Maltby Street Market, London

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.

Casa Cannoli, King’s Cross Real Food Market, London

‘Take photos, we love photos’.

I thought I was being subtle trying to take photos of the rows of sugar dusted cannoli when the trader at Casa Cannoli encouraged me to keep taking more, and to share them on Instagram. I always feel awkward taking photos at markets because, to be honest, I just feel like a lemon. I’ve been following Casa Cannoli on Instagram for a while and vowed to get one during my lunch break, and a Thursday hammering down with rain seemed like the ideal time to go. An old American colleague of mine introduced me to cannoli a few years ago. She was flabbergasted that in my 20 something years on this earth I’d never eaten one, and once I’d had one, I was too. The joy of cannoli is the second bite. The first one being insanely delicious, and the second one being a mixture of panic and hilarity at how it’s disintegrated and you have to shove it all in one go rather than attempting a third bite.

Thankfully the rain had stopped when I got to the real food market outside King’s Cross station as I spent a good few minutes deciding which flavour cannoli to go for. Classico, coconut, pistachio, chocolate chip, if I hadn’t have just eaten a giant lunch from Hanoi Kitchen and eaten 3 biscuits at my desk already that day I’d have gone for the 3 for £5 box. I did however choose salted caramel which was handed to me in a Casa Cannoli branded napkin, which I immediately photographed and had to start eating because the ricotta started to spill out and I didn’t want to lose any.

As described above the cannoli crumbled after my second bite and I scoffed the rest of it in one very happy mouthful. After sorting out the ricotta on my fingers with my tongue and a napkin I resumed photographing the rest of the colourful cannoli on display. The awful weather didn’t seem to have put people off their cannoli because lot of the trays had been decimated.

I can highly recommend cannoli as an naughty but compact lunchtime treat to get you through the rest of your working afternoon. I’ll definitely be coming back – I’ve already decided on trying the pistachio cannoli next time – and I’m planning to take a box home for Christmas. Considering all this came about from following Casa Cannoli on Instagram I hope they give their social media person a well earned high five. And a cannoli.

KOOX, Store Street, London

‘This is a fancy pants wrap’

The parade of shops on Store Street have a very satisfying smart and quirky aesthetic with matching dark green signage and pristine window displays. KOOX fits the aesthetic perfectly and every single thing from food to décor is intensely Instagrammable. You can tell even the smallest details have been thought about, from the scrupulous placement of indoor plants, the soft shade of light from the lanterns, even the fire extinguishers were a bright silver colour. They display their Instagram handle on the wall as you walk in and they’d probably be sad if you didn’t take out your phone and photograph everything.

Despite being outwardly ‘fancy pants’ as I described it to my husband, KOOX actually had a very welcoming feel. Perhaps it was because I went in at 5.30pm and the only other people in there were office workers sipping tea and demolishing a smart looking tart. I’d heard on the grapevine that KOOX’s egg and spinach miwam (such an unnatural word to type) was something not to be missed.  I ordered one, and a chicken and mushroom Hot Kone. It was expensive, £10.90 (I’d have got 15% off if I was a student) but I’m used to London food prices by now. I was paying for the words ‘Michelin starred chefs’ painted on the wall. My miwam arrived after a few minutes…

… on a slate. And then one minute later, my Hot Kone, in its own stand.

I told you it was fancy pants. I did feel a bit silly eating a waffle off a slate and a wrap off a plastic stand, but I put aside people’s stares and enjoyed the food. The miwam was moreish and I loved the texture of the waffle. Having stared at the wrap for a minute thinking ‘how do I eat this’ I went in with my fork, taking bites of the wrap in between forkfuls of chicken, spinach and mushroom. It was going swimmingly until I got to the last couple of mouthfuls of the wrap when creamy sauce squirted out the bottom of the wrap and went all over the table. There was no styling it out so I mopped up the mess with my napkin and was glad I didn’t have more of an audience otherwise I would probably be on Instagram right now.

I helped myself to a glass of minty water from a communal jug that was next to the trendy fire extinguishers and a jar of paper straws. It’s a simple thing to offer water to diners and I’m always appreciative when food places do it. The server said thank you and goodbye as I was walking out. Overall I liked KOOX a lot and I will be going back to try the chocolate mousse which I picked up and put back, and now regret not trying. Dessert regret is the worst.

Bread Tree, Southbank Centre Food Market, London

‘It’s like summer in a bite’

Following my day at the Women’s Rights festival at Conway Hall last Sunday, I wanted something light for fourses (like elevenses, but at 4pm). I’d eaten an egg and halloumi toasted sandwich for breakfast, a blueberry bun from Fabrique Bakery for lunch and was due to have dinner at my parents-in-law later that evening. It wasn’t a particularly nutritious day so far, and I’d been wanting to visit the food market at the Southbank Centre for months having seen it from my train window many times as I rolled into Charing Cross.

It was a glorious day and I’d walked from Holborn to the Southbank, which took about half an hour. I do my best to avoid the tube when I’m in central London and get as much ‘fresh air’ as possible. The food market was packed at 4pm with winding queues for stalls like The Athenian, Greek street food, which is now firmly on my list when I don’t already have dinner plans. As I walked round the market I was tempted by cannoli, muffins, smoothies, fried chicken, chocolate dipped fruit, but given my lunch was a sticky bun I opted for savoury rather than sweet.

