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Borough Market


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Hunting and gathering at Borough Market this morning. I came home with some good things.

Beefsteak

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Beetroots

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Samphire, as fine and delicate as I've ever seen it. I brought this to show my fishmonger, who sells good samphire that's coarser and larger, though very good. This stuff comes from Israel, he says; his is proper British samphire. I had this Israeli samphire for lunch, with a baby sole. It was delicious.

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Mutton chops. "Cook them slowly", said the butcher.

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Girolles. They looked good; at ₤17 per kilo they should look good. They will go with the beefsteak, I think.

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Two different strains of cherries

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Polish sausage. This vendor looks new; they have a number of tasty sausages and hams, not outrageously priced.

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So, with all this good food (and, I assure you, it looked better than these pictures would suggest) what's wrong? In a word, the prices. At one point, most of the products at Borough Market attracted a premium price, but -- with the exception of Turnips, the impossibly expensive fruit and vegetable vendor -- none were outrageous. That has changed. Borough has become a tourist attraction, an entertainment, with prices to match.

There are two other changes that have crept into Borough. One is a trend toward "value added" goods -- made things. Pork pies rather than pork joints, sauces rather than vegetables, prepared foods with attendant high prices. The other is a move toward branding and brand premiums. You are paying not just for ham, but for Brindisa ham; not just coffee, but Monmouth coffee. It's very good coffee, but is it ₤2 per cup good? I don't know. Neal's Yard cheeses seemed stratospherically expensive. In some cases, you're paying for intangible factors, the brands rather than the products.

Now there's nothing wrong with adding value or creating brand premiums, and if the vendors can attract custom at these prices, it makes sense that they should try to do so. There is still interesting and good stuff to find at Borough, and it isn't difficult to pass by the bottled chutneys and sauces to seek out good fruit, veg, meat, fish. Perhaps some of the chutneys are worth buying. But Borough seems to have become more entertainment than a serious food market.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Walking with Jonathan, I found one of the most extraordinary pieces of sirloin I've ever seen in the UK (all credit to Matt Grant who turned me onto the Northfield Farm stall). It's long horn steer, aged 6 weeks. You can't see, but it's approximately 4-4 1/2 inches thick.

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Interestingly, although the market in general has become insultingly expensive (especially the fish and veg), this worked out to £15 pounds, which, when I think about it, was between 1/2 and 1/3 of the price it would have cost in the States. Otherwise, although I go around 40 times a year, I buy less each week. I'm incredibly depressed by the state of affairs, generally.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Completely agree that Borough is becoming untenably expensive and unspeakably clogged with Fulham mummies and their strollers - blaaa.

(Apologies to any Fulham mummies reading this post, nothing personal.)

The good news though is that Borough-type products are becoming more widely available. No need to pay Neal's Yard mark-ups on Yarg when you can get it in Sainsburys. Waitrose have an excellent selection of mushrooms. I get ham from the Spanish supermarket on Portobello Rd. I also strongly recommend Rippon Cheeses on Upper Tachbrook Street, 2 mins from Victoria.

Just takes more time and effort to hunt things down :hmmm:

PS that steak looks GOOOD!

Sarah

Sarah

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Oh surely a simple case of supply and demand. If people are willing to stump up those prices day in day out it would be churlish of the vendors not to charge them no?

I used to (actually I still do) get very exercised by the blatant rip-off tactics of Turnips. A simple comparison of the prices of any of the places next door shows that they are rampantly profiteering... and to be frank the produce isn't always as good quality either. But every time I go there the stall is stall as full.. and the prices are still as much of a joke. The simple fact is even at their elevated levels there is such an excess of demand that no matter how badly the managers treat the customers like shit, there is always someone behind them in the queue willing to step up for more.

