Local guides

Where to eat in Borough Market
Published 03 April 2024

Borough Market, London

A magnet for visitors and a meeting point for Londoners, Borough Market is never less than buzzy. But between the pricey juices and paella peddlers, finding the genuinely great spots to eat is a minefield. Food writer and London local Clare Finney shares the best of the market and the brilliant restaurants that flank it.

Situated in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market has hosted food and drink stalls for almost as long as the cathedral has hosted religion – around a millennium. Yet it’s only in the last 30 years that Borough has become a culinary institution, selling some of the best cheese, meat, fish and fresh produce from within and outside of the UK. It is a Mecca of food and drink shopping, whether you are looking for inspiration or ticking off a list of ingredients. Even Ottolenghi would struggle to list something that cannot be found here. And in the last ten years, its pioneering traders have created, inspired and supplied cafes, bars and restaurants where you can sample their wares without doing any of the work.

Brindisa has been selling Spanish olives, cheeses and meats since 1988 (they are responsible for our prevailing obsession with Perello olives). Together with Turnips (the longstanding greengrocer), Ginger Pig (butcher) and Neal’s Yard Dairy (cheese), the brand was key to cementing the Borough Market’s reputation for artisanal produce back in the early 1990s. Today, though, Brindisa is just as well known for its bustling market bar, serving crisp croquetas and oozing tortillas as well as cheese and charcuterie boards.

Dosa being served at Horn OK Please, Borough Market
Credit: Horn OK Please

At the quick, light lunch end of the spectrum is Horn OK Please, a bright Indian street food stall serving superlative dosas, and vibrant channa chat. Equally lunch-y, though by no means light, is the cheese toastie from Kappacasein, a crisp/gooey, golden hunk of a sandwich filled with leeks, onions, Cheddar, Comté and Raclette-style cheeses. Should such an assault of carbohydrate and cheese leave you thirsty, relief is just a crust’s throw away in the form of The Rake. It may be one of the capital’s smallest bars but it is home to one of its largest selection of beers.

Indeed, there is no shortage of something to drink in Borough Market, whether looking for soft, hot or hard liquor. Monmouth Coffee Company is renowned for good reason. The long, almost permanent queue will attest to the quality of its locally-roasted coffee, but to make that your default brew is to risk missing a less obvious, but no less notable gem. Colombian Coffee Company does coffee, of course, and it’s as good as you’d hope it should be, but it’s their inimitable hot chocolate you’ll want to try. There are no instant powders here, just raw cocoa whisked with a traditional wooden molinillo into milk which is slowly heated in an Olleta pitcher, creating a smooth, deeply caramelised, rich-but-not-sickly chocolate, perfect to clasp your hands around on cold days.

Come evening, Bar Daskal beckons, with its low lights, high tables and a small but perfectly-formed selection of sherry, wine and cold tapas. The bar comes from the Hart’s brothers, the restaurateurs behind acclaimed Spanish restaurants Barrafina and Parrillan, and is named for their grandfather, a sculptor whose house in Estellencs in Mallorca the brothers have known since childhood. His works line the walls, as do a selection of Spanish gins and vermouth. It’s walk-in only, but small groups and early birds should get in with no issue. It’s the perfect place for a pre (or post) dinner drink, especially if your restaurant of choice is nearby.

Food at Akara
Credit: Akara

With Borough Market now firmly established as a serious restaurant hotspot, expect to find a dizzying choice of dining options – not least because of Borough Yards, with its decidedly swish selection of restaurants and shops tucked into restored Victorian railway arches. Here, you’ll find Akara, a modern West African restaurant and the more casual sister to the Akoko in Fitzrovia. It’s named for akara, those crisp, fluffy fritters that are here filled with a variety of spiced, seasonal fillings such as celeriac or braised pork belly, but there’s also a selection of larger plates like Lagos chicken or cabbage with abunu-abunu, a Ghanaian green sauce. It is excellent – easily one of the best restaurants I ate in last year.

Equally compelling is Kolae, a grill restaurant named after the Malay-inflected, southern Thai technique of cooking skewers over an open flame. Their mussel skewers have quickly entered the capital’s culinary canon, such is their renown. The pickled green mango martinis also demand attention. Nearby Rambutan, meanwhile, is a Sri Lankan restaurant from the award-winning food writer and chef Cynthia Shanmugalingam. Her buttery roti, creamy pineapple curries and dense, deliriously flavoursome mutton rolls are worth all the effort it might take to secure a table in this small, buzzy dining room, which is quite rightly in fiery demand.

Just opened on the fringe of Borough Market is Camille, a French bistro from Clare Lattin and Tom Hill who delivered appealing seasonal simplicity with Ducksoup and Little Duck the Picklery. In the kitchen Elliot Hashtroudi plays up to the Francophone theme with natural flair and a deft hand with good ingredients.

And look out for the opening of OMA in mid-April when David Carter, of Manteca and Smokestak will deliver his ode to the Greek islands with a menu based around crudo and open fire cooking. Later in the year, the Maison François team will join the line up with Café François - an all-day French canteen with a bakery, rotisserie deli and space to settle in for dishes like lobster frites.