There are two Borough Markets. One, the Thursday and Friday market, catering for serious shoppers, keen to snap up some of the finest produce the capital has to offer – and the other the nightmarish crowd that, sadly, most Borough visitors experience. Happily, if you get up early enough on Saturday, you’ll have time to catch the last whisper of the first before the hordes descend – 8am should give you an opportunity to savour a leisurely cup of Monmouth coffee and a quick no-frills snack of good bread and butter at the roastery’s café on Park Street.
(This may seem Spartan fare for a food trail, but fill up on an overpriced full English breakfast and you’ll spoil one of the principle joys of Borough – the grazing opportunities. If I left you too full for one of Brindisa’s chorizo rolls, washed down by a cup of surprisingly punchy New Forest cider, I’d be no kind of guide at all.)
As soon as you can see more cameras than actual food (probably at about 10am), it’s time to leave: exit on to Southwark Street and jump on a 381 bus in the direction of Peckham. It should take about 20 minutes to get to your next destination – listen out for “Downtown Road”, get off the bus and then turn left off Salter Road into Rotherhithe Street – the Surrey Docks City Farm is just in front of you (in fact, you may already be able to smell it).
Entrance is free, and, although small, there’s plenty to keep you busy for 40 minutes or so from pigs to potatoes (don’t miss the riverside herb and veg garden), as well as a friendly Italian café overlooking the goat pen.
Stay away from the cakes though, because you’ll need your appetite for lunch – head back to the main road, take a 381 in the opposite direction, and stay on the bus all the way to Waterloo. Cross through the station to Waterloo Road, and head south in the direction of that truly British smell – Masters Superfish, much beloved of London cab drivers, as well as the cod cognoscenti, is at number 191. Pickled onions come free.
Once you’ve done battle with the batter, it’s time to walk it off. Head back up Waterloo Road until you hit the Thames, and then follow the riverside path west to Westminster Bridge. Cross it, and carry straight on through Parliament Square until you see St James’s Park on your right. You can then stroll through this and into Green Park, on the far side of which you’ll find the underground station of the same name.
Take the Piccadilly Line two stops westbound to Knightsbridge, and emerge blinking into the treasure trove that is the Harrods Food Hall. (If you’re feeling energetic, walk up to Hyde Park Corner, and follow Knightsbridge instead: trust me, you can’t miss it.) Whether you buy anything or not, half an hour wandering among the incredible range of produce makes it one of London’s best free foodie experiences.
From there, skirt back up Knightsbridge to Hyde Park, and pop into The Lanesborough at Hyde Park Corner for afternoon tea. You’ll need to book, but this is worth it – no mere tourist attraction, the hotel employs a dedicated tea sommelier to guide you through the menu, and boasts the current Craft Guild of Chefs Pastry Chef of the Year – which explains the light touch with the scones and cakes. Take your time and allow about an hour and quarter for the full experience.
From here, you’re perfectly placed for a cocktail at the Blue Bar at The Berkeley – it may not be terribly hip, but they know how to mix a damn fine drink – and from then, to roll home; or, if you can manage it, head back into the West End for a light dinner.
Italian tapas at Polpetto, or a little crispy pig skin at the bar at the St John Hotel would round off the day to perfection – but if you’re still feeling cheated by the lack of a proper start to the day, head home via the Breakfast Club in Angel, Hoxton, Soho or Spitalfields where, as they say “it’s always breakfast-time somewhere in the world”.
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