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Lower Marsh Market, London SE1

May 31, 2014

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OK, so I’m on a bit of a roll with Lower Marsh near Waterloo station and its gastronomic offerings. It’s a bit like a good book that keeps you reading through the night; a new album of music that you play over and over again. Once I’ve started I like to carry on. And when the butcher at Greensmiths told me in the week that the best time to visit Lower Marsh was on Saturday when the market was in full swing, I decided to head back as soon as I could.

As it turns out it was a pretty crazy day for someone who lives in Twickenham to be making a train journey into central London. There’s a big rugby match on today. It all seemed simple this morning: a coffee at Butter Beans by Richmond station, then on to a fast train into Waterloo so that less than half an hour later I was walking in the market. It was when I was trying to get home at around 1.30 that the problem arose. Waterloo was heaving with rugby fans searching out the next train to Twickenham. When an announcement came saying that they’d cancelled a Twickenham train because of overcrowding, one had to wonder at South West Trains’ logic. How do you cancel a train because of overcrowding? And doesn’t that mean the next train will be even more crowded? As it turned out I got on the next train so swiftly I actually got a seat. And it had all be worthwhile and fun anyway. I had two bags of fantastic foods to take home; I’d talked to some great stallholders; and I’d had a good snack lunch in Four Corners Cafe, of which I’ll write more next time. A phone call from Jonathan when I first arrived at the market leading to a decision to barbecue in my garden this evening, and hearing that Lyndsey’s mum and gran were down from Wales so there’d be five of us, meant I had a good excuse to buy more things than I might of done. It was a good start to the day.

Lower Marsh Market isn’t particularly big and there aren’t a great number of stalls; it’s no bigger than my local Twickenham farmers’ market. But I soon discovered that this was a case of quality over quantity. Often you can wander through markets and only want to stop at a few stalls; I wanted to stop at every stall in Lower Marsh. And all the stallholders were so friendly that I found myself having nice chats with them, which is the best thing about markets, I think. You talk to the person who made the chutney; the provenance of the goods is explained. First up, I stopped at Granny Delicious Preserves & Condiments.

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The woman was so friendly (and I feel bad that I forgot to ask her name; we just got talking!) and told me she’d been a teacher but when things got tough with cutbacks a year or so ago she looked for something else to do and just started making these wonderful jams, chutneys and marinades. There are some classic combinations but also adventurous ones too, like one containing vodka, and a Jamaican Jerk Chutney. Jars are open for you to try things before you buy. The stallholder told me she tries to source ingredients locally from allotments, farm shops and foraging. And then she gave me three small pots to bring home as a gift. What a lovely thing to do!

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The next stall had some wonderful baked goods: cakes, cupcakes and savoury things. The Vegan Picnic Pie and the Spinach & Feta pies looked wonderful and incredibly reasonably priced.

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This stall is there Tues-Sat and people working nearby come during their lunch hour to buy something to eat. What a great alternative to the usual fast-food outlets. Moving on, I found a stall devoted to avocados – The Avocado Cafe.

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Here there was a selection of dips – all containing avocado. Well, avocado is very good for you! And I love them. Again, you could taste before you bought. There was a delicious spicy guacamole but it was a beetroot & avocado dip I decided to buy to bring home as part of our starter tonight. The next stall had some lovely cheeses – French, English and Italian.

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The guy was French. Initially, he seemed not to understand me and I thought I might have to search the depths of my schoolgirl French to talk to him and in a fluster I could only think how to say what I wanted to say – about writing the blog and could I take photos – in Italian. But then – relief! – he started talking English to me. He gave me some slivers of cheese to try and I bought a couple to bring home – a small crottin of goats’ cheese and a cheese from Savoy. The next stall reminded me of those ones you see in French markets where local people bring just a few things they’ve grown in their garden.

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There were only a handful of things – including some eggs – but what was interesting was they were bio-dynamic. They’re one of the few bio-dynamic farms in UK. I bought some broad beans and some eggs. The next stall along sold tea.

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Was I a tea drinker, the smallholder asked. I had to confess no, not really. I’m a coffee drinker. I do drink tea – but not often, and when I do I stick to good old English Breakfast tea. However, I was interested to hear about some of the teas he had, smelled some as he explained the blend and bought a small packet of their English Breakfast to give Jonathan, as he’s the serious tea drinker in the family. When I do drink tea, I get very English about it and like to have a cup around 4.00 in the afternoon. And what better to go with it than a nice slice of cake? The next stall along was perfect: a cake stall! And not just any cake stall.

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This is a cake stall made famous by Gordon Ramsay. Bad Boys’ Bakery grew out of a project (filmed for TV) in which Ramsay went into Brixton Prison to teach inmates to cook; to give them useful skills and purpose while in prison. I remember watching it and thinking it was a great programme and being impressed by the way Ramsay worked with the prisoners. The discipline needed in a kitchen was a tough challenge for some of them but for those who stuck it out, the results were inspirational.

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The bread and cakes looked fantastic. I bought just a single slice, in a small box, at first, but went back later after lunch and bought a whole cake to bring home for dessert tonight, plus a couple of chocolate brownies – one with added orange and another marbled with white chocolate. My boxed slice has a message from an inmate, Jamie, on the side: ‘Working in here has inspired me to do better in the future, and create a better life for my partner and baby.’ What a great project this is. Fish came next:

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There were all kinds of fish here and the woman on the stall told me where they’d come from: oysters from Faversham, crabs from Cromer (the most famous place in UK for crab); some of the fish bought at Billingsgate fish market that morning.

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Further along I found a vegetable stall. Salad bags, bunches of gorgeous small carrots, asparagus, peas in their pods, large mushrooms.

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Another stall sold almond milk. The Pressery‘s almond milk is made ‘from raw, organic Spanish almonds’ and is highly nutritious and alkalising.

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It apparently contains lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. I probably should have bought lots but in the end I settled for tasting some – and very delicious it was too. The next two stalls were familiar to me: both have stalls at Twickenham Farmers’ Market too. The Seriously Italian Company sells wonderful fresh pasta and homemade pesto.

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It’s all handmade by an Italian couple who live in London. I’ve bought some of their filled pasta in Twickenham and it’s very good. Then I recognised Boarstall Meats.

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Their stall in Twickenham is where I always buy my chickens – they’re fantastic – but sometimes other meat too.

By now I’d bought a few things, talked to some lovely people and was ready for an early light lunch before heading home. I went into Four Corners Cafe which I’d seen the other day. It’s a great place and I’ll write more about that tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m really glad I took a trip up to Lower Marsh Market again. There are some fantastic stalls there. I’m lucky that I have an excellent local market, which is where I normally shop on a Saturday, but markets are such great places and sometimes it’s nice to branch out and go and visit some other ones, and see what new things you can find!

4 Comments
  1. There is just something wonderful about a market, isn’t there …!

    • There is! I love markets and always search them out when I’m away, but have only just started searching out more near home rather than just going to my own local!

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