Maltby Street Market

I’ll always have a soft spot for Borough Market, but it really does need to up it’s game. It’s just too much of the same every week. It doesn’t attract the trendy food vendors that other markets in London get. There’s probably a good reason for this, like Borough Market might cost a bomb to set up stall. Or maybe it’s just too mainstream and not hipster enough for the sort of stalls you find at Kerb or Street Feast. Whatever the reason, it needs to do deal with it and add a few more exciting places because there’s only so many cheese and olive oil samples I can take.

Recently I’ve been heading further along the Thames to Maltby Street Market. This has a much more local vibe, and there aren’t too many of the bumbag wearing tourist that you find at Borough Market who take photos of just about everything. Instead there’s me, equally as annoying, taking exactly the same photos, the only exception being I don’t have the bumbag.

On my first visit here I was eager to try the famous St John’s doughnuts, but they’d sold out by midday. Today I rocked up at 11am, after refusing to be beaten by the tossers in charge of the tube who think nobody has any plans on the weekend so put those dreaded ‘planned engineering works’ on just about every line. So after an hour cross-city trek, and after braving three different lines, including the stinking old Bakerloo, I arrived there in desperate need of grub. I would have felt sorry for those at St. John’s if they’d had no doughnuts this morning because I was in no mood to be let down. Thankfully they did. Plenty of them as well. I was expecting just vanilla. But no, there was rhubarb, salted caramel, honeycomb, lemon curd and chocolate as well.

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Not wanting to miss out I had one of each. They’re good sized things and they should be for £2 a pop. On my first bite I was expecting magic, and was let down when I didn’t ejaculate with joy. And so I wolfed that one. Still not convinced I had another four, and this made up my mind that they really are top notch doughnuts. It’s all about the filling, and they squeeze plenty of it in here. We also got a top notch loaf of white sourdough (£4). It was a huge loaf and easily one of the best I’ve had in London.

Not stopping there it was on to Monty’s Deli for a Reuben sandwich. I went for the £1.50 more expensive special, because it packs in salt beef and pastrami. At £9 it’s a hefty priced sarny to be eating on the go. It sure as hell was packed with meat though. Was this to it’s advantage? For me, it actuallly took something away from it. I wanted more of the cheese and sauerkraut and sauce. This just became a little top heavy on the meat, and because of that it was a bit dry. It just wasn’t as exciting as say the reuben at Mishkin’s is. This was a 7/10. The line of punters willing to wait 20 minutes for one shows that they must be doing something right though.

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Then to clog my heart up a bit more a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich. This tasted exactly like you’d expect. Supposedly this was Peckham’s version of a Mexican cheese, a fact which had one of the people queuing up literally in stitches as he came up with every Mexican joke he could. These were fatty, greasy and deliciously bad for you.

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Then onto a little scotch egg shop. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve become a bit too middle class, because these days I expect my scotch egg to be warmed up. Gone are the days of grabbing one from the fridge Tesco and wolfing it in the store and taking the wrapper to pay. I now expect a good sauce with it, and a runny warm yolk with a rich meaty coating. The haggis promised great things, but served cold it just didn’t reach those heights.

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Maltby Street is definitely worth the trip. It’s not a place you can come and spend the day like you can at Borough Market, but with a couple of little restaurants and a nice bric-a-brac cocktail bar that does good Bloody Mary’s for £5, you can’t go wrong here. The food is a lot more exciting than the standard stuff you get at Borough Market and just like we did you can walk to both in the same day, and if you’re feeling extra hungry you can stop off on Bermondsey Street at one of the many great restaurants there.

Monty’s Deli: 7/10

St. John’s Bakery: 8.5/10

Maltby Street Market: 8/10

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Elliot’s

If ever a restaurant faced stiff competition then Elliot’s located right in the heart of Borough Market is just that. It always looks appealing with people standing outside enjoying a glass of wine, but I’ve never been able to resist the treats on offer in the market so I have always been too full to give it a go. What convinced me today was that I had read that they served one of the best burgers in London, something I could hardly pass the opportunity of trying.

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We turned up without a booking and were told they’d have a table ready for 1.30pm. That time soon came and went, and it was 2pm before we were seated. This didn’t bother me a great deal because we took a seat up the bar, ordered a couple of pints of the Kernel pale ale (£5) and took the place in. There’s a great warm vibe which was helped by it being packed, and it has the feel of a good neighbourhood restaurant.

