The food stalls in the West Yard of Camden Lock Market last Friday were all sunshine and service. It was a world food experience – a gap year in a lunch-hour…minus the alcohol.
If you have a London ‘to-do’ list that burst with parks, palaces, museums and big stores perhaps you might add Camden Market. It’s a day out to stretch the senses – a break from the big brands.
Camden Town tube station leads out on to colourful Camden High Street. Here the shop fronts are worth the walk. There’s plenty to see, and just a stroll won’t commit you to a tattoo, or studded black boots and a sleeveless T-shirt.
Just over the canal (about six minutes from the tube station) an immediate left turn will take you into Camden Lock Market where the stalls and workshops become more individual. It’s a place to meander, to take your time, to build up an appetite for the range of meals on offer in the West Yard.
The West Yard is on the edge of Regent’s Canal, and is a quiet cobbled space within a three-sided courtyard – part of Camden Market but slightly apart. It serves fresh food from around the world, cooked and presented by chefs who understand their local dishes and who want your business.
Some of the chefs are shy but many are happy to explain their food, and will sell you a main meal for less than a fiver. You can taste just about everything in advance and then watch while it is cooked in front of you.
The meals are served in take-away cartons and, if you’re lucky, there’s a chance of a wobbly white chair and table. Not high comfort perhaps but real food – a different meal, explained in English, made in London.
There is everything for the bold food lover – Galician freshly cooked octopus; Pakistani chapati/paratha wraps; Spanish paella; West African cassava; Japanese sushi; Polish sausages; kangaroo burgers; deep-fried Oreos; Turkish falafel; French nougat; freshly grilled salmon and sardines; Ethiopian coffee; Chinese dumplings – the list is constantly evolving.
On my first visit I had Chinese noodles (not that easy to eat with a small fork) and the second time I had curry and samosas filled with an explosion of mixed spices. Each time I found a chair and new company at a small table. The sun shone, there was a world to watch and neither meal, nor the dozens of tastings offered, made me ill or cost me more than a few pounds.
So, a recommendation for anyone coming to London: plan a trip on a sunny day to Camden Lock Market’s West Yard, where you’ll be served food from a culture of your choice by entrepreneurial chefs who care about your business.
Queues at some stalls may be eager and curious, but they never struck me as too long.
My thanks to the chefs for their hospitality.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018