Inspired by a recent Time Out feature on the bestLondonmarket’s I decided to investigate the local Stoke Newington Farmer’s market that inexplicably didn’t make the T.O. final cut.
Undeterred, I chose a beautiful Spring Saturday to go exploring. Alighting from the bus south of the market onStoke Newington RoadI ambled along taking in the sights like a lost tourist; as close to home as this might be I’m guilty of not visiting regularly. I passed the usual grocers cum mini supermarkets, pawn shops and blocks of council flats mixed in with (the presumably much more recent) trendy bars and clothes shops. I marked out both The Dot Bar (cafe?) and a huge looking Beyond Retro store for future investigation. The not so gradual gentrification of the area is even more obvious when you look at the passing locals: a good mix of trilby-wearing, beard-sporting, skateboarding men, and festival chic young women mixed in with residents that look as if they were born in the area or who immigrated here decades ago.
The market itself is situated in the forecourt of St Paul’s Church on Stoke Newington Roadand is run by the good people at www.growingcommunities.org. Comprising of about 15 stalls each run by producers selling their wares of bread, cheese, raw milk (unpasteurised since you ask, I had to), fresh veg, meats, mushrooms, chocolates, cakes, coffee, homemade pesto; you name it. It’s certainly too small for a proper shop but is amazing for something different to the usual Tesco run and gives you the chance to stock up on beautifully fresh and local treats.
Customers seem to be an interesting mix of parents with kids in tow, many of whom seem to know each other and uber trendy types in their late 20’s upwards. The general crowd are decidedly younger and more middle class than Ridley Road Market down the road, and will certainly appear more to the recent influx of wealthier professional residents that have made London/Hackney their adopted homes. It’s more expensive than RRM, perhaps due to the clientele, but is still decidedly cheaper than the always over priced Whole Foods store on Stoke Newington Church Street that is surely aimed at the same audience.
On the day I visited, there were just as many people lounging about on picnic table benches drinking coffee and chatting in the spring sun as there were people bustling around stalls, shopping and eating. Some stocking up on fresh food to take home and others munching happily on Turkish pancakes or slices of cake. I stopped for an espresso in a paper cup that left me buzzing for a good few hours and then went for an exploratory wander.
I’d never tried raw milk before, so courtesy of Hook & Son I indulged and was pleasantly surprised; it made me realise just how bland and tasteless supermarket milk can actually be. Of course the supermarket variety is more convenient but, goddamit, the raw stuff is sooooo much better. Hook & Son can even arrange to have the stuff delivered to your door.
The Bath Soft Cheese Company treated me to the creamiest camembert-esque cheese that has ever passed my lips, and the guy at The Mushroom Table (kudos for his amazing beard by the way) will cook you up a warm and earthy mushroom sandwich.
The stall holders all seem more than happy to take the time to stop and chat to you and wax lyrical about the particular appeal of their products; right down to the detail of production methods should you care to know.
All in all this was a worthwhile venture, there is plenty more of the neighbourhood for me to explore and I’m a convert to the farmer’s market. Give it a go and I’ll bet that you will be too.
Days like this remind me why I first moved to Londonand why 8 years on I’m still discovering more and more.
Given that it was such a beautiful day I decided to walk home and as I did I passed Gallo Nero II which turned out to be a lovely little Italian deli stocked to the rafters with the usual meats, cheeses, pastas, oils etc that you’d expect. Small but beautifully formed is the slightly lazy description that I’ll opt for here. There was a queue already forming in the shop so I squeezed past (I did say it was small) to join the line. Hoping that I might be able get to practice my pigeon Italian with the commessa behind the counter I eagerly rehearsed the phrase that I hoped would result in me going home with a lump of parmesan. Somewhat unfortunately, I was served by a different (English) assistant but none the less I left with both my parmesan and a tub of lovely garlic and lemon olives.
This place was a great little find and the smugness that my purchases had produced was further enforced as I passed a big brand supermarket 50 yards up the road. The juxtaposition was clear – the ubiquitous chain was the antithesis of today’s culinary journey.
Further distracted on my route home I discovered Datte Foco, a great little pizza restaurant-cum-café-cum-takeaway. Selling pizza al taglio, or by the slice, you’re charged by weight rather than size. Most seem to be roughly £1 per 100g so mine came to £2.90. I opted for an artichoke, salami and mushroom topping and took a pew at a high table near the front of the restaurant while it was reheated under the grill. Despite the overly crunchy base that was hard to cut through, the pizza was made from beautifully light dough and used fresh ingredients for the topping.
I’m keen to return with friends to sample other combinations and most likely to take advantage of their aperitif menu – between 6pm and 8pm it is £5 for a drink and ‘pizza bites’, or the slice of pizza and a beer for £5.
I was curious to investigate the weekly film night (typically the next viewing was to be The Godfather) but when I looked around all I could see was a small-ish wall mounted TV that didn’t inspire me. Either way I’ll be back soon, and judging by the line that was snaking out of the door as I left I’ll need to get there early to get a seat.