You probably already know by now the story of the Bermondsey Seven, and how they were kicked out of Borough Market after some altercations with the organisers when it was found that they were also trading out of the arches of Maltby St. amongst many other allegations. The original seven I believe were eventually allowed back into Borough but the Maltby Street offshoot has over time gathered it’s own following, the more laid back feeling attracting a different crowd. When I first started visiting, it was primarily for, and I’m sure this will probably be the case for many, to visit the St John Bakery and to satisfy my carb cravings with their wickedly indulgent custard doughnuts, I still utterly fail to be able to visit without picking one up along with a loaf of their unbeatable sourdough. There were a handful of other traders, selling produce out of their arches, but it was all fairly sparce and spread out; fresh fruit and veg in one, some charcuterie and cheese in another, Monmouth coffee were also selling coffee and beans from their roastery.
I’ve dashed past on a number of occasions for a quick doughnut stop without loitering, but this Saturday I was looking for an interesting little interlude to enjoy a brief moment of sunshine, and Maltby street filled that criteria superbly. I still venture to Borough occasionally, there are some traders that are worth the Saturday trauma (Friday mornings are a far better option if you’re not working), the Neals Yard for example is excellent, as is Real France. But do you really want to wait half an hour for a Monmouth coffee that is sadly not as good as it used to be, or tussle with what feels like every tourist in London? No. When I do go, I treat it like a military operation, targeting stalls and blasting in and out with precision maneuvers. Maltby St however, is everything you ever wanted from Borough; a relaxed market with a good variety of different traders. Brilliant quality produce, with a good mix of things to enjoy now, with produce to take away, and when the sun shining, it’s the perfect spot for a bit of Saturday morning mincing.
I arrive at around 12, and based on past experience head immediately to the St John arch, the thought of not picking up one of their prized doughnuts is just too much, and the risk of missing out spikes around about now. You’ll immediately recognise their beauty if you follow any of the of people I do on Instagram and Twitter, and will therefore also be used to those pangs of jealousy around about now if you’ve failed to get one in your clutches, because you *will* be subjected to pornographic shots from everyone who has. Good. I secrete it gently in my handbag, relax, and head off for a mooch.
Walking round from Druid Street and turning into Maltby Street is a glorious scene; bunting flies against brilliant blue skies and happy Londoners mingle, eat, shop and drink below. No pushing, shoving, grabbing, there’s room to move and places to sit, understandably this may not be the case for too much longer….but for now, the balance is just about perfect.
Malty Street begins with the rather wonderful 40 Maltby Street; a wine bar serving natural wines to drink by the glass or take away, along with beautifully simple plates of food. I’m quick to clock the resident coffee cart, recognising the name from Twitter; Coffee Mate? have a great little spot serving espresso based drinks along with filters and iced coffee. The beans are Hasbean and I have a fantastic Nicaraguan Finca filter brew, relishing the choice available, unnusual for a cart. I take my coffee for a wander amongst the stalls, next door is a table selling Bea’s bakes including her eponymous duffins (for those unitiated, this is a cross between a doughnut and muffin, with a heart achingly butter dipped flavour), but if you’re feeling really hungry I can’t recommend her diner highly enough. @noshableadam is here as Cornish grill, and along with ciders and stunningly pretty boxes of edible flowers and corgette flowers, has a chiller full of incredibe marbled rib eye’s from Philip Warren; I’d come looking for rump but those cuts are persuasive enough to have me reaching into my purse. Stupidly I don’t buy one there and then, choosing to leave it in the chiller whilst I bask in the sunshine a little longer, and by the time I’ve imbibed a cocktail in that sun, my stupidly addled brain fails me; next time for sure!
Another stall I want to return to is Monty’s Deli whose pastrami loaded sandwiches look like the stuff of hungover dreams, extremely good reports from reliable sources back this up, I need to come back hungry dammit! Joses has an arch serving tapas; tortilla, white bean stew and Catalan sausage with bread on this occasion, along with wines by the glass and his recipe book. There’s a french bakery further along with a large selection of sweet and savouries, and plenty more hams, sauces, cheeses, chutneys and fresh produce at every turn.
I’m drawn, possibly predictably, to the Sparrow Gin counter that inhabits what is an arch devoted to carpentry during the week. Set up with an eclectic mish mash of vintage cabinets, tables and a glorious array of glassware, birdcages, books and flowers add an air of romantasicm to the space. After an eager taste of this gin distilled in Peckham, a glance at the concise menu leaves me one obvious option; I’m keen to try this distinctly un-juniper led gin in a Negroni. The result is very different to what I’m used to and the ginger shines through rather nicely. I buy a bottle to take home, and the smooth, citrussy gin makes a rather fine sipping drink over ice, I also adore the retro branding. There’s talk of moving the makeshift bar to a more solid speakeasy style residency up the road….for now I break out my doughnut & enjoy it with my cocktail; a Saturday breakfast of champions.
Sun & booze woozy, I amble up the road (sans ribeye *wimper*) to another section of the markets at Dockley Road Industrial Estate, this Spa Terminus area is, I believe, somewhere several more traders will be moving towards shortly including a Monmouth retail shop. I’m here to take a peek at The little Pedlar, who have a space selling their baked goods alongside coffee from Coleman, they’re due to open a shop just round the corner on Abbey Street - this is pretty high up on my radar of places to visit and should be opening in the next couple of weeks. I re-address my meatless situation with a fantasic steak from The Butchery Ltd and walking past Kernal Brewery reminds me of my visit last month to the Mootown headquarters, which they share with the Cheese and Ham co. next door. I had tagged along with a friend to have a nose around after hours one evening, to watch (and take part) in the washing process of their latest and greatest cheese. Welsh Golden Cenarth is bought in and washed in rejects from their neighbours Kernal Brewery, to produce the outstanding Bermondsey Spa. This washed rind cheese is highly addictive, pungent and yet well balanced and not overly challenging; the two of us managed to eat almost a whole cheese in an embarrassingly short space of time. Maybe that says more about us….
No doubt it’s only a matter of time before the tourists, food and foreign, discover the pleasures of Maltby Street and their neighbourhood Streets and arches, but until then, it’s a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning (9-2pm). Enjoy it while you can!Tweet