Whitecross Street Market
Whitecross Street London, EC1Y | http://www.whitecrossstreet.co.uk/ | General market: Monday to Friday, 10am–4pm | Food market: Thursday and Fridays, 11am–4pm (some food stalls run five days a week)
It might only be 11.30am, but lunchtime rumblings are already afoot at Whitecross Street.
Around 30 food stalls are gearing up for the rush of workers who will soon emerge from the Barbican/Old Street woodwork. The Iskele Kebab stall turns up the Middle Eastern pop on its hifi a little louder, the staff at De La Tierra fire up a giant paella pan, and the smell of veggie burgers, bratwurst and biryani come online.
Although keen to advertise its credentials as one of the oldest markets in London (17th century), Whitecross had, until recently, seen better days – and was just a handful of pitches of the battery-and-DVD-selling kind. The market received a shot in the arm as part of the area’s regeneration push four years ago. The addition of a monthly food fair and a big food festival in 2007 completed the transformation.
With lunch service in full swing, it’s a case of picking your queue. Luardo’s pastel green burrito van and Hoxton Beach’s falafel win the popularity contest, judging by the lengths of their lines. The latter stall boasts falafels made with organic chickpeas and locally picked elderflower pressé to drink. The Roast of Sherwood also does a roaring trade. Proprietor Paul may be from Nottingham, but the free-range pork for his hog roast hails from Suffolk.
The heavy lunchtime buzz, combined with the presence of a coffee cart boasting no less than 2009’s World champion barista, and the success of this summer’s Whitecross Street party, with street food and urban art (which explains the clothesline with giant colourful underwear that still hangs over the street), are sure signs that the market has shed its ‘hidden gem’ status and is now a well-known and eclectic foodie destination.
Eat my Pies
Whitecross market is a good place to pick up eat-later treats, and Andy Bates has named his stall with a tempting invitation. He specialises in handmade British classics such as custard or treacle tarts; roast beef and horseradish sandwiches and the eponymous pies – hot water crust and stuffed with pork, chicken or cheese and onion. But the drawcard is an array of different scotch eggs. “The black pudding scotch egg’s always the best seller,” says Andy. His other reinterpretations on the traditional snack include scotch eggs with shells of Thai red curry pork, Mexican three bean, and haddock. All the meat is free range too, he points out. Andy is at Whitecross on Thursdays and Fridays. http://www.eatmypies.co.uk/
Mr Olive Oil
Mehmet Murat’s stall, is good for some of the more obscure store cupboard delicacies (caper shoots and pomegranate molasses), as well as staples such as olive oil. A Turkish-Cypriot Londoner, Mehmet trades on the reputation of the oil from his own groves in Turkey and Cyprus, and the quirkiness of also being a Clerkenwell electrician. “I sell the oil from my electrical shop too,” he says proudly. Mehmet points out that his wares are produced as close to organic standards as possible – he even sells foraged ingredients such as dried wild oregano and pickled caper shoots, which he brings back to London after visiting his farm and nearby countryside. “Things have definitely changed in the past four years, people started to know about the market and my product, which led to writeups, and now I’ve got regular customers,” he adds. Mehmet can be found once a month at the market, or try his electrical shop or website. http://www.mroliveoil.com/Clare Hill