I knew as soon as I saw the bright red and green letters spelling ‘Bruschetta’ that’s what I wanted.

The vendor served me with a big smile, offering me the choice of either mozzarella and basil pesto or vegan bruschetta with aubergine. Unfortunately aubergine doesn’t agree with me so I went for classic mozzarella and basil pesto, which cost £5. It was a bit pricey but then I was at a central London food market and it was the price I expected to pay. I asked the vendor if it was alright for me to take a photo and, after straightening up the bruschetta on display, he said yes.

I settled in a quiet-ish corner in the market to eat. I love it when minimal ingredients create such a flavour explosion: fresh tomato and garlic, creamy mozzarella, rich pesto, and crunchy bread. I’ve had bad bruschetta (mostly in the UK), I’ve had incredible Bruschetta (in Rome they served it regularly as a side with a glass of white wine, whatever time of day), and this was well up there.

I’m looking forward to exploring the Southbank Centre Food Market and discovering what else they have on offer.

Fabrique Bakery, Covent Garden, London

‘It’s got blueberries in. Healthy’

I don’t know why I even tried to convince myself that my blueberry bun from Fabrique Bakery was anything but the decadent treat it was. I had heard about their cinnamon buns from various people and forward planned a pitstop at Fabrique on my way to a Bloomsbury Festival event on women’s rights at Conway Hall in Holborn. I’ve walked the route to Holborn through Covent Garden from Charing Cross a thousand times as I used to work in the area, and yet I completely failed to find Fabrique and had to resort to Google Maps. It turned out to be, in panto style, behind me.

First things first I snapped a pic of the outside of the shop which had an array of buns gleaming in the window. As I walked in the cinnamon smell was glorious and rows and rows of shiny sticky buns were on display calling out to me.

A man and woman wrapped in warm coats were sat inside the bakery excitedly eating generously filled sandwiches made with what looked like rich and crusty sourdough. I watched them out of the corner of my eye as they seemed to be enjoying their lunch immensely, barely coming up for breath in between bites. Flour-dusted crusty loaves were lined up behind the counter and I was distracted for a moment away from the rows of tempting buns at the front of the counter. I had originally planned to get a cinnamon bun but the blueberry buns which were golden brown and speckled with dark purple gooey blueberries seeping out the sides, caught my attention.

For £3 my blueberry bun was bigger than the size of my open palm and I happily placed my Monzo card on the reader. As I walked out the bakery I pulled the bun out its paper bag to take a photo and immediately got sticky fingers – I licked them clean, attempted a photo and stuffed my phone into my back pocket so I could eat.

I did get a few strange looks as I walked from Fabrique to Holborn. This was perhaps caused by my Cheshire Cat grin and my technique of trying not to bite too deeply in an attempt to avoid smearing my chin with sugar. As I walked through Seven Dials a waitress from Hotel Chocolat handed me a sample of their salted caramel hot chocolate. Despite the sugar overload it tasted lovely and complemented my blueberry bun.

I arrived at Conway Hall 15 minutes later and went straight to the bathroom to wash my hands because, despite my best efforts, I indeed had sticky fingers and a sticky chin. The blueberry bun turned out to be my lunch as it was so filling, and it saw me through 3 hours of inspiring and energising talks on women’s rights in the twenty-first century and the future of feminist activism. Thanks for the bun power, Fabrique.

Tantrum Doughnuts, 27 Old Dumbarton Road, Glasgow

‘My doughnut matches my shoes’.

I text my husband a photo of my bright pink doughnut as soon as I stepped out of Tantrum Doughnuts because I was so proud of my purchase, and so desperate to eat it. I wouldn’t normally dedicate an entire post to a single doughnut, but that’s how good it was.

I’d spent the morning exploring the University of Glasgow in crisp air and bright sunshine. Parts of it looked like Hogwarts with its turrets. towers and red bricks, and I enjoyed the autumnal views framed by old windows.

I was on my way to the Riverside Museum from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (it was a proper nerdy trip to Glasgow) and I’d earmarked Tantrum Doughnuts when I was researching places to eat. My heart sank from across the road because I thought it was closed, but as I got closer I could see shiny sugar glazed doughnuts glinting in the window.

The smell of sugary sweetness was divine and I was faced with an array of doughnut flavours to choose from – creme brûlée (the server’s favourite), Tonka bean (which she promised tasted like Solero), salted caramel, almond buttermilk, and cookies and creme, which had been the most popular that day.

I had to close my mouth from drooling. Whilst I was choosing my doughnut a Deliveroo man came in to pick up an order. First of all, amazing that this doughnut shop was on Deliveroo, and second, massive high five to the person who wanted doughnuts delivered to their door. I opted for a pistachio and hibiscus ring, paying with my Scottish £5 note and leaving the shop gleeful.

It tasted exactly like a doughnut should – light and doughy, sweet but not too sweet, decadent and naughty as hell. The pistachio gave a lovely crunch to the soft dough and the hibiscus offered a floral touch but didn’t overpower. For 5 minutes I was in doughnut paradise on a beautiful Autumnal day in Glasgow.