Of course at some point the supply of users will run out... but thankfully for them it hasn't happened yet!

ta

J

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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There are two other changes that have crept into Borough.  One is a trend toward "value added" goods -- made things.  Pork pies rather than pork joints, sauces rather than vegetables, prepared foods with attendant high prices.  The other is a move toward branding and brand premiums.  You are paying not just for ham, but for Brindisa ham; not just coffee, but Monmouth coffee. It's very good coffee, but is it ₤2 per cup good?  I don't know.  Neal's Yard cheeses seemed stratospherically expensive.  In some cases, you're paying for intangible factors, the brands rather than the products.

Interestingly enough, I've noted this trend at the Boqueria too. More and more stalls are creeping with as you call it "made things". Almost every fruit stall towards the front of the market now offers ready-cut fruits, and there are several fresh juice vendors as well.

Other additions are the fancy wine place towards the back (this has been there for a while actually), but also a tea stall (why would one buy tea at the Boqueria is beyond me), and a posh kitchen gadgets stall has opened right across from Petras, the mushroom guy. You can also find a ready made japanese food/sushi place and a organic food stall towards the back as well.

I guess as these markets grow as tourist destinations, the economics tend to favor the overpriced value added aimed at tourists rather than the original raw goods business.

oh well, at least Barcelona has another 41 markets where one can shop :biggrin:

SD

We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

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Of course nothing is truly "raw" -- a bunch of carrots, with stems still attached and dirt clinging to the roots, is still a "made" product. Our local fruit and veg supplier in France has a large proportion of "raw" products, but they are selected with exquisite care, and the higher prices they charge reflect that added value.

I find the premium for intangible value and "brand" more irritating. With Neal's Yard, I wonder if it isn't a sort of reverse globalisation phenomenon: once the product is sold around the world, you can raise the price in London, since travelling tourists won't find it more expensive than in their "gourmet" shops at home...

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Although I think that Borough is expensive, aside from the Turnips it isn't hughly overpriced in comparison to what I get in Edinburgh (paid £18 a kilo for chanterelle the other day, this is standard for local produce) and in fact the range is much much bigger.

The crush of humanity is more of an issue for me, but I wonder how long that can last?

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Couldn't agree more - it's just not a pleasant place to be.

To be fair, I think many of the products are worth the premium. A medium-sized organic chicken is about £10 at Waitrose, but the equivalent Label Anglaise bird is about the same price and immensely better tasting. If you want a kilo or two of jamon Iberico, then get someone rich to pay for it for you - it's not rocket science.

Fascinating to learn a similar thing's happening in Barcelona.

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One factor to remember - unless it has been mentioned here and I've missed it - is that Borough Market is not a farmer's market, where you would always expect to find 'raw' things, ingredients for you to buy, take home, and soup up yourself.

It's more like an outdoor deli. I'd wager that many, if not most, of the people are Borough are middlemen - not the butchers, bakers and candlestickmakers - hired just for Fridays and Saturdays, or whatever. This means we shoppers are paying their wages in addition to the cost of the product and its transport. It's a version of a stock market, and the salespeople, brokers - just as in a supermarket (which as you've probably noticed are selling more and more prepared foods too).

It's possible that there has been some price creep, but I don't buy a tonne of stuff at Borough. I shop there because like the nostalgia associated with the experience that Borough offers, and the illusion that I am supporting growers/producers a little more directly;the potential - though no guarantee - that the produce is less treated than it would be in a supermarket, and that it hasn't been sitting around as long in a fridge or warehouse somewhere; and that it is indeed from whence the salesperson says it is - not a given at Borough.

But the main questions you should be asking, in determining whether to return despite the crowds if you don't like them, and the substitution of finished products for raw materials, is:

- is the quality as good as you expect for the price?

- can you get things here you can't get in a shop (in terms of quality/price/variety)?

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Although I think that Borough is expensive, aside from the Turnips it isn't hughly overpriced in comparison to what I get in Edinburgh (paid £18 a kilo for chanterelle the other day, this is standard for local produce) and in fact the range is much much bigger.

The crush of humanity is more of an issue for me, but I wonder how long that can last?

