have set up stall on this tiny cobbled street, which is plonked in the midst of an unremarkable council estate and overlooked by a block of flats on one side.
Entering the market from Tanner Street (it’s about a ten minute stroll from London Bridge tube), look out for the black metal ‘Ropewalk’ sign which marks the entrance. Step through this and the first thing you’ll smell is achingly fresh coffee, the kind that makes you want to jump into a freshly-made bed with the Sunday paper. Your hungry eyes will be drawn to the Borough Olives stall selling buckets and buckets of shiny, juicy olives, hummus, red pesto, sweet sun dried tomatoes. So far, so farmer’s market.
However if you keep walking, things get interesting. Fancy some Jewish soul food? You got it. The finest Spanish ham? No problem. Some peri peri chicken? Tuck in. Welcome to Maltby Street. I hope you’re feeling hungry.
This range of eateries, shops and pop ups is certainly eclectic. Most stalls are set back into the railway arches, all corrugated metal and open brickwork, and very much open to the elements – not to mention the vibration of the trains which rumble overhead every now and then.
There’s an air of spit-and-sawdust about the place; and I mean this in the most charming sense.
The bunting decorating the street feels cheery rather than the universal shabby chic of Cath-bloody-Kidston. Some arches have been converted into shop-cum-café establishments, with sloping, elegant wooden doors. Nip into these places to escape the weather, or just for a quick breather. And, of course, a bite to eat.
Thrift tip: For divine gin cocktails head to Little Bird – it’s a bric a brac place full of birdcages and draughty corners. But it serves a mean gin blanket (£5) Like a warming mulled cider – but tastier – it comes served in a brown medicine bottle.
The deets: Free entry, Saturdays 9am-2pm, Maltby Street, London, SE1 3PA. Nearest tube: London Bridge, Bermondsey. @MaltbyStMkt