A Borough Life: the first date

Categories: Reflections and opinions

Chef, food writer and Borough Market blogger Luke Mackay talks about his life-long relationship with food, cooking and the Market

Roast Restaurant, 9:25am on a Saturday in 2006

“Okay! Excellent! I’ll have the full English please. Is it okay to have an extra slice of your amazing black pudding instead of the tomato? Yes? Great, thanks. And umm, a bloody mary—just to take the edge off, you know?”

“And for you Madam?”

“Can I just have a piece of fruit please—can you make sure it’s been washed? And some grapefruit juice.”

“Oh, are you sure? The breakfast is amazing here—kippers?”

“I’m actually vegan. Fruit’s fine.”

“No, of course, sure. Vegan. That’s cool. Is that like, um, an ethical thing?”


“Right. Yes, COOL. That’s really great. How about a drink though? Pretty sure there’s no animals in vodka and tomato juice, HA HA!”

“It’s 9:30 am.”

“No, right. Of course. Ridiculous.”

“Here is your bloody mary, sir.”

Oh Christ.

“Oh, thanks, mate. Lovely.”


“How’s your grapefruit juice—looks great.”

“Nice, thank you.”

Well this is going swimmingly.

“So have you been to Borough Market before?”


“Really!? I love it—come all the time. This is my first date here though! You’re not a ‘foodie’ then?


“Full English with extra black pudding for you sir…”


“Oh yes, lovely. Thank you.”

“And this apple for you, madam.”

“Thank you.”


And that was the beginning of the end of that first date at Roast restaurant in the middle of Borough Market.

But it didn’t deter me. In the dating years (c.2005-2010) Borough was my first date of choice—more interesting and original than a bar, easier to escape in event of a disaster (see above) and ample opportunity to show off my encyclopaedic knowledge of aged Alpine cheese and Sussex day boats.  It’s interesting, but probably not surprising that amazing first Borough dates—you know, perusing great produce, fog and excitement in the air, clutching a hot cider and ‘accidentally’ brushing arms as you both reach for the same pumpkin display—usually meant a disastrous second date in a poncy bar or posh restaurant.

Borough relaxes people, especially me—I’m happy here, comfortable, confidant. I can be myself in my surroundings. When you stick me in a ‘trendy’ bar in Shoreditch for date number two I’m an idiot, out of my comfort zone. I sweat profusely and say things like “So, erm dating! Eh? What’s THAT all about? Do you like bicycles?”

But you can’t really have a first date and a second date in Borough Market because you’d come across as a bit weird so instead of supping oysters and chablis off a barrel and skipping past butchery displays, fingers entwined and alive with possibility, you have to put on a shirt and give someone a pound to wash your hands when you have a wee and pay 14 quid for a watery martini for someone whom you know you will never see again.

I’m so glad I’m married now.