Sitting south of the river in London’s Southwark lies a food lover’s paradise – Borough Market. With a history dating back over 1,000 years, this bustling market is not only one of the oldest but also one of the largest and most renowned food markets in London. From artisan prepared food to fresh organic produce, Borough Market has something for everyone.
The origins of Borough Market stretches back to at least the 12th century when merchants first started trading grain, fish, vegetables, and livestock near the riverside. Over the centuries, the market thrived and even survived an attempt by Parliament to shut it down in 1775, fearing it had become too lawless.
We’re so glad they did, as today there’s so much to love about the food being sold and served here. Interestingly, Borough Market-as-culinary powerhouse is a fairly recent development, with its current incarnation having roots in the revival of interest in artisan foods that took shape across the UK in the 1990s. The market now mainly sells speciality foods to the general public, attracting tourists and locals alike, with many of the market’s great restaurants opening up in the last few years as footfall increased and savvy restaurateurs took note.
With all that in mind, we’ve done the hard work of eating around, across, through and even over the market to bring you these; our favourite places to eat in Borough Market. Let’s dive in…
Ideal for Tehran-inspired plates in the heart of London
The second iteration of the celebrated restaurant Berenjak remains faithful to its aim of reinterpreting the classic hole in the wall eateries lining the streets of Tehran, but somehow, this Borough Market rendition manages to be just as good (if not, whisper it, better) than the first.
Housed in the building that used to host Flor, the rooms, both upstairs and down, are gorgeous; sumptuously dressed and opulent whilst still maintaining a sense of subtle sophistication.
You could describe the food in much the same way, quite frankly. Though the kebabs that come complete with freshly grilled bread are no doubt the headlining act, it’s in the starters that the sumptuousness and opulence truly stands out. A black chickpea and walnut hummus, in particular, is so rich and silky that it could easily be mistaken for chicken liver parfait. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
From the carnivore’s section of the menu, the chelow kabab chenjeh (marinated, barbecued Herdwick lamb fillet) is given hum and throb by a grilled garlic salad, which is the perfect foil for the surprisingly delicate meat.
Sadly, the Soho branch’s iconic baklava ice cream sandwich hasn’t made the jump south of the river, but the napeloni – puff pastry with an orange blossom custard – is a very capable finisher regardless.
This is a place we’ll be returning to, time and time again.
Ideal for sampling superb Sri Lankan food at London’s hottest new opening…
With its warming open-fire kitchen, clay-rendered walls, and an array of deeply satisfying small plates, Rambutan has already become a must-visit spot for food enthusiasts seeking a taste of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine since its opening just last month.
The brainchild of chef Cynthia Shanmugalingam, whose previous summer was spent slinging superb soft-serve ice cream at her Borough Market pop-up, Rambutan showcases the chef’s Tamil roots and the rich culinary traditions of Sri Lanka. The brainchild of chef Cynthia Shanmugalingam, whose previous summer was spent slinging superb soft-serve ice cream at her Borough Market pop-up, Rambutan showcases the chef’s Tamil roots and the rich culinary traditions of Sri Lanka.
Following the success of both that pop-up and her cookbook, Shanmugalingam’s debut restaurant features a menu filled with punchy, spice-forward dishes, whether it’s in the already iconic creamy coconut, lemongrass and pandan dal or the piquant, pert, powerful red curry with prawn and tamarind, which hails from Sri Lanka’s north. We’re big fans of her cashew curry; a luxuriously creamy, marvellously nutty affair, and a lesson in Sri Lankan cuisine’s mastery of texture.
The ingredients here, by the way, are thoughtfully sourced from both Sri Lanka and around the market, creating a synergistic sense of place and time, of locality and authenticity.
As you step into Rambutan, you’ll be greeted by the sound of chefs skilfully slapping roti at the open kitchen counter, with that vantage point offering a front-row stool to see the action unfolding. Make sure you ring in several of those rotis – cooked over small, portable aduppu grills – for pulling through the silky red curry from two paragraphs prior. It’s already one of the single most satisfying bites in the city.
Finish with a scoop of that delectable soft serve (soon to be added to the menu once the churner is in place, we should say), and you’re good to go.
Address: 10 Stoney St, London SE1 9AD
Ideal for the usual superlative Taiwanese small plates, with a side order of karaoke thrown in for good measure…
Bao Borough is the only outpost found south of the river of the cult London restaurant group Bao, whose success has been founded on serving Instagrammable, insanely good steamed gua bao buns and other contemporary takes on the street food of Taiwan.
The inspiration here comes from the late night grill houses of Taiwan, with the speciality of this particular house the 40 day aged beef over butter rice, which is as obscenely indulgent and umami-rich as is physically possible in a single small plate.
Though this particular branch only takes bookings for large groups, but service is prompt and the food fast; as such, you’ll likely land a coveted seat pretty quickly if you walk in.
Oh, and there’s even a bookable private karaoke room, with a capacity for 14 people and plenty of delicious snacks brought to you mid-song.
Address: 13 Stoney St, London SE1 9AD
Ideal for tacos, tequila and top times…
Just across the road from Borough Market is El Pastor, a re-imagining of a traditional Mexican taqueria from Harts Group, the restaurateurs behind Barrafina.