Adam, I wasn't terribly unhappy with the prices I paid for those chanterelles. My fishmonger has a small display of vegetables outside his shop, and he had the same chanterelles (same supplier, he claims) for ₤17.50 per kilo, 50p more than Borough. It's the ordinary things that have become expensive -- good but not exotic British cheeses at high prices, for example.

Jane Grigson's aphorism applies here, I think: We have more than enough masterpieces. What we need is a better standard of ordinariness.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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One factor to remember - unless it has been mentioned here and I've missed it - is that Borough Market is not a farmer's market, where you would always expect to find 'raw' things, ingredients for you to buy, take home, and soup up yourself.

It's more like an outdoor deli. I'd wager that many, if not most, of the people are Borough are middlemen - not the butchers, bakers and candlestickmakers - hired just for Fridays and Saturdays, or whatever.

I have to admit that I'm now a bit confused about what Borough is supposed to be. Perhaps this is because the same space is used for someaht different purposes, depending on the day of the week. From the organisation's website:

The Market comprises three main elements. While historically focused round a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, in recent years a weekly fine food retail  market has been established. The third strand of our operations involves management of a number of shops specialising in food retailing.
A typical wholesale traders day starts at around 2am. Throughout the night, large container trucks transport fresh fruit and vegetables from producers near and far. ....  In the early hours, greengrocers, restaurateurs and hoteliers from the City, West End and the South East come to select the freshest produce available.
Since 1999, a very successful weekend gourmet retail market consisting of up to 70 stalls and stands has been developed. ...  Borough Market now also boasts an increasing range of high quality food shops in its premises situated around the wholesale core. Following the arrival of Neil’s Yard Dairies in 1997, we now have a further 7 retailers...

My recollection is that, at one point, the Saturday market (now extended to Friday) was more about giving ordinary punters access to some of the wholesale traders. But perhaps this was never the case.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Walking with Jonathan, I found one of the most extraordinary pieces of sirloin I've ever seen in the UK (all credit to Matt Grant who turned me onto the Northfield Farm stall). It's long horn steer, aged 6 weeks. You can't see, but it's approximately 4-4 1/2 inches thick.

gallery_8259_153_116452.jpg

Interestingly, although the market in general has become insultingly expensive (especially the fish and veg), this worked out to £15 pounds, which, when I think about it, was between 1/2 and 1/3 of the price it would have cost in the States. Otherwise, although I go around 40 times a year, I buy less each week. I'm incredibly depressed by the state of affairs, generally.

My pleasure, how did it turn out?

Although I haven't being buying less and probably go 40 plus times a year I have noticed my bill creeping up. Although I am cooking quite abitiously at home I still fin it shocking that I regularly spend £40 - £50 for ingredients for one meal :hmmm:

Completely agree that Borough is becoming untenably expensive and unspeakably clogged with Fulham mummies and their strollers - blaaa.

(Apologies to any Fulham mummies reading this post, nothing personal.)

The good news though is that Borough-type products are becoming more widely available. No need to pay Neal's Yard mark-ups on Yarg when you can get it in Sainsburys. Waitrose have an excellent selection of mushrooms. I get ham from the Spanish supermarket on Portobello Rd. I also strongly recommend Rippon Cheeses on Upper Tachbrook Street, 2 mins from Victoria.

Just takes more time and effort to hunt things down  :hmmm:

PS that steak looks GOOOD!

Sarah

My Waitrose certainly doesn't have a selection of Mushrooms like Booth's at Borough market :sad:

Although I think that Borough is expensive, aside from the Turnips it isn't hughly overpriced in comparison to what I get in Edinburgh (paid £18 a kilo for chanterelle the other day, this is standard for local produce) and in fact the range is much much bigger.

The crush of humanity is more of an issue for me, but I wonder how long that can last?

My local Greengrocer sells a lot of the same brands fruit produce as borough market and charges the same if not a little more. The queue at weekends suggests that people don't mind paying those prices even outside of the market.

Couldn't agree more - it's just not a pleasant place to be.

