London is renowned for its eloquent cultural engagement. Many contend that Borough Market is the centre of London's culinary culture. However, is this reputation genuine, or is it primarily influenced by Instagram stories? I have high standards for flavour, having been raised in a culture where food is not merely a necessity but also an experience. A supper feels like a warm embrace to me. Food has the ability to bring people together, fostering mutual appreciation and comprehension. With this in mind, I visited the bustling Borough Market to determine whether it truly embodies cultural excellence, or is merely a social media destination.
1. Arabica (To Go)
Due to my background in Middle Eastern cuisine, my first visit was Arabica. I was curious as to whether or not it would authentically portray the food I cherish at home. Their extensive variety of potent flavours did not disappoint. I observed a lengthy queue upon my arrival, signifying the popularity of their dishes. From Falafel to Turkish Delight, there was everything necessary to immerse oneself in the Middle Eastern culinary culture. The sight of doner kebab meat charring immediately drew me in. I chose their most popular entree, the chicken shawarma. This wrap was a delicious combination of halal chicken, tomato, lettuce, pickled cucumber, shallots, garlic, and chilli sauce. In a simple wrap, the charcoal-infused chicken combined gorgeously with the sourness of the pickle, capturing the essence of a traditional feast. At £9, it is a location I will definitely revisit.
Padre exemplifies Mexican street cuisine and is lauded as Borough's taco sanctuary. As you wait, you are immersed in the vibrant atmosphere of Mexican culture, from the animated staff to the Spanish conversation. The menu features a variety of tacos, from traditional beef to novel options such as cauliflower and potato. In search of an authentic experience, I requested a recommendation from a member of the staff. Unhesitatingly, he indicated the fish tacos and emphasised their special offer: 3 for £15.
I soon had three fish tacos in front of me. They were atop an onion coleslaw and crowned with tomato salsa, all nested in a soft taco shell. Initially, I was sceptical because the taco's exterior felt slightly soggy. In terms of flavour, however, the flaky cod took centre stage until the salsa's tang hinted at its Mexican heritage. However, the tomato's spiciness quickly overpowered the fish, which was counterbalanced by the onion garnish. While Padre wasn't the highlight of my culinary journey, if you're after a zesty punch and a myriad of choices, it could be your spot!
Joli introduced me to the unfamiliar world of clay pot cookery in Malaysia. As I embarked on my culinary world tour, I sought to accommodate all food enthusiasts, and Joli's vegan offerings grabbed my attention. Among the numerous dishes, the vegan gyozas attracted attention. After placing my order, I received a steaming plate of five delicacies accompanied by soy sauce.
The initial bite imparted a jolt of heat, which enhanced the experience. Soon, a variety of vegetable flavours dominated, tasting revivingly pure – as if health itself had a taste. This is a pleasant surprise, particularly considering that many consider street food to be unhealthy. The lingering aroma of the residue transports you to the origins of the food. Students or those seeking a substantial lunch may find the price of £5 for five gyozas prohibitive. However, it is ideal as a fast snack or a complement to other dishes.
4. La Tua Pasta
The classic pasta dish, a student preference, is exemplified at La Tua Pasta. You can hand- select your pasta type and pair it with your preferred sauce, ensuring that you never lose out on your favourites. My selection: tagliatelle with beef shin ragu, liberally dusted with parmesan.
La Tua Pasta employs a buzzer system to notify customers when their orders are ready, creating a restaurant-like atmosphere amidst the market's chaos. The generous portion arrived looking scrumptious. Long pasta is always delightful to twirl around a fork, but for me, the highlight of the dish was the tender beef. However, the tomato foundation of the ragu sauce lacked the robustness I anticipated, prompting me to question whether its appeal was merely for Instagram purposes.
At the conclusion of my La Tua Pasta adventure, I felt a touch of disappointment. However, at £7.50 for a large portion and customization options, it may be a pasta lover's paradise. However, multiple visits may be required to discover the ideal combination.
As a self-proclaimed gourmand, I can attest that Borough Market is a culturally significant melting pot of culinary cultures. Prepare yourself for a plethora of options that will tantalise your taste senses, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as you'll be doing a lot of walking before deciding what to savour. And sure, photographing Borough Market remains an integral component of the experience.
Edited by Fathima Jaffar, Food and Drink Editor