This is a convivial, carnival-like space, make no mistake, and one of the best places to eat in Borough Market. The food is excellent, particularly the beef short rib and bone marrow wraps, served to be shared in an assemble-it-yourself style. If you want to walk on the lighter side of the menu, don’t miss the tuna tostadas. Mezcal washes everything down and sends you on your way a little wavier than when you arrived.
Address: 7A Stoney St, London SE1 9AA
Ideal for small plates dictated by what’s fresh in Borough Market’s greengrocer…
Sitting slap bang beneath the historic arches of Borough Market, Turnips is a farm-to-fork restaurant that celebrates the best of British produce and microseasonality in this most esteemed – yet refreshingly casual – of surrounds.
A family-run greengrocer by day, Turnips is also a lunch and dinner, fine-dining affair Tuesday through Saturday, with a kind of symbiotic relationship between kitchen and crates, between diner and shopper, and between grower and gourmand.
With chef Tomas Lidakevicius at the helm, Turnips is testament to the power of exceptional produce treated with respect. The restaurant offers both small plates and a tasting menu, with dishes on the latter led by a single ingredient; think ‘Beetroot’ as a headliner with both cured hake and caviar the supporting acts, or a dish of ‘Italian Aubergine’ that’s underpinned by lamb. Yep, they certainly want to remind you that the greengrocers dictates the cooking here, but that’s fine by us when the results are this good…
It shouldn’t surprise those familiar with Lidakevicius’s work, the chef having honed his skills in some of London’s finest restaurants, including Michelin-starred City Social, before taking the reins here, a master of transforming simple vegetables into extraordinary dishes.
Turnips is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Friday, with all-day service on Saturdays. Reservations are highly recommended, as this popular spot tends to fill up quickly, both with curious passers-by and those who have made the trip across town or even country.
Address: 43, Borough Market, London SE1 9AH
Ideal for Modern British cooking enjoy from a vintage vantage point…
Visitors to London’s Borough Market should all be well trained in the art of feigning interest in the name of garnering a tiny sample of something – whether it be a truffle infused Old Spot salami, Davidstow cheddar or Forman & Son’s smoked salmon.
There comes a point though, when the legs get weary, the bluffing half-hearted and the crowds too obstructive to cultivate any sense of brio, when you’d really love someone to take the great British produce of the market and beyond, and cook you a damn good meal. Roast, housed above the market, uses the best of the country, season and location to do just that.
Check out our full review of Roast here.
Ideal for tortilla, tarta and that chorizo roll…
London Bridge’s Tapas Brindisa, open since 2004, was the first branch of this all-conquering restaurant group, and was serving up delectable, gossamer-thin slices of jamón ibérico de bellota and its iconic chorizo rolls long before London became well-versed in tortilla española, pimientos de padrón, and the rest.
Though this inaugural Brindisa doesn’t take reservations (all other branches do), you can enter their queue ‘virtually’ via their website, which means, if you time your arrival just right, you won’t have to wait around. If you do find yourself at the back of the queue with a spare few, there’s a pub opposite, as well as a Brindisa Shop in Borough Market itself.
Address: 18-20 Southwark St, London SE1 1TJ, United Kingdom
Ideal for a protein-led take on Mexican streetfood…
Tacos Padre, a stall inside Borough Market slinging out some truly superb tacos, is the second most recent opening on our list, but one which has felt right at home in this corner of London right from the off.
Chef Nick Fitzgerald has some serious credentials within the world of Mexican food; he’s previously worked at Mexico City’s Pujol, consistently named the best Mexican restaurant in the world, as well as London’s excellent Breddos Tacos.
At Padre, the tortillas are made fresh daily- a must if you’re to call yourself the ‘daddy’ – with tacos generously adorned with slow-braised, super-unctuous meaty fillings (or should that be ‘toppings’? Who knows).
Yep, it really is all about the meat here, with the beef suadero spun through with aged beef fat bringing so much mouthfeel it’s a vaguely erotic experience. The pork cochinita is similarly arousing.
Though it’s a largely stand-and-lean affair at lunchtimes, with a reduced ‘taqueria’ style menu holding people upright, in the evening Tacos Padre spreads its wings a little, with tables set up outside the stall and a fuller spread on offer. Whichever time you choose to rock up, you will be fed very well here.
Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House
Ideal for a seafood extravaganza on the outskirts of the market…
Finally, you’ll find us dining with the Wright Brothers (also in Borough Market), whose dedication to seafood, and particularly oysters, marks the restaurant out in a field crowded with great dining options.
The menu is simple; a list of specials, nearly all fish, sensitively cooked with great respect for the premium product at hand. This is the only way to cook fish this fresh, and we love it.
The best seat in the house is, conversely, not in the house, but rather, out front, perched around one of the restaurant’s barrel tables, with a plate of half dozen oysters and crisp glass of Albariño balanced precariously, watching the world go by. In fact, we think we might stay here a while…
Speaking of Borough Market, we’re off next on a food tour of 10 IDEAL food markets in London. Care to join us?