Rikki Li is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An English Writing and Psychology major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
This week, Rikki tastes some of the diverse food options you'll find in Camden Market.
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If I am given the choice to either eat outdoors or indoors, I’ll almost always choose outdoors. There is just something so charming about outings like picnics and barbeques, or waiting in line at a food truck, or even just eating on a restaurant patio rather than inside the restaurant itself. I’m not exactly sure why I feel this way. Perhaps it has something to do with the unfettered space, or the fact that everyone seems just a bit more genuine when they’re eating outside; it’s okay to laugh louder at your companion’s jokes, to lounge farther into your seat, to leave a dab of sauce on the corner of your mouth. The separation between us and our surroundings thaws and shimmers. We fit better into our skin.
I think this is why Camden Market has been one of my favorite places in London thus far. The market has a slew of other aliases (Camden Lock, Camden Town, Proud Camden), but fundamentally, the market is just a sprawling attraction of stalls and shops where you can buy almost anything: Turkish lamps, steampunk vests, wild honey, handmade soaps, freshwater pearls, vinyl records—if you want it, they probably have it.
Best of all, you can’t go more than two steps without encountering a novel food stand, selling anything from vegan brownies to duck confit burgers to sweet potato falafel. Especially on the weekends, the market is crowded and a bit messy, but it’s heartwarming to see everyone enjoying themselves, tucked into corners and eating out of Styrofoam boxes or swarming around the precious handful of tables with steam rising out of their paper-wrapped meals. Everything is patchwork and candid and lovely, illuminated by webbed canopies of Christmas lights that bob like gentle ocean waves.
I probably could spend the rest of my blog posts this semester just talking about all the different foods you can find in Camden Market, but for time’s sake, here’s just a small handful of the things that I tried and enjoyed.
1. MULLED WINE & HOT CIDER.
One of the most luxurious feelings in the world is drinking a hot beverage when the weather is cold. Luckily, many food stalls in Camden Market will feature massive chrome pots filled with mulled wine or hot fruit cider, simmering merrily no matter how gloomy the weather is. Aromatic steam curls lazily over the deep, burgundy liquid, which is swimming with thick apple slices and cinnamon sticks and whole ginger roots. There is also something immensely satisfying about watching the vendor ladle cider straight from the pot into to your cup, and if you’re like me, you’ll secretly hope that you get a cinnamon stick or an apple slice in your apportioned spoonful.
Cost: A regular-sized cup of cider or mulled wine will cost between £2 and £3, and will keep you warm for the rest of your excursion.
2. FISH & CHIPS.
That’s right—I finally, finally ate one of Britain’s most iconic foods. To be honest, I have actually been avoiding fish and chips all this time because I was so overwhelmed by the sheer availability of the dish at almost every restaurant I’ve seen. However, Sea Wise triumphs as my first fish and chips experience, simply for being in the right place at the right time. Located right across from Amy Winehouse’s commemorative statue in Camden Market, Sea Wise gives you the choice to either eat in or takeaway—but if I were you, I would choose takeaway, because you get the chance to watch your food being prepared and walk away with the satisfying heft of your meal in a grease-spotted cardboard box. If you’re not a huge fan of fish, you can order calamari or fried shrimp with chips instead.
I stuck with the traditional fish and chips meal, and I was not disappointed. What wasn’t there to love? Perfect beer-battered crunch, juicy, flaky fish, and a multitude of sauces to choose from (I recommend their spicy and creamy house sauce, which they call “Bang Bang” sauce)…I was a happy girl.
Cost: The fish and chips meal cost £6, which included a substantial amount of food that kept me going for the rest of the day.
3. DUTCH PANCAKES.
No excursion is complete for me until I satisfy my sweet tooth in some way, and at Camden Market, that meant Dutch pancakes. Also known as Poffertjes in the Netherlands, Dutch pancakes are essentially just mini American-style breakfast pancakes drenched in a multitude of toppings, such as fresh strawberries, Nutella, powdered sugar, whipped cream, and maple syrup. The best part about Dutch pancakes are their snackability and their shareability—my friends and I ordered a serving of 15 pancakes and traded bite by bite until the plate was clean. The ordering queue is a bit slow, but that’s because everything is made to order; you can watch as the vendors pour batter into their specialized griddle, pop out the lattice-brown pancakes onto a plate, and slice strawberries directly on top, complete with a dollop of Nutella and a dusting of powdered sugar.
Cost: A plate of 15 pancakes cost £5. Shared between friends, the cost (and the dessert) were that much sweeter.
Rikki's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.