You’ll find one of East London’s best kept secrets just 15 minutes on foot from The East London Hotel. Broadway Market may be small but its dozens of farmers’ market and street food stalls are more than a match for the gourmet experience that is Borough Market. Its fashion, vintage and homewares stalls, meanwhile, will have you filling your luggage with unique souvenirs of your trip to London.
Even on the days when the vibrant Saturday market isn’t running this picturesque East End street is worth an extended visit for its independent bars, restaurants and boutiques. Plus there’s glorious London Fields park and the delights of the Regent’s Canal on the spot too.
Broadway Market hasn’t always been the hip place it is today. There was a thriving fruit and vegetable market on the street until the 1970s, when the arrival of the big supermarkets began to take its toll on more traditional styles of shopping. The following 30 years saw decline, neglect and even demolition threats, before heartfelt community action eventually led to the creation of the market you see today. There were just 40 stalls when Broadway Market first reopened in 2004, a number that has grown to more than 150 today.
Locals come to Broadway Market to buy top quality groceries – fruit and vegetables, bread, pastries and cakes, cheese and cured meats – but also just to spend the day munching on street food, shopping for knick-knacks and soaking up the laid-back atmosphere of a neighourhood at play.
The shops, bars and restaurants – which are mostly open seven days a week – are going strong too. And there are two additional markets that run alongside the original Saturday market. The Broadway Vegan Market takes place each Saturday in the playground of London Fields Primary School, on Westgate Street at the north end of Broadway Market. Netil Market, meanwhile, is a busy selection of craft stalls from local maker, plus a handful of food shacks
#1 Go with an appetite
A visit to Broadway Market is a meal on the move. With pastries, Indian thalis, German sausages and smoked haddock scotch eggs. All competing for your attention.
#2 Go early to avoid the crowds
The market is open from 9am so we recommend skipping breakfast and getting there first thing. You and the locals will have the place to yourselves, leaving you to peruse the stalls at your leisure.
#3 Head to one of the eateries slightly off the beaten track
If you need a sit-down, head to one of the eateries slightly off the beaten track. The ones on Broadway Market itself are very good but are always very busy on market days. You stand a better chance at getting a table just to the south of Regent’s Canal at Tuyo. They serve excellent Mediterranean-style brunches in a sunny dining room overlooking the canal.
#4 Do make time to explore the shops
Broadway Market has three excellent independent bookshops: The Broadway Bookshop specialises in literary fiction and has good travel and children’s sections; Artwords Bookshop is all about non-fiction, illustrated books and independent periodicals; and Donlon Books is the place for art, photography and cultural theory.
#4 Remember to lock up your bike
If you’re planning to cycle, remember to lock up your bike at one end of the market. Don’t attempt to walk it up the street as it gets congested with people, dogs and pushchairs. There’s a docking station for Santander Cycles at the southern end of Broadway Market, by the Regent’s Canal.
Sweet Vietnamese coffee – made with condensed milk – is served at Saigon Street Café, a stall on Welshpool Street, around the middle of the market. There’s nothing better for a hangover and black iced coffee is the business on a hot day. More traditional coffee options are available at locals’ favourite Climpson and Sons, a café that roasts its own beans in a railway arch near London Fields station.
There’s an excellent oyster bar outside family-run fishmonger Fin + Flounder at number 71. It’s not just there on market days, opening every day of the week except Monday. What could be more decadent than half a dozen oysters? plus a can of sparkling wine on a sunny afternoon?
Sink a pint with the locals at one of Broadway Market’s traditional pubs. The Cat and Mutton gastropub is at the top of the market and dates back to the 1600s. It now attracts a fashionable young crowd. There’s been a pub on the site of The Dove, at number 24, from the late 19th-century – these days they serve an enormous range of Belgian and European beers, as well as British and Thai menus.
What could be more East London than an upmarket butcher’s shop that transforms into a trendy neighbourhood restaurant? After dark, the delightfully unexpected Hill & Szork serves a suitably meat-focused menu that changes daily depending on what’s available.
After that, cross the road for cheap cocktails and live music at Kansas Smitty’s, a secret bar tucked away in the basement of Off Broadway, a not-so-secret bar at number 63.
The area around Broadway Market is buzzing with things to see and do too, meaning that you can have a whole day out within just a short walk of The East London Hotel. If the food and drink and shopping delights of Broadway Market aren’t enough for you, the recently opened Mare Street Market brings together a florist, deli, off-license, vinyl record store and Open Kitchen, a restaurant with huge terrace, rye pizzas and smokehouse. Upstairs in this old local government building, now repurposed as artists’ studios, is a Netil 360, a terrace bar with amazing views and delicious cocktails.
There are even more restaurants, plus a sourdough bakery (E5 Bakehouse), a brewery taproom (London Fields Brewery) and vintage emporium (Arch 389) in the railway arches by London Fields Overground Station, just north of Broadway Market.
A pleasant 15-minute stroll east of Broadway Market along the Regent’s Canal brings you to sprawling Victoria Park, one of London’s oldest. There’s boating on the lake, several excellent pubs and even a petite farmers’ market, held every Sunday.