If you’re at a busy central London food market and you see someone alone precariously photographing their food with a phone, and then stuffing their face, it’s probably me. I had nothing planned last Saturday and with my husband playing hockey I had a hankering to eat lots of delicious food so I hopped on a train and made my way to Maltby Street Market.
10 years ago I absolutely hated my own company and I didn’t do anything on my own. But something clicked in my late-twenties brain. Oh my god, I can do this thing that I really want to do, I don’t have to organise someone else’s time so they can come. And then we end up doing what they want to do, rather than what I actually wanted to do in the first place. Thankfully I now feel comfortable being alone, dining alone, being a history nerd alone and not giving a rat’s patootie what anyone thinks of me. It’s rather liberating and I highly recommend it.
I walked to Maltby Street Market from London Bridge station – it’s basically a straight line down Tooley Street and even if you don’t know where you’re going just follow the crowd. And the smells. The railway arches en route are full of bustling small businesses from a bakery and a brewery, which I had to drag myself away from, and a garage specialising in Porches with lots of impressive cars parked outside that I won’t pretend to know anything about.
The first thing I loved about Maltby Street Market were the lines of flags flapping in the wind above my head. The second thing I loved was the smell. Stalls were sizzling away and as I walked through the market for the first time the array of smells was just fabulous: melted cheese, sweet sugar, meaty steak, fresh coriander, and spicy paprika to name a few.
I walked up and down the row of stalls 4 times before finally deciding on the very first stall outside the market: La Pepiá. I’d never heard of arepas (I know, which rock have I been living under?) before or had Venezuelan street food before. The clincher for me was the sizzling hot plate at the front of the stall where they were melting piles of cheddar to create big cheesy crisps to adorn the filled arepas.
I chose a carrot bun filled with black beans and avocado, the vegan choice, until I opted for a cheddar crisp on top. Cheese will forever be my weakness.
Suffice to say it was absolutely incredible, if a little tricky, to eat. It went all over my fingers and my face, but it was 100% worth it. I did not give a rat’s patootie that anyone was looking.
After finishing my arepa I walked back through the market two more times and set my sights on a brownie from Bad Brownie Co. They had an immense selection of flavours from vegan salted caramel, triple chocolate, and oreo, to raspberry and prosecco. I decided on peanut butter because I’m a firm believer that anything with peanut butter added to it is instantly improved.
I tapped my Monzo on the card reader and pocketed the brownie; I was not ready for sweet yet.
My head had been turned at the start of the market by gnocchi. I’d never been a huge fan of gnocchi until I met my husband who took me to Padella one time and it turned out I had just been eating rubbish gnocchi all my life. I walked through the market for the 6th time and stopped at Gnocchi at 84 for the beef short rib ragu. Oh. My. God. It was absolutely unreal.
The whole caboodle was divine and I ate half the box before I was completely stuffed. I found a sunny spot outside the market and had a break for 20 minutes to let my food go down – there was no way I was leaving any gnocchi to waste. I finished it up, walked through the market twice more and then decided that I really was full now.
I spent the rest of my afternoon walking along the north bank from Tower Bridge to The Strand, which took about an hour. I ate my brownie overlooking the Thames along the way.
The last time I was on Tower Bridge I was running over it during the 2016 London Marathon. It was lovely just being a tourist this time and I walked just under 10km along the river.
For me Maltby Street Market encapsulates the best of London: people from all over the world getting together and lapping up food from all over the world. It’s a treasure and I can’t wait to go back (perhaps with some pals next time so I can try more food). From Vietnamese Banh Mi to Moroccan falafel and British scotch eggs, the array of food on offer is fabulous and I implore any foodie to go.