Whatever market I go to I can buy French, Swiss, Italian, Spanish and Greek cheeses very readily. But I am hard pushed to find one regular supplier of English cheddar.
Londonâs best farmers' markets
Alexandra Palace Farmers’ MarketA spectacular market located a short walk from Alexandra Palace, on a long and winding path-cum-car park (ten to 12 times a year, the market relocates to nearby Campsbourne School when the Ally Pally car park is needed for large events). Started in April 2005 after organiser Chris Elder of City & Country Farmers’ Markets took the suggestion from a friend to open a market in a park, the operation has grown formidably to include approximately 40 stallholders each week. At this time of year, there are barbecues aplenty – sizzling sausages from The Giggly Pig Company and zingy Mozambican chicken from the Zambeziana stall to name two of the best (from the latter, there’s also the option of dousing your dish with a fire-raising own-made chilli sauce – take heed of the warning sign). Edgebank Organics offers a true breath of sunshine, selling lovely strawberry and elderflower cordials, fruit-packed jams and refreshing strawberry smoothies. To top it all off, there are plenty of verdant vegetables, shimmering seafood and enough bread and cakes to make a supermodel run the other way.BEST BUY The canapé-sized pão de queijos (Brazilian cheese buns) from Minas will brighten up any dinner party – they’re gluten-free as well.
THEN WHAT? Take a pleasant stroll through leaf-lined paths up to Alexandra Palace and take in the spectacular sweeping views over the city – a perfect picnic spot for tucking in to your purchases. Alexandra Palace Farmers’ Market, entrance at Hornsey Gate, off Muswell Hill; or Campsbourne School, Nightingale Lane, off Priory Rd, N8 (01689 860840) Alexandra Palace rail, then W3 bus. Open Sun 10am-3pm.
Hampstead Community Food MarketHoused just inside the Hampstead Community Centre, this is a change from the usual open-air markets – just as well, as the sun is set to abandon us. The Centre is the meeting point for plenty of support groups , playgroups and a yoga class. Now food’s been tossed into the mix. BEST BUY Danilo Manco’s range of oils includes an obscenely aromatic truffle oil that’s worth every penny. You’ll also find Normandy cheese, saucisson, goose fat and duck confit. It’s not all posh continental fare though: there’s comforting Malaysian home-cooking, plus tea cakes and freshly baked breads. In season Pick up a box of Vacherin cheese, heat it in the oven for a bit, then enjoy the gooey, rich innards straight from the box. CAVEAT EMPTOR The space previously played host to arts and crafts stallholders, who claim to have been kicked out with only three weeks’ notice to make room for the food. Ouch. Hampstead Community Food Market, 78 Hampstead High St, NW3 1RE (020 7794 8313). Hampstead tube. Open Sat 9am-4pm.
Parliament Hill Farmers' MarketOn a freezing London weekend, it’s heartening to see families in their droves still heading to their local farmers’ market – in these times, those smaller producers and farms need the support. And, as usual, plenty of pram action and small dogs out for show. The history Another notch on the London Farmers’ Market organisation’s belt, this one started in September in the playground of the William Ellis school – the windfall has helped toward getting the struggling institution back on top of its finances. Bless. BEST BUY Biodynamic fruits, eggs, honey and mushrooms from Brambletye Farm; pear confit, mincemeat and other festive treats from various weekly stallholders in the run-up to Christmas. For something au naturel, try raw milk from Alham Wood farm. In season Rich berry tipples from St Anne’s Vineyard make a stonking good pressie – try the medium-dry Baison plum wine or for those with a sweeter tooth (gran?) go for the blackberry or orange-apricot variety. Also, get your orders in at Gourmet Game for fabulous pheasant, wild duck or partridge for a Yule dinner. CAVEAT EMPTOR It can be all too tempting to have a lengthy slap-up lunch at the nearby Bull & Last and miss the market completely.Parliament Hill Farmers’ Market, William Ellis School, Highgate Rd, NW5 1RN (7833 0338/www.lfm.org.uk). Gospel Oak rail/C2, C11, 214 bus. 10am-2pm Sat.
She doesn't sell seashells but you'll still find them at Swiss Cottage
Swiss Cottage Farmers’ MarketThis lovely stretch of space on Eton Avenue has recently (from May 2008) welcomed back Swiss Cottage Farmers’ Market, which had been pitching up at the O2 Centre’s car park while Camden Council set about completing a redesign of the area. There’s plenty of room for each stallholder and the resulting sprawl of produce, with notable offerings from East Sussex, such as the aptly named Pies, which sell pies; goats’ cheeses from Nut Knowle Farm; and fresh fish from Channel Fish. The lovely Isabella Burino, who appeared recently on ‘The Great British Menu’ in a cook-off with Atul Kochhar, now runs her own company, Absolutely with Love. Selling ready-made Italian classics, Burino’s stall heaves with products from panna cotta to gnocchi and lasagne. Kush Cuisine, pickle purveyors and creators of many a fine chutney and preserve, also brings a Caribbean flavour to the market with their famed spice rubs, marinades and infused oils. BEST BUY Kush Cuisine’s fragrant orange, mango and cardamom marmalade has replaced conventional Seville orange in our pantry.
