When you first visit London, it seems pretty overwhelming. It’s just so immense. You arrive in any airport but London City and find yourself on a train or bus for an hour before you even hit ‘London’ and from then it just stretches indefinitely. The trick once you live there is that it’s just a collection of towns and villages, and the West End. You think you’ll find yourself going from Ruislip to Brixton to Stoke Newington on a daily basis, but in reality you find your area and you stick with it. My area consisted of drawing a 5 mile radius around Clerkenwel, with a heavy focus on Hackney.
If Hackney is a village, Broadway Market is its village market. Every Saturday, a selection of stands line the red brick Monty Python set street that joins the Regents Canal with London Fields. The focus is mainly on food, with some clothing, flowers, and fixed gear bikes thrown in. The street itself is lined with cafes, pubs and quirky shops like a wonderful haberdashers, a bookshop and a mixed purpose vintage furniture and wine shop. It is also home to an original pie and jellied eel shop, a local delicacy which I never quite managed to stomach.
Unlike my other favourite, Borough Market, this is very much a local market with a small town feel. Neighbours find themselves reaching for the last organic rye bread, colleagues from the local graphic design collective split a chocolate brownie. The clientele is divided between the bright eyed and bushy tailed older crowd who got eight hours sleep and are shopping for purple sprouting broccoli, and the younger crowd who have seen better days and just want something deep fried. You will definitely see more than a few people still up from the night before, clutching a banh mi like it’s their last meal on earth.
The selection of food is great, from standard market fare of roasted pork, falafel and Scotch eggs, to Ghanaian, Persian and Polish. There are stalls selling fresh vegetables, fish, meat, cheese and cakes. You can get all the makings of a dinner party here, or you can just get the hangover food you so desperately need on a Saturday morning. You pick up a bottle of organic cider in the convenience stores along with the street, where the guys behind the counter will open it for you with a wink. Lunch in hand, you decamp the grass of London Fields, or along the canal.
If that isn’t enough, on the London Fields side of things there are two more markets within a minute walk. First is the largely food based Schoolyard Market at the back of the imposing Victorian Fields School, where the vendors vary from month to month. Further along lies the small and perfectly formed Netil Market selling second hand furniture, records, and knick-knacks, along with some more permanent food stalls. This is home to the Lucky Chip, which has some of the best burgers London can offer.
For my part, I have spent many a Saturday morning browsing the stalls but I always return to the same stands and the same favourite: pierogies from the Polish Deli, Banh mi from Banh Mi 11, pies and croquettes from The Pie Cart and bhajis from Gujarati Rasoi. Not all at once. London doesn’t seem quite so intimidating once you have eaten something deep-fried.
Broadway Market, Hackney, E8, London