Cologne Christmas Market @ Southbank Centre

The weather has become considerably colder in the last week or so, which is a sign that winter is well and truly here. It also is a sign that somehow, the year has flown by, and we’re only a week away from Christmas!

I adore Christmas in London – what’s not to like? The Christmas decorations, the buskers playing Christmas tunes on the saxophone, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas (Is You)” playing in departmental stores, the pop-up ice rinks, the FOOD… See what I mean? In the recent years though, I have discovered another reason to love Christmas in London – Christmas markets. There are quite a few markets around: there’s one in Hyde Park (which also has a ice rink and various carnival type rides), one in Natural History Museum (though it’s a very small one it’s nice as it gives you something to do post ice-skating!), and of course, the one in Southbank Centre.

I’ve always loved Southbank, and could think of nothing better than a leisurely stroll along the banks of River Thames, camera around my neck (of course). There was also the added bonus of the Chocolate Festival that was happening last week… 😉

The chocolate stalls were all huddled together just before the actual Christmas Market itself, and were selling a variety of chocolate based items:

Colourful chocolate discs

The ever present hot chocolate (which I can never say no to!)

Fudge! Not sure why this was sold in the Chocolate section though, I would have thought fudge would fit right into the actual market itself.

Yummy churros (sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar), with a dark chocolate dip. This was really good as they were fresh out of the deep fryer, and when coupled with the dark chocolate – mmmmm is really all I can say. Totally worth the calories.

It was then time to continue on to the Christmas Market itself…

Every German Christmas Market needs to have sausage rolls – or as they’re more fondly known, Bratwurst. These were absolutely amazing, especially in the cold weather. I can’t say the bun that came with it was very good (I wish they’d toasted them, and smeared them with butter), but the sausages were more than enough to make up for it. There are 4 varieties sold – Bratwurst (the original), Geflügelwurst (chicken), Käsekrakauer (the cheesy one), Schinkenwurst (the smokey one). And I must sheepishly admit that we tried all of them except the Geflügelwurst. What can I say, both R and I have very little self control!

But then again… could you say no to this? 😛 Especially when topped with ketchup (curry or the normal variety) and mustard…

And if we hadn’t already had enough unhealthy food, we then passed by a stall selling fried potatoes – bratkartoffeln. I am a massive fan of potatoes (to the extent that I own a potato cookbook), and it was very hard to say no to this. Especially when it’s fried with bacon and onions. And served with garlic mayo! I wish I could say I felt guilty when eating this, but I wasn’t as it was simply too good. 😛

There was also a few other food stalls whose food we didn’t get a chance to sample….

Paella

Roast pork with peas and mash, served in a giant Yorkshire pudding. This looked very tempting but I decided to go for the potatoes instead…

The cutest mini pancakes I’ve ever seen, with the always delicious Nutella

Roasted and candied nuts – a brilliant winter snack

A selection of pick-and-mix

A selection of gingerbread biscuits

And of course, it wasn’t just about the food. There were lots of stalls selling a variety of items, all of which would make for unique Christmas presents or stocking fillers.

Adorable Christmas themed figurines (not sure how else to describe them!)

Necklaces made from real flowers

Fake snow! 🙂

Rather unique 3D and 4D puzzles – I think these would make great stocking fillers!

Scented and decorative soaps. I don’t know about you, but I could never be able to use such pretty soap!

A very cool bauble

And some very cute doll decorations for your Christmas tree

All in all, it was a great afternoon out in one of my favourite places in London. It can’t get much better than that, can it? Especially when you have views such as these…

The Christmas Market is open from now till next Wednesday, so do pop by for a visit if you get the chance to!

Cologne Christmas Market @ Southbank Centre
Open till 23 December 2009
http://www.xmas-markets.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=3

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Borough Market, London

If I was asked to name my favourite places in London, Borough Market would definitely make my list. Borough Market is the oldest food market in London, and is located South of River Thames (South Bank). It sells a wide variety of food, vegetables, drinks, plants, cheeses…. amongst others. They are open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I normally find myself there on a Saturday morning/afternoon, where I end up stuffing myself with food in a very long lunch session. Ah, the life. 🙂

Venison burger (£4.50 if I remember correctly). The venison was perfectly cooked, and tasted wonderful when paired with the fried onions and soft bun. I can’t remember the name of the stall, but I believe it was located in the Middle Market.

Double chorizo, rocket and roasted piquillo pepper sandwich (£4.85), from Brindisa. This stall is located right outside their shop, and usually has a long queue of hungry customers waiting to get their hands on one of these delicious sandwiches. It’s worth the wait though, as the spicy chorizo is balanced by the sweetness of the peppers and bitterness of the rocket. Alternatively, you can head to their restaurant which is just around the corner. A word of warning – they don’t take any bookings, so be prepared for a long wait if you turn up during lunch hours.

Seared scallops with crispy bacon (around £4-5), from Shellseekers. The scallops are “hand-dived”, and are extremely fresh. I feel that the saltiness of the crispy bacon complements the scallops really well. I can’t say I’m a fan of the carrots that come with it, but I guess it’s a way of fooling myself into thinking it’s a semi-healthy dish. 😛

Wheatgrass smoothie (£4.50), from the Juice Bar. This is s stand you can’t miss, with their colourful signboards, baskets of fresh fruit and trays of wheatgrass plants. This particular smoothie is made up of oranges, limes, apples, bananas and a shot of wheatgrass juice. We tried this out of curiosity, and although the bright green shade of the smoothie is slightly off-putting, it actually tastes pretty good. A little grassy, but very interesting.

Iced lattes (£2 each), from Monmouth Coffee Company. The coffee from this place is simply amazing, and can beat Starbucks coffee anytime. Don’t get me wrong, I do drink Starbucks coffee from time to time, but I sometimes find them too sweet. If (and when) I get myself a coffee maker, I’d buy coffee beans from Monmouth Coffee for sure.

I also love snacking on the random chocolate brownie, or sandwich as I make my way through Borough. There is a wide variety of food available which I believe caters to almost all palates. The photos I have are not representative of the sweet/savory food ratio (I have an innate love for all things sweet, and therefore tend to photograph them more….).

Part of the attraction of this market is also the fresh fruit and vegetables which are on offer. I love the variety that is available, and would regularly shop for groceries here if it was closer to home. Somehow everything looks so much fresher and appealing than the ones available in supermarkets! My favourite things to get here are wild mushrooms, samphire, and fish.

Lovely samphire and a huge variety of mushrooms. I’ve only recently discovered samphire, and it’s such a great accompaniment to seafood dishes.

Garlic sold in stalks (don’t they look divine?), radishes, and artichokes.

Beautiful curves of tomatoes and squashes.

A colourful variety of potatoes, bunched beetroots, and a sweet smelling bunch of lavender amongst a bed of garlic.

Some of the berries on offer…

Don’t you just love the colours and tropical-ness of this display? 🙂

A selection of fish and meat

Salt (fleur de sel) sold by the tub. Other varieties of salt are also available – e.g. seasalt with seaweed (which I find very interesting). There are also a number of stalls selling freshly baked breads, as shown in the bottom right photo.

I hope this post has convinced you that Borough Market is a definite must do in London – whether you’re a tourist, or a Londoner. How could anyone resist the temptation of such lovely food? 😉

Borough Market
8 Southwark Street
London, SE1 1TL
020 7407 1002
http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/