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When we were seated it was a little frustrating to be made to wait for about ten minutes without a menu. Finally with one in our hands I was gutted that there was no sign of the famed burger! Instead it was made up of small sharing plates and a few mains. Oh well, I’ve had three burgers already this week, can’t hurt to be a little more experimental.

We had to ask for bread and water (that makes it sound a little bit like a soup kitchen) and then had to tell the waiter when we were ready to order. The waiter was chatty and knew his stuff, although when we asked how much food we would need (I always get confused by this small plate system and end up with far too much) he did seem to be pushing us down ordering more than we’d need.

First up was the brown sourdough. Exactly what we needed to soak up last night’s drink and ease our hunger. It was warm, soft and with just-the-right-amount of burnt crust. It’s probably the best sourdough I have eaten, and it helped to ease my pain at missing out on the burger.

The first small plate was game sausage with oxford sauce (£7). I was hoping for big juicy sausages so I was a little disappointed by the three chipolata sized sausages that turned up. They didn’t have a strong enough game flavour, but were still tasty and the oxford sauce (which I admit I didn’t know what it was) had a good kick of mustard. Still though for £7 this is more like an expensive bar snack than a small plate to share.

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Next up was the hare ragu and fazzoletti pasta (£10). Again given the size of the portion I find this to be overpriced. The dish was fine, but didn’t really excite. It needed more seasoning but there was no salt or pepper to be seen- either complete confidence by the chefs that the seasoning is just right or the waiters forgot to put them out. It also could have done with a little more of the meat juices and sauce- it just needed something to bring the dish together.

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Last of the smalls was squid with datterini tomatoes and capers (£10). The squid was perfectly cooked and had a lovely flavour, but the dish was a little unbalanced given how many capers and tomatoes there were, as the sharpness of their flavour took the focus away from the squid.

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For a main we shared the cockerel kiev and cauliflower cheese (£29). Is it simply by putting cockerel instead of chicken that they can push the price of the dish up? It certainly seemed a little expensive for a posh kiev, especially how you only get one side with it. It has to be said though that it was excellent. The crumb crust was perfectly crispy, like that on the best of Scotch eggs, and the chicken was moist and succulent, and there was plenty of strong and buttery garlic sauce. The cauliflower cheese was rich and had a good strong flavour as well.

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With a couple of beers the bill came to just over £75, which for a lunch that was initially intended to be a quick burger seemed expensive. Although it is the best sourdough bread and possibly the best chicken (sorry cockerel) kiev I’ve eaten, it still didn’t justify these prices. I admire that they use seasonal ingredients and keep things simple, it was just that none of the small plates really had a good kick of flavour. We were left thinking just how much we could have had in Borough market for that price…

Food: 7/10

Service: 6.5/10

Atmosphere: 8.5/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 7/10

12 Stoney St, (Borough Market) SE1 9AD

Elliot's Cafe on Urbanspoon 

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Zucca

Zucca is located right in the heart of foodie’s heaven on Bermondsey Street, just a five minute walk from both Maltby Street and Borough Market. It offers quality authentic Italian cooking without the high-end prices. Sitting up at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, the food is cooked and presented with the minimum amount of fuss. It is clean and precise, with the focus firmly being on the main ingredient of each dish. If a piece of meat only requires a little salt and squeeze of lemon, then that’s all that it will get.

A starter of venison, beetroot and parmesan (around £8). was a simple marriage of flavours and textures. A slice of aubergine lasagne (£7) was lovely and rich but such a tiny portion that it left us wishing it was twice the size.

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On the waiter’s recommendation my partner went for the tagliatelle with guinea fowl (£15). More meat wouldn’t have gone a miss, but the pasta was perfect and what little sauce there was had a great flavour. A veal chop with spinach and lemon (£18.50) with a side of cannellini beans (£4.25) was a great example of how little needs to be done to a dish to make it taste as good as it possibly can. A succulent grilled chop served bang-on medium-rare, and bed of spinach laced in fresh lemon juice. It was probably the best chop of any kind that I have ever eaten.

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With a glass of red wine (£7.45), two bottles of San Pelligrino and a couple of strong Italian coffees, the bill came to £85 after service. The staff were friendly and extremely informative, and it was great sitting up at the bar watching the chefs at work. There’s a great buzz in the modern and chic dining room and it’s the perfect place for a casual Saturday lunch or simple dinner.

8/10 (£££)

184 Bermondsey St, London

Zucca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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