To be fair, I think many of the products are worth the premium. A medium-sized organic chicken is about £10 at Waitrose, but the equivalent Label Anglaise bird is about the same price and immensely better tasting. If you want a kilo or two of jamon Iberico, then get someone rich to pay for it for you - it's not rocket science.

Fascinating to learn a similar thing's happening in Barcelona.

Agree re: the chicken. People keep raising the Jamon Iberico as an example, this is probably a difficult one to compare. Brindisa is expensive but the Joselito Iberico is the best of the best, where else in London can you find it cheaper than €150/kg?

For me Borough is still enjoyable if you go early and avoid the masses of tourists, living in Croydon means it is difficult for me to get to several different shops specialising in the ingredients I want. The extra cost still outweighs the convenience of being able to shop for everything in one place.

Edited by Matthew Grant (log)

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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My pleasure, how did it turn out?

Good, but not as good as it should have been. It lacked flavour, as with most UK beef.

For me Borough is still enjoyable if you go early and avoid the masses of tourists,  living in Croydon means it is difficult for me to get to several different shops specialising in the ingredients I want.

It's vital to go early. I'm usually there by 8.15, and run into exactly the same people every week (used to include JO, but no longer, I guess, since he sided with Sainsburies over the farmers). I regularly spend around £50, but about 2/3 of this tends to go on protein, and 1/3 on veg. It usually stretches to 2-3 meals. (Chicken = £10, beef and/or pork and/or fish £15-30, veg £15)

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Although I think that Borough is expensive, aside from the Turnips it isn't hughly overpriced in comparison to what I get in Edinburgh (paid £18 a kilo for chanterelle the other day, this is standard for local produce) and in fact the range is much much bigger.

The crush of humanity is more of an issue for me, but I wonder how long that can last?

Adam, I wasn't terribly unhappy with the prices I paid for those chanterelles. My fishmonger has a small display of vegetables outside his shop, and he had the same chanterelles (same supplier, he claims) for ?17.50 per kilo, 50p more than Borough. It's the ordinary things that have become expensive -- good but not exotic British cheeses at high prices, for example.

Jane Grigson's aphorism applies here, I think: We have more than enough masterpieces. What we need is a better standard of ordinariness.

I understand and I don't get to shop at B on a regular basis and I tend to mentally compare to what I get in Edinburgh (and I really like the King's Pork pies :raz: ), but I guess the question you have to ask is would you still miss it if it was gone (good God, this sounds like relationship advise)?

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I would miss Borough, but life would go on. Northcote Road, in my neighbourhood, has almost everything I would want at Borough -- fine meats, fruit and veg, fish, cheeses, wine, Italian delicacies, specialty flours, etc.. Not quite as many mushrooms as Booth's, but, in season, a good selection.

Other things come through the Internet, and there's Sainsbury's and Waitrose and Ocado for 'chemicals' (washing up liquid, toilet rolls, etc.) and special childrens' requirements (crisps, baked beans, etc.).

I'm grateful that the Borough trustees have encouraged the development a cluster of fine food shops and stalls. And I realise that prices for good things tend to be high, and that vendors are entitled to the prices that they can command. But I'd like to see Borough grow and develop in the long term. If it becomes an exploiter of tourist trade, it's unlikely that this will happen.

I'd find it interesting to see more comparisons of Borough vs other markets here -- quality, range, price, and so on.

On the Jamon Iberico -- at Christmas in Madrid I paid about EUR360 for an entire ham, "Cinco jotas" pata negra of superior quality. A lot less than £150 per kg, even after you allow for waste from slicing, bones, fat, etc.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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On the Jamon Iberico -- at Christmas in Madrid I paid about EUR360 for an entire ham, "Cinco jotas" pata negra of superior quality.  A lot less than £150 per kg, even after you allow for waste from slicing, bones, fat, etc.

They sell whole hams for far less, I think about £300 - £350. Unfortunately it's no good comparing prices in Madrid to those in London.

