To get to last weekend’s Slow Food Market you had to pass a building that looked like a dinosaur. A conspicuous omen, surely. On entering the square itself you were greeted by a van devoted entirely to chocolate in all its shapes and forms. Yes, I knew it would be a good afternoon.
The principle behind the market is annoyingly contemporary. The idea is that we eat too much greasy fast food, stuffing our delicate digestive systems with pesticides and preservatives and killing the planet in the process. Although claims of ‘Organic!’ and ‘Natural!’ pop up on almost every stall, fortunately that’s as far as the saintly mission statement went. Onto the grub!
First of all, vegetarian friends were probably best left at home with an ample supply of leaves and tofu. The market was very much an omnivore haven, and the butchers’ stalls were oozing with freshly cut streaky bacon, juicy beef and succulent poultry. You could either buy raw, or have it grill-cooked right there and then. Delicious gameburgers or hog roast rolls were a bit on the pricey side at about a fiver each, but guaranteed to taste better than own-brand mystery meat you get at your local supermarket.
Dairy lovers weren’t disappointed by the vast selection of cheeses, which came in a range of succulent varieties. You’d find them cut into heart shapes just for Valentine’s Day or displayed in stacks of ginormous wheels which you just wanted to take home and lovingly wrap up in a blanket like a giant delicious baby (it could be just me though.) For sides, there were also stalls offering fresh olives, various hummus and condiments and bread in all shapes and forms.
To wash it all down with there was freshly squeezed apple juice, hot mulled wine or extra-super chocolatey hot chocolate from the aforementioned amazing Chocolate Van. The same van also satisfied cravings for dessert; as did the Arabica Food & Spice company for some Turkish delight or baklava pastries.
There was loads to take home as well. Most stalls offered ‘take-away’ food, like jam and preserves, condiments or pickles – all usually wrapped up and pretty enough to sit on a shelf as an item of decoration.
Although the market wasn’t exactly the go-to place for a cheap meal, it was certainly a nice place to treat yourself to something delicious, healthy, ethical and organic. It had the flavour, it had the gimmick and it had the presentation. Judging by the queues that wound up and down the square on a relatively unremarkable Friday afternoon, popular opinion was on its side. However as the Slow Food market is a bi-annual affair, it probably won’t be returning until the autumn, but it is definitely one to look out for.
Slow Food Market took place Friday 13 to Sunday 15 February, Southbank Centre Square