THEN WHAT? Head to the Hampstead Theatre and pick up tickets for ‘On the Rocks’, a comedy about DH Lawrence, friendship, fidelity and co-habiting in wartime Cornwall. Swiss Cottage Farmers’ Market, Eton Avenue, opposite Hampstead Theatre, NW3 3EU (020 7833 0338/www.lfm.org.uk) Swiss Cottage tube. Open Wed 10am-3pm.
Islington Farmers’ MarketLocated in the elusive William Tyndale School playground just off Upper Street, this Sunday market feels like the secret enclave of keen and green Islington shoppers. Set up in 1999 by American food campaigner Nina Planck, who founded what became the London Farmers’ Markets (www.lfm.org.uk). As London’s first farmers’ market, its first day of operation drew swarms of eager shoppers, including local boy Nigel Slater. BEST BUY Anything that hasn’t done more miles than you. Fresh fruit and veg abound, as well as many meats and dairy products. Interesting they are, too – lamb, leek and apricot sausages from Shabden Park Farm, and tiny Japanese bantam eggs from Hurdlebrook Farm (which taste creamier than normal chicken eggs). Alham Wood Cheeses has recently started a new endeavour by selling fresh mozzarella made on its farms. Try out Kingcup Farm’s Chioggia beetroot, also known as candy-striped beetroot because of its red and white-ringed flesh – perfect for psychedelic salads.
CAVEAT EMPTOR? By noon, the first season asparagus had sold out – those Islington locals work fast when it comes to prized produce. Charmaine Mok
Islington Farmers’ Market, Chapel Market, between Penton Street and Baron Street, Western End, N1 9PZ (020 7833 0338/www.lfm.org.uk) Angel tube.. Open Sun 10am-2pm.
Stacks of cheese at Stoke Newington Farmers' Market
Stoke Newington Farmers’ MarketThis is prime ankle-nipping territory – prams, shopper trolleys and toddlers swarm around the various stalls set in the playground courtyard of the William Patten Primary school. Set up in 2003, by the Growing Communities Enterprise (which also runs a local organic fruit and veg box scheme) and run by local Hackney residents. The school hosts the market as part of its Healthy School initiative.BEST BUY All the produce comes from within 100 miles of Hackney. There are roughly 14 farmers and producers, selling organic greens and fruits, seafood, cakes, cheeses and meat. Once a month, Stour Valley Organic Lavender Company sells beautifully fragrant lavender honey and marmalades. As the weather gets warmer, head to Adrian Izzard’s stall for his organic greenhouse veg, particularly the salads.CAVEAT EMPTOR? The Learmonth Brothers’ superlative bacon sandwiches attract superlatively long queues.Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market, William Patten Primary School, Stoke Newington Church St, N16 0NX (020 7502 7588) Stoke Newington rail/bus 73, 393, or 476. Open Sat 10am-2.30pm.
Baskets of peppers at Queens
Park Farmers' Market
Queens Park Farmers' MarketLike most markets situated in school playgrounds, this one is completely convivial but positively frightening for the child-aversive. It's frequented by fierce food-curious shoppers who don’t think twice about questioning the provenance of Phil’s fresh pesto; it also just celebrated its third birthday, having opened on 11 September 2005 under the auspices of London Farmers’ Markets (LFM).
BEST BUY Bread to rival nearby Baker & Spice, dried fruits to snack on virtuously from Butterfly Meadow and gorgeous English wine from St Anne’s Vineyard. The Walled Garden at Wolterton Hall have some interesting offerings: crystal apple cucumbers and tiny pearl-sized grapes that taste of tangy Ribena. But approach Wobbly Bottom with caution: their extremely moreish goats’ cheeses are many a regular’s vice, many of whom risk returning with the prophetic jiggly arse. As pumpkins and squashes start to nudge the summer berries out of the way, try a spaceship-shaped patti-pan squash; cook it as you would a courgette.
CAVEAT EMPTOR? With so much new seasonal produce popping up after a long summer of the same stuff, the urge to purchase everything in sight can become all too great. Bring a limited wad of cash for damage control.
Queens Park Farmers' Market, Salusbury Primary School, Salusbury Rd, NW6 6RG (020 7833 0338/ www.lfm.org.uk) Queens Park tube/rail. Open Sun 10am-2pm.
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With so much new seasonal produce popping up after a long summer of the same stuff, the urge to purchase everything in sight can become all too great. Bring a limited wad of cash for damage control.
Central | North | East | South | West