She was standing by the coffee stall, waiting for her…latte? Cappuccino? I didn’t think to ask. Flora and I hadn’t seen each other since I left London, had hardly even messaged each other in the months since I moved to Leeds, but as I ordered my flat white and stirred in a sachet of sugar and we asked after each other’s families, I realised nothing had changed.
We sat where we probably weren’t supposed to sit; on a rickety bench outside a shop selling vintage furniture and bric-a-brac, both dressed for autumn in thick tights, our feet in almost identical boots. But no-one told us to move, so we launched into the kind of catch-up that floods you with relief that someone understands, leaves you with a lump in your throat, makes you realise that you’re not alone but that only you alone can fix things.
And then, because we were in the most beautiful, diverse market, surrounded by some of London’s best street food, and our coffee cups had long been emptied, my shining eyes dried, we went for a wander.
Discovering Maltby Street Market
I find it a little crazy that I worked around the corner from Maltby Street Market for three years but never actually went there. Never shunned a supermarket sandwich in favour of a falafel wrap or a toasty packed with so much cheese that just looking at them lined up, ready to be grilled, made my arteries hurt a little bit.
And if I had visited when I lived in London, I would have known sooner that on a weekend the railway arches are opened up to reveal restaurants whose tables spill out onto the pavement so that you’re sitting in amongst the market stalls and passers by. And, while we didn’t pull up a chair and order anything on our visit, these alfresco drinkers and diners made me fall in love with Maltby Street Market even more than the doughnuts I’d spied had when I first wandered in.
It was a day when we couldn’t make a decision, though. Both of us wandering up and down, peering at each stall, trying a sample when it was offered. Did we want a grilled cheese toastie or a French chicken stew, a burger or a burrito, a freshly squeezed juice or another coffee, doughnuts or cookies? The choices seemed endless and overwhelming in that small space between the arches, which was quickly filling up with people.
Finally, we found ourselves at the falafel stand ordering four falafel each with four different kinds of salad, then we found ourselves a spot just outside the market on a wall already full of others eating and tucked into our huge boxes of food.
Afterwards we briefly considered going back into the market one final time but by now it was so busy and battling our way through the crowd seemed less appealing than, say, a walk along the Southbank.
So that’s what we did. Street food followed by stunning views. To be honest, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday in London.
Maltby Street Market, Ropewalk, London, SE1 3PA
Nearest tube station: London Bridge/ Bermondsey
Open Saturdays 9am – 4pm, Sundays 11am – 4pm
More information on Visit London