She had one of the more unusual piercings that Greedy Girl has ever seen. Well, truth be told, that’s not strictly accurate but it will need to do for a public blog.

It was at Monmouth coffee shop in Borough Market – Southwark’s main claim to fame apart from London Bridge and, er, the Crown Court. The barista had a silver stud in the middle of her dimple. What came first you may ask? The piercing or the dimple? Perhaps we’ll never be entirely sure.

Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband had their most successful food journey to date in the UK and a huge part of it was the delights of Borough Market. As card-carrying Melburnians, we’ve always been proud of the old Queen Vic but Melbourne City Council and the market planners need to hop a plane to London, pronto.

There’s no doubt the produce at Queen Vic is among the world’s best – what’s missing is the tasting culture and the restaurants/cafes that support it.

Among the delights that Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband sampled were four different types of jamon – all freshly shaved from the leg and the full provenance of the pig explained. We had organic Greek Kalamata olives – unpasteurised. One was completely without salt and a revelation. Trying the salted version afterwards was an amazing contrast – while the flavour was very pleasing ‘au naturel’, with the salt added it became incredibly intense. Yum.

There was parmigiano reggiano – two types. One organic version was as we all know and love. The other was from a ‘red cow’. Apparently this is a breed that was nearly extinct but managed to be brought back from the edge. Again, the difference in the flavour was extraordinary. The red cow parmesan had a tang and a saltiness that was so appealing, we ordered it in one of the market cafes the next night – but more on that later.

A huge number of stallholders cook something for the locals to take away. Southwark is a big business area and the market is packed at lunchtime and after work. We wished for our own kitchen to take away some of the sausages, the enormous aged rib-eye steaks, the blue cheese from Buckinghamshire from Neal’s Yard to melt over pasta. Given we were missing the equipment, we forced ourselves to be content with fresh roasted duck rolls, served with green leaves and mustard, or another day, a pork roll with barbecue sauce and coleslaw.

At the entrance to the market is a very fine-looking tapas bar – a restaurant outlet that is part of the same business as where we tasted the jamon – called Brindisa. It doesn’t take bookings (one of the few cafes in the market that doesn’t) and we found that to our cost when we tried to get in for an earlyish dinner one night. At 6.45 it was jam-packed, and our wait at the bar would have been over an hour.

We headed down cafe/pub lane and ended up at the oddly named Applebee’s fish cafe. Applebee’s is a chain in the US I think of fast food, so Greedy Girl didn’t have high hopes. I was soon disabused of that notion. Gluttonous husband ordered the prawn Caesar salad and Greedy Girl had lobster and scallop ravioli with a saffron sauce and fresh tomato. We ended up sharing and both dishes were an absolute triumph. The ravioli dish was probably a tad too rich (and large) for one person. Gluttonous husband was very happy about that.

Our next free night, we got to the tapas bar very early – 5.15 to be exact, ready for the kitchen to open at 5.30. We ordered Spanish reds by the glass and the charcuteria selection – chorizo, sausage, two types of ham, bread and olive oil and watched the clock tick over before the hot stuff became available. The meats were sensational – but we’d had a preview of that quality in their market stall.

The other dishes were huevos rotos – broken eggs over fried potatoes and iberico pork. A great breakfast dish too – especially the morning after the night before. We added a specialty of the house – pan fried asparagus with duck egg, romesco sauce and serrano ham. Yummo. That was followed up by gambas al ajillo – chilli garlic prawns that sizzled merrily as the dish was plonked in front of us. Our final dish was croquetas de jamon. It was all sensational and, as we rolled out of there at 6.45 on our way out to a show, the place was again packed with a line of people at the bar.

Oddly enough, when we asked at their market stall where they recommended we eat, they indicated a place run by Aussies across the lane from them called Elliot’s – that’s where we ate our final night in London, again opting for small plates to share.

We started with a British charcuterie plate – the style was probably more Italian than anything, with some spicy sausage, some milder meat and three tiny thin sausages. Gluttonous husband had already cut the third in half so as not to provoke a turf war. We followed that with the red cow parmesan, dressed with a chestnut honey. The cheese is so tasty, it easily took on the sweetness of the honey and the strength of the chestnut flavour and won out. To finish, we had a roast garlic loaf (brown bread lightly scraped with a roast garlic butter), buttermilk breaded chicken wings and asparagus with brown butter eggs. The eggs were lightly scrambled and dotted with crunchy croutons. The texture and taste were wonderful.

It was very exciting to wander the market, which was probably half the size of the Queen Vic, and marvel at the range of produce. Admittedly, not all of it was home grown, but a fair swag seemed to be. We tried two places for coffee – an Italian hole-in-the-wall where an espresso was 50 pence. Yep. 50 pence – and the aforementioned Monmouth, which attracts huge queues at the weekend but we snagged a spot to sit and enjoy our caffeine fix at the bar.

There was probably only one tourist trap in the whole area – the oyster bar where a glass of champagne and a mixed half dozen of rock oysters was very pleasant but quite expensive. We could have taken heed of the locals who buy their champagne in the market and get the oysters shucked to order for about a third of the price of sitting down in the bar. We were reliably informed by a chatty sales guy at Laithwaite’s wine store (worth a visit) that buying your own grog and drinking it in public are far from frowned upon throughout the city. What a town. What a market!

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