Maltby Street Market
Lovely as Borough Market is, the queuing and jostling can get a little much. The calmer alternative is to walk south east to Maltby Street. Huddled in the railway arches, the narrow lane is flanked with offers of grilled cheese sandwiches, gyoza, flatbreads, waffles, and fish finger sandwiches – in other words far more temptations than you can satisfy in one lunch time. The abundance of sweet treats shouldn’t be missed either: the St John custard doughnuts are still the star of the show. To drink, there is Little Bird Gin, serving a menu of mother’s ruin cocktails, and Jensen’s distill their London Dry in one of the arches. Once you’re totally stuffed you can walk it off along the Thames Path nearby.
Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 11am-4pm. Ropewalk, SE1 3PA
This place hardly sells itself from the outside, but inside Mercato Metropolitano is delightful. Loosely Italian-themed, there is an imaginative, wide selection of food, and even a cinema tucked at the back, alleviating the general bleakness that is Elephant and Castle. Cleverly the Mercato manages to create warmth and atmosphere in a cavernous former paper factory. Lebanese falafel, American barbecue meat, Vietnamese pho and biodynamic wines make the visit worthwhile. Le Beefed rustle up a French steak with roquefort sauce and fries that is great value for money considering the restaurant equivalent. Unlike many other markets, there is plenty of indoor and outdoor space, so it is one of the more comfortable. Inside it’s cosy and lively – and the cinema is such a bonus.
Mon-Wed 8am-11pm, Thu 8am-12am, Fri-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 11am-10pm. 48-50 Newington Causeway, SE1 6DR
Deservedly doing a brisk trade, Dinerama is the nighttime street food party option. All of Shoreditch seems to be here – either getting stuck into vegan Club Mexicana burritos, or queuing up for White Men Can’t Jerk’s Red Stripe-poached chicken. There is even the Michelin-starred Pied a Terre founder’s stall serving dainty scallops with seaweed butter, and pork brioches. The inventive, attractive food choices are all presented with panache, and the whole experience is extremely slick and well-put together. Drinks are serious business here too, with ten bars vying for your attention. The rooftop wine bar is ideal for a sundowner.
Wednesday to Sunday, 5pm to midnight. 19 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3EJ
In King’s Cross, hidden behind a gigantic Waitrose, Canopy Market offers an idiosyncratic mix of food and drink: fresh coffee, craft beer, homemade pasta, and pressed fruit juices. Every weekend the stalls are sizzling with cheesy sandwiches from The Big Melt, frying burgers at Bayou New Orleans Kitchen, and hot sausages at the Flying Frenchman. Be warned that there is no indoor space and no heaters – even in the bleak midwinter, so you have to be feeling pretty hardy on a blustery day.
On Friday evenings there are DJs, but on Sunday lunchtime it was populated by parents with jumbo pushchairs and tiny dogs. Half a dozen oysters from Oyster Brothers and a bottle of English sparkling wine from Redhill Estate’s horsebox bar later, it was time to head off – by then a little insulated by the fizz.
Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays 12:00 am-8:00 pm. King’s Boulevard, N1 4LW
If you ever find yourself in Wapping on a sunny day, make haste for Tobacco Dock by Tower Bridge. With a bird’s eye view of central London, by day the rooftop bar at Skylight is pretty, by night it’s beautiful. The food options here are Yiro, which serves smoky, delicious Greek flatbreads with unusual fillings, luxury cheesy stodge from The Raclette Brothers, and the now de rigueur vegan option of ‘plant-based’ burgers from Flipside. You can book ahead for secluded day beds and garden booths, but Skylight’s sociable heart is the croquet and petanque lawn. Also very sociable are the sharing cocktails of various punches for four to five people.
Thursday and Friday: 5pm – 11pm, Saturday: Midday – 11.00pm. Tobacco Dock, Pennington St entrance, E1W 2SF
In the shadow of the Shard, the newly opened Vinegar Yard has an industrial chic indoor bar for cool weather, but the main attraction is the al fresco market place of food stalls and shops around an astroturf green. A particular enticement is Baba G’s Indian-inspired burgers, as seen on the BBC’s Million Pound Menu. Their ‘Bhangra Burgers’ are either lamb, chicken or paneer patties with onion bhajis perched on top. From the first mouthful you can see why it won such acclaim from the competition judges: it tastes perilously fattening and delicious. A few stalls along Argentinian steak specialist Up In My Grill serve bavette topped with some irresistible sauce, and crispy double cooked chips. For something slightly more virtuous, fruit and vegetable expert Turnips from nearby Borough Market offer risottos and fruit juices.
Open everyday for breakfast from 7.30am, seven days a week. 74 St Thomas Street, SE1 3QU