Sayell Foods sell Jamon Iberico leg on the bone for £50/kg. Unfortunately it isn't open on a Saturday. :sad:

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Thanks for the reference to Sayell Foods, Matthew. Have you tried the sucking pigs they sell there? They look good, and at £6.50 or so per kg, for the small ones, not outrageously priced.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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So I'm a bit confused about how early the market starts. I went once at 6am and had to wait in the pub opposite for two hours because nothing was open. So it certainly doesn't work as a wholesale market any more. Although the traders were drinking beer quite happily at 6am. Did I join in? Yep.

Also, I doubt many on this board go to Borough for the majorly marked up fruit tarts/brownies/venison burgers - aren't they for the newbies and tourists? Without those 'made' foodstuffs, I'm quite happy to pay a premium - at least at the start of the month before the salary starts to run out...

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I have only seen the Borough in the last five years or so, but I was never under the impression that it was a wholesale market or for that matter that it was a market where the local community does its daily shopping?

Aside from the crowds I really like the market, but surely it is more of a place to buy a few prime ingredients from a select group of shops, rather then been a more traditional type market? Maybe more experienced posters could tell me when it was such a market?

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Sally Clarke's sells beautiful "tarts" (Bakewell, Lemon, Apple) for 80p!!!!! Cheaper and better than my local Coughlans!!!

The Market is wholesale during the week, not on Saturdays.

So I'm a bit confused about  how early the market starts. I went once at 6am and had to wait in the pub opposite for two hours because nothing was open. So it certainly doesn't work as a wholesale market any more. Although the traders were drinking beer quite happily at 6am. Did I join in? Yep.

Also, I doubt many on this board go to Borough for the majorly marked up fruit tarts/brownies/venison burgers - aren't they for the newbies and tourists? Without those 'made' foodstuffs, I'm quite happy to pay a premium - at least at the start of the month before the salary starts to run out...

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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I have only seen the Borough in the last five years or so, but I was never under the impression that it was a wholesale market or for that matter that it was a market where the local community does its daily shopping?

Aside from the crowds I really like the market, but surely it is more of a place to buy a few prime ingredients from a select group of shops, rather then been a more traditional type market? Maybe more experienced posters could tell me when it was such a market?

Inner city wholesale food markets are an anachronism that has largely disappeared with the notable exception of Smithfield. Borough was dying on its arse before the advent of the Farmer's market and under constant threat of redevelopment. Thing is, it sits under the railway lines that feed London Bridge station and create a bottleneck. The proposal was/is to double the width of the viaducts and the number of lines, but that would destroy the market.

Personally, I could never see the point of preserving what was a moribund market that offered little to the local community (except some pubs that serve booze at breakfast time), but that's all changed now. The food market has revitalised the area and I'm grateful for the existence of the likes of DeGustibus and Neals Yard, even if they do sell the most expensive breads and cheeses, respectively, in the whole world. Crowds of tourists are a drag, but they do provide excellent pick pocketing opportunities (joke!)

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Nice thread, folks. :)

I'm afraid that 'value' food shopping may have disappeared, at least for the masses, paradoxically. Stop going! But of course, if there's no better...

In Padstow we have lost the butcher, gained a burtcher. Lost a crab merchant, gained a fishmonger. Lost a fishmonger gained a chippy. And all this in the name of quality? Never! Market forces at work - all in the last year or so.

I'd like a new butcher in the town, and a new fishmonger. If I had the cash I'd make it so, and do local veg on the side......except that I'm a wine merchant of sorts, and haven't a clue.

Things aren't how they used to be in my day......

:smile:

slacker,

Padstow, Cornwall

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Slacker, you Johnny come lately. :raz:

Padstow has lost 2 veg shops,1 Co-op type shop,2 Butchers, Hairdressers,Video shop,2 hardwear shops etc etc in the last 5 years,(we did gain a nice Tesco.)

All these shops have been replaced by designery ,surf, clothes and boutiquey shops.I don't think there is an answer.

PS the town is a fecking nightmare at the moment, it's too busy for it's own good

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