There’s a certain kind of charm about a Saturday morning market. For me a slow meander round the stalls is the perfect way to ease into the weekend; weekday worries pushed aside the hustle and bustle takes over as people gather together to celebrate the simple things in life. In place of supermarket shelves real people sell their wares; you talk, you learn, you discover and, importantly, you connect with what’s around you. This coming together to satisfy our most basic of needs, food and drink, is a ritual that evokes a comforting sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Helping to create that reassuring sense of community that can sometimes feel lost, and which we all too often undervalue, in modern life.
Markets come in all shapes and sizes, and living in London I have an enviable selection to pick from. As ever the competition is fierce though and people gather at well-known haunts such as Borough and Brixton to discover the cream of the crop of independent suppliers. However, the variety in London means smaller markets still exist and flourish. In Pimlico, Brockley, and Clapham, to name just a few, small farmers markets pop up each Saturday and provide a chance for locals to get together and buy fresh produce. As is often the case with independent suppliers, you just need to know where to look.
Luckily, looking is something I love to do. And last Saturday morning I discovered what I think is my favourite market in London so far.
Hidden under the arches of Bermondsey’s railway tunnel and secluded from street view by industrial style warehouses you’ll find Spa Terminus. This space is the home to wholesale independent suppliers, who during the week use these warehouses to make and distribute their goods. Come the weekend the space opens up to the public, as suppliers invite people into their workshops to buy and sample their wares.
Unlike many of the larger markets there’s no fuss at Spa Terminus, it’s completely unpretentious and what you see is what you get. And it’s this stripped back simplicity that makes it so magical. Happy Londoners quietly mingle and meander through the arches seeking out those unsung heroes that aren’t widely available on the high street. Wandering between the warehouses at times you’ll think you’re lost, but this is part of the charm and I recommend being lead by your heart and going with the flow. Colemans coffee roasters serve the best cappuccino I’ve ever tasted, I stocked up on all my fruit and veg for the week at John and Elena’s Fruit and Veg Co. and was completely powerless to the temptation of a pot of honey from The London Honey Company. I did manage to resist the butchers, although, hung from the ceiling, the meat looked delicious, however, this was more down to lack of ability to carry more bags rather than self discipline.
If time is on your side and you’re craving a little bit more, once your finished at Spa Terminus I recommend heading out of the arches and following the trickling crowd that leads towards Druid Street. Here things start to hot up as street food vans adorn the sides of the road and people gather for proper breakfasts and some serious food tasting. At the end of Druid Street the road curves to the left and you’ll find yourself in front of the Rope Walk, marking the start of the famous Malty Street Market.
To Spa Terminus’ quiet serenity Malby is more a street party. The Rope Walk is festooned with flowers and hanging lights and tightly packed with the liveliest of bars, food stalls and people, most probably enjoying a Saturday morning bloody Mary alongside a gourmet salt beef burger or scotch egg. It’s fun, more a lunch spot than a market but then that’s what London is all about, variety. I recommend starting off at Spa Terminus to collect your thoughts and slowly ease into the weekend and then come lunchtime, end at Maltby Street to meet friends, grab a drink and celebrate Saturday.