26 February 2012

A foodies ride in London (Billinsgate + Borough Market)

I love fish. Unfortunately, it is not easy to get good quality fish in the UK. Supermarkets tend to stock thawed fish that they sell for ridiculous prices, and there's only a handful of fish mongers with an OK reputation near us. But again, quite pricey.

Fortunately though, a few years ago I came to know that London is home to the 3rd biggest fish market in the world!!! The place is called Billinsgate Market. Tokyo and Madrid are first and second on the list, obviously! Sometimes I want (good) fish so badly that I am happy to get up at 5 am on a Saturday morning and ride the 8 miles from home to Billinsgate, in East London. I've done this ride many times already, and it is a very enjoyable experience if you can get past the painful start at stupid o'clock. The roads are super quiet, usually dark, and the sleep deprivation is normally gone by the time you warm up a bit.

Kentish Town High St, 5:45 am

Somewhere in the city, 6 am
The route I took looked like this there and back:

After 20-ish min you get to Tower Bridge and on to the Cycle Superhighway 3, all the way into Billinsgate. The contrast of the market with the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf is quite remarkable.
Fish and suits merge here
Billinsgate operates from the early hours and closes by 8 am. If you get there by 6 am, you are already late, and that's what happened to me this time. Most of the good stuff is gone by then, and you have to be very selective with what you get. However, if you know how to pick fresh stuff, you can get away with good deals. There's plenty to choose from, lots of tropical fish from Asia (not even sure about their names!) and even more shellfish. All the pics were taken with permission of the sellers, as it is in theory not allowed otherwise...

Rush hour at multicultural Billinsgate
Pass on their names...
Good for summer bbqs, a bit too much for just me (you buy the whole box!)
Huge salmon (check my foot at the bottom left, for comparison!)
After spending far too much money, I headed to one of the cafes in the market for a well deserved bacon and egg roll with a milky coffee. As I was heading out, I noticed that I was not the only mental cyclist in the market, which is good for reassurance, isn't it?

Salty breakfast!
The inside of the cafe
On my way back, still way too early, I decided to turn left to the South of the Thames, and headed for Borough Market. After a diversion due to the unusual opening of the Tower Bridge, I reached the market.
It does not happen that often, but I got stuck for 15 min there
Yet another foodie destination, although they're not whole-sellers anymore, but only retail. That means prices are much more steep, although the food is still quite nice. The first thing I came across was some British/Scottish/Welsh chorizos. The market was quiet at this time in the morning, so had an interesting talk with the stall guy, who also visits Billingsgate on a regular basis. I sampled all the chorizos, and truth be told, some of them were actually quite nice. Ended up getting one, made of red Scottish deer, something different from the ones we have in Spain, but still very tasty. After some interesting talks with other foodies, and the mandatory free samples, I headed back home.

Chorizos made in the UK
Nice, yet expensive (>£3.5!!!) bread
All in all, I clocked up about 30 km, ate too much good food, cycled with a backpack full of fish, and had an amazing time. Now time to concentrate on the thesis...

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