The Borough Market Kitchen marks its opening with a community lunch
“I’ve been coming to the Market since it first became a retail market in 1998—my mum would buy all her fruit and veg from Paul Wheeler’s—and I’m still a local resident. I live 100 metres from the Market, on Park Street,” said Amir Eden of Living Bankside. “Our organisation has also worked with the Market on various events—community days, winter festivals—which has been a delight.”
It’s a tale that became increasingly familiar as we spoke to various attendees of the recent community lunch, which took place on Tuesday 19th November in celebration of the opening of The Borough Market Kitchen. Local residents who have become trustees; Borough Market Cookbook Club members who now work with the Market’s partner charity Plan Zheroes: it would seem once you’ve become a part of the Borough Market community, you never really leave it—a veritable Hotel California, in the very best way. “The Market has always been about community,” said Amir. “There are more than 100 businesses in the Market and they all know each other, of course, but they also know the locals and the locals know them.”
Snug under blankets
Huddled around tables (and snug under blankets against the winter chill) were children from local schools, who came to the Market to sell their school-grown fruit and veg as part of the School Food Matters scheme; Cookbook Club members; our neighbours at Southwark Cathedral; local charities who receive surplus produce from traders. “The traders help us a lot and we know them very well,” said Chris Wilkie, co-founder and CEO of Plan Zheroes. “But it’s rare that the local charities we distribute their surplus to get to meet them, so it’s nice to have an opportunity to bridge that gap.” It’s a blueprint of what, hopefully, the Borough Market Kitchen will become: a way of bringing people together over food. “It provides a space for people to sit and eat and talk to each other; to get the chance to meet new people and help build the community,” said Chris.
“The Market’s always been good at connecting people with others who want to make the most of the space, but they’ve gotten better and better at it,” added Kath Serkis, board member at Southwark Playhouse. “I think The Borough Market Kitchen is a really good addition—it’s all looking so smart and it will help with the comfortable flow of the Market. There is such a nice atmosphere here—it’s a really good use of the space.”
Diversity of produce
The opening of The Borough Market Kitchen not only acts to create a space for communal dining, but seeks to promote the quality and diversity of produce available at the Market, with the stalls’ chefs making the most of the offering on their doorstep. The generous portions of ricotta and spinach lasagne we tucked into, for example, was the making of not just La Tua Pasta, who hand-rolled the pasta and cooked the dish, but Ted’s Veg; the rather special baked Basque cheesecake was made not just with the hands of Joseba and his team at Batera—Pintxos by Mimo, but the cheesemakers that serve Neal’s Yard Dairy.
What’s more, the creation of a dedicated area for diners has opened up the rest of the Market for those who want to pop down for a loaf of bread or a bag of apples, without getting sucked into the lunchtime throng. “One of the things our organisation is about is healthy eating—that’s not to say you can’t eat cake, but it’s trying to cut out processed stuff and really using the raw produce the Market has on offer to produce good food, so it’s great that the Market’s pushing that,” Amir continued. “It’s always a juggling act to keep everyone happy: those who want to come and buy their bird for dinner that night and those who want to enjoy the atmosphere, eat and take pictures,” added Kath. “I think they’ve found that balance.”