Lifestyle 23 | Favourite Markets

Less of all of that talk of financial markets, the property market, oil prices, boom and bust. Let’s discuss flowers, antique fairs and posh organic food markets.

Ever since I was a little girl and my mother used to take me and my sister around every market she could find in the South of France guide book, I have been captivated by the market traders’ cheery chatter and the way they let you try their produce. Wandering through the rows of olives and sundried tomatoes, straw bags, lavender, honey and hats all interlinked in the square of some hill side Provençal town in the shadow of the church, while my father sat in a bar with a mid morning glass of rose or something stronger, was always a highlight of my childhood holidays. But beautiful markets are not confined to the warm climes of France and Spain, this country has some of the best markets in the world. We are a nation of market shoppers, from the weekly grocery market shop to the pop up antiques markets in towns across the land. I can’t resist buying something that is beautifully presented on a stall, especially when there is a handsome artisan type selling me his wares.

Here are a few of my top market picks:

Columbia Road Flower Market | London
Two bunches for a fiverrrrrrr! Music to my ears. If you time it right you can pick up a home full of blooms for twenty quid at this gorgeous flower market. On Sunday the nondescript east London street is transformed into an oasis of foliage and flowers. Everything from bedding plants to ten foot banana trees are up for grabs. The air is intense with the scent of flowers and the chant of the barrow boys is great fun.

Mr Clarke can be found in one of the pubs along the road, much like my father during my childhood holidays. Me and my girlfriends prefer to have a rest at Lily Vanilli for coffee and cake. There are lots of wonderful independent shops and art galleries. Columbia Road Gallery is a treasure trove of works from artists in Cornwall. Nelly Duff is the other end of the art scale, stocking street art and pieces inspired by tattooists and graffiti types. For antique furniture you need to pop into Ben Southgates’ shop. We bought our kitchen table there ten years ago and we will always have it in our lives.

Birmingham Fish Market | Brum
You may not think that a market in the middle of the country selling creatures from the sea would be much good. Think again. Birmingham fish market is brill-iant (pardon the fish pun, I couldn’t resist it). You can snapper up (sorry) great mussles, fresh crab and stunning oysters. I admit, it is not quite as romantic as Mr & Mrs Cameron browsing the fish in Cornwall or as atmospheric as being in a sun drenched Spanish port, but Birmingham offers good fun, good fish and very good prices.

Ropewalk Market | London
Mix a reclamation yard with trendy eateries and you get Ropewalk. Running between Maltby Street and Millstream Road in east London lies a lively street market with a combination of stalls, under-arch shops, pop-up bars and eateries.

Food offerings include seafood and grilled meat from Cornish Grill, Greek oils, honeys, preserves and cured meats from Maltby and Greek, Reubens sandwiches and Jewish chicken soup from Monty’s Deli (@Montysdeli), oysters and sous-vide cooked-meats to reheat at home from Market Gourmet, preserves and pickles from Pink’s Organics, and pastries, cakes and other baked goods from Comptoir Gourmand. Another recent development at Ropewalk is the under-arch Tozino tapas bar, Spanish grocers and ham carvery.

No market would be complete without a coffee stall, and the Ropewalk’s coffee cart is Coffee, Mate?, who brew with Has Bean coffees. Also on offer in the beverage department are wines by the glass from Life’s a Bottle and gin cocktails at the pop-up Sparrow Bar put on by small-batch London gin distillers Little Bird Gin. Our favourite place to stop and eat is St John. The Welsh Rarebit is amazing.

Daylesford Organic Farm | Gloucestershire
More shop than market, but I’ve included it in my list of top markets because when you walk around the converted barn it feels like a food market, the poshest of posh food markets that is. Oh how I love this place. Chickens and cows roam around the Bamford’s estate, halos over their heads, chewing on the greenest of grass and if you look closely enough you are sure they are smiling. Daylesford is like the Disneyland of food markets. The cheese stall has you dizzy with the pungent aroma of ripe brie. The meat counter is a mecca for the carnivorous, Barbour jacket wearing cavemen. Seasonal vegetables, gold top milk and coffee from bean heaven.

There is a spa, clothes shop, garden centre, cafe and cookery school. This isn’t any normal market, it is a steroid pumped farmers market (organic steroids of course!) “dash” credit card eating emporium of Cotswold delights.

If you know any markets that I should visit please tweet or instagram me @theclarkeshouse

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