The first in a regular series, where we ask those in the capital’s food scene why they love it. This issue we’re shining a light on one of Borough Market’s longest-standing traders.
The Vines’ stall, Wild Beef, was one of the first in Borough Market. Exactly as the name suggests, Richard and Lizzie’s beef is fed on nothing but uncultivated grassland, and the cattle roam around freely browsing the moors of Devon.
Lizzie recalls the early days at Borough: “When we started here in 1998, the South Bank was just a desert. There was nothing here. Henrietta Green held a Food Lovers’ Fair over three days. On the first day we sold out of meat. Then we had people even queuing for brochures. There just wasn’t anything like it, so many people were hungry for quality produce.”
Your favourite place to eat in London?
A restaurant called a Little of What You Fancy in Hackney. I guess it could be described as contemporary European. The food’s locally and/or sustainably sourced, and the furniture is all mixed and mismatched.
Your earliest London food memory?
Seeing live eels for sale at Billingsgate Market, back when it was still in the City. The eels were in buckets and the sellers would catch the eels between their fingers. In Leadenhall Market at Christmas time, there was wild game and poultry hung from the roof to the floor – you can still see the hooks there today.
The best meal you’ve ever eaten in the capital?
That’s really hard to choose, maybe a plate of chips and oysters, with a bottle of Chablis at the Cat and Mutton (Broadway Market).
Your favourite food stall?
Artisan du Chocolat (a Belgium-trained Irish chocolatier making chocolate from ground beans in Kent).
London’s best food bargain? (shop, café or restaurant)
Jock’s fruit and veg stall here on a Saturday evening. Often there’s bargains to be had with fruit that won’t keep into the next week without refrigeration, and you can get it at big discount – I bought a tray of peaches that lasted for weeks, as I had room to store it in the fridge.
Your top tip for anyone looking to eat out ethically and sustainably in London?
Well I can only speak for the places I know, and where I know where they source. Especially of course in the market, so for instance Elliot’s (see p10) tries to source all their produce from the market.
If there was one thing you could change about food or eating in London, what would it be?
I would make everyone say where the food comes from – truthfully! I think Brawn, in Columbia Road, does this quite well.
What do you think could be the next big trend or issue in terms of sustainable food in London?
We’re selling offal like mad! And sales are moving more from the hindquarter to the forequarter (which has the cheaper cuts of meat). It’s only when I sell the forequarter that I start to make a profit on the cow. (Another trend is) that despite the recession, people are still prepared to pay a good price. I’ve had younger customers come along and justify buying £15 of sirloin by reasoning that ‘it’s cheaper than eating out’.
By Clare Hill
Wild Beef trades from Borough Market every Friday and Saturday, and Broadway Market every Saturday.