Credit: Chareon Tapaneyasastr
Credit: Laura Marchant-Short
My Saturdays are never truly complete without a morning visit to Crystal Palace Food Market. Even though trying to leave the house with two small kids and all the crap that they need is a heart-attack-inducing experience, we are always glad to have made the short trek up the hill. Even though at times it feels like climbing Everest with two midget drunkards flopping about demonstrating wildly fluctuating moodswings. I can feel my pulse rate begin to slow down to near-normal the moment I have some of Chas & Momo’s excellent baked goods in my shopping bag, and then I can heave a sigh of relief: the weekend will be ok, we have wonderful bread!!! Which, as some of you might know, is precisely what I live for.
The market boasts a whole heap of stalls selling delicious things, from shellfish to Russian kale, artichokes to salted caramel cheesecake, local charcuterie and raw honey to heavenly sourdough breads and chorizo sausage rolls. All of the market’s produce comes from farms and food producers as near to the SE19 postcode as possible, and many stalls are native to Crystal Palace itself. One such stall, Patchwork Farm, makes it its mission to grow food in as many local green spaces as it can, selling the food back at the market. Basically, the lower the food miles, the more likely you’ll be to find it here.
Credit: Karen Jones
Rewind a couple of years ago in Crystal Palace, and it was a very different place to shop for groceries at the weekend, namely because mostly all that you had on offer was Sainsbury’s. Depressing – its presence loomed large, and, while I acknowledge that supermarkets provide mainly a useful service, the area was crying out for something a bit more varied. Such as locally-grown food, organic goodies, stuff fresh from the farms. Then two local women, Karen Jones and Laura Marchant-Short, felt it was about time that this became a reality, so they worked their arses off to get the market set up. Boom – awesome lady power!
Just over 100 market days later, Karen and Laura’s hard work has paid off – the market is a busy and bustling place with food that has the very best credentials. I love that I can be eating honey produced from hives just a few streets away, or plums grown from someone’s local garden. There is a FANTASTIC atmosphere and the market has a wonderful eccentricity and warmth; the people who work there are a real bunch of brilliant characters. My daughter E is completely obsessed with Chas the baker and no visit is complete unless we have made it to his stall for ‘long bread’ (a baguette). Chas always has a sore throat but is the cheeriest dude on the planet, even though he only gets precisely 27 minutes’ sleep each night due to a punishing baking schedule. His sourdough croissants are better than most I’ve eaten in France – and that’s saying something. His wife Momo’s friend works at Prestat and sometimes passes on bags of ‘broken’ dark chocolates which end up inside or on top of Chas’s pastries. Argh wonderful!
Look at Chas’s breads and cakes – JUST LOOK AT THEM:
Credit: Chareon Tapaneyasastr
We love visiting The Grain Grocer – technically operating out of a shed – where you can bring your own containers to fill up with nuts, seeds, oils, vinegars and so on. One of its founders, Wade, wears excellent sheepskin hats with massive ear flaps. Here are his wares, all gleaming temptingly from within their jars. If you bring something to refill, it costs you less. I have found weird and wonderful things here – from coconut flour to amaranth and cocoa nibs.
Credit: Karen Jones
Owen from The Charcuterie Board can chat for literally hours about how to cure your own hams. He sells properly lovely ham sarnies and other excellent cured meats. Behold:
Credit: The Charcuterie Board
Without wanting to sound too earnest, I also love the fact that the market runs lots of activities for kids which as well as being fun, serve to teach them about the origins of their food. Below you see a nice lady called Kate Wilkinson teaching kids how to plant seeds and grow stuff. When my daughter is old enough, I will be dispatching her down the market to learn something. Better than sniffing glue, right?
Credit: Guy Milnes
Aaaaaannd… because it’s so completely bloody brilliant, the market has made it to the final three in the Best Food Market shortlist of the BBC Food & Farming Awards, which will be decided on 30th April. Crossing fingers that Karen and Laura are victorious* – and if they are, I insist that they wear CROWNS at each and every market for the remainder of the year. Perhaps Chas could bake them some BREAD CROWNS…
Crystal Palace Food Market
Alas, the market didn’t win at the BBC Food & Farming Awards this time around, BUT I think you’ll agree that to be nominated in the top three within just two years of starting out is pretty incredible.