Marylebone Farmers' Market

Marylebone Farmers' Market is a wonderful produce market in a great location. The 30 or so stalls offer pretty much all the fresh produce you need (and plenty of tempting cakes, cookies and breads you probably don't need!). And once you've finished your shopping, the cafés, gourmet shops and designer boutiques of Marylebone High Street are literally just around the corner.

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Today's specials on the Marylebone Farmers' Market: including strawberries and asparagus!Today's specials: including strawberries and asparagus!
Taking place every Sunday morning - rain or shine - from 10am to 2pm, this is the biggest of London's farmers markets, and probably the best (but then we used to live just opposite, so perhaps we're biased!). It is one of 20 markets run by London Farmers' Markets. It takes place in the Cramer Street Car Park, just off Marylebone High Street, and behind the Waitrose Supermarket.

If you're a bit of a 'foodie', are interested in where you food comes from, and uneasy about how supermarkets increasingly dominate food retailing, then Marylebone Farmers' Market is the place for you. There's plenty of local colour, so even if you aren't buying it's a fun place to linger a while and people watch. Still relatively tourist-free, most shoppers are locals doing their weekly shop, or popping in for something special (unpasteurised milk and farm-made butter, a wood pigeon or a bag of cockles). You'll see lots of families, young professional types and students from the nearby cookery schools, and some wonderful 'grand old ladies' from the neighbourhood.

Organic jams in all kinds of flavours on Marylebone Farmers' Market - and taste tests too :)!Organic jams in all kinds of flavours - and taste tests too :)!
Everything on sale is grown or produced locally by the sellers ('local' is defined as a 100 mile radius from London's M25 orbital motorway) - no wholesalers or middlemen allowed. Cakes, soups, preserves and other ready made products must contain a minimum of 50% local ingredients. The produce is very high quality, and although prices tend to be on the high side (unsurprising, considering the area), there's always something for every pocket. The filo pastry spinach and feta slice I bought on my last visit made a filling lunch (eaten on a bench in nearby Paddington Street Gardens) and cost just £1.30.

All the stall holders are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and some are truly passionate about what they do. They are only too happy to discuss their production methods, advise on how to prepare or cook specific things, and even suggest and share recipes. You'll often be offered a little something as a 'taste test' before you buy.

While some producers and growers have organic certification, and some farm biodynamically, other produce is grown under what one stall holder describes as 'traditional conditions' (i.e. the conventional way). But no one is trying to hide anything, so do ask if you're unsure about a producer's organic status. And if you need any further information or assistance, ask around for the Market Manager (he or she is often helping out on one of the stalls). Again, we've always found them to be very helpful and always happy to chat about the market and make recommendations. There is a table with information sheets about the market and its aims, rules, certifications etc. at the smaller of the two entrances to the site (S.E. corner, St. Vincent Street).

Buffalo cheeses and meat on Marylebone Farmers' MarketBuffalo cheeses and meat.
So, what will you find at the market? Well, there are no fresh olives or lemons, of course, but there is an amazing selection of pretty much everything else. The two fish stalls sell sea bass, crab and shell fish (with oysters when in season, to eat there or take away), and meat eaters can choose between familiar and more unusual cuts and meats, including locally reared buffalo, free range poultry, salt marsh lamb, and partridge and pheasant when in season. There are cheeses of all descriptions, honey from north London, and a huge array of tempting breads, cakes, pies and cookies. Recent delights included sticky ginger cake, pear frangipani and lemon & yoghurt sponge cake. Vegetables are of course available seasonally, but there's always a good selection, even in the depths of winter, and it is lovely to see the first asparagus and rhubarb in the spring. The appearance of soft fruits in the stalls in early summer is a treat too.

Top quality apples and juices from Chegworth Valley on Marylebone Farmers' MarketTop quality apples and juices from Chegworth Valley.
Belle de Fontenay, Pink Fir Apple, Shetland Black... a selection of unusual and heritage potato varieties on Marylebone Farmers' MarketBelle de Fontenay, Pink Fir Apple, Shetland Black... a selection of unusual and heritage potato varieties.

Grey Mullet, sea bass, scallops and dressed crab on the fish stall on Marylebone Farmers' MarketGrey Mullet, sea bass, scallops and dressed crab on the fish stall.
Rye, spelt and pumpernickel, plus 'ultra chocolate brownies' on Marylebone Farmers' MarketRye, spelt and pumpernickel, plus 'ultra chocolate brownies'.

There are plenty of unusual fruits and veg on offer, including heritage or 'heirloom' varieties such as Pink Fir Apple potatoes, and a big range of tomatoes from the wonderful Isle of Wight tomato stall. Look out for Chegworth Valley's tasty apples and pears, and their excellent juices. The apple & raspberry juice is delicious, and the surprisingly tasty apple & beetroot juice is (sshhhh!) a great way to get children to have more vegetables - my boys won't touch beetroot, but happily drink this juice!

Spring and summer bring gorgeous cut flowers (I always find the 'cottage garden' ones irresistible) and a selection of flower and vegetable plants, including more unusual varieties.

Chicken chasseur to eat there, or 'to go', on Marylebone Farmers' MarketChicken chasseur to eat there, or 'to go'.
Other nice things on offer include milk, cream, butter and free range eggs, preserves, chutneys and pesto, and lots of lovely herbs - both cut and in pots. If you're feeling lazy there are ready-made pies of all kinds, soups, fresh pasta and take-home pots of authentic French regional style cooking at Madame Gautier. And if you're putting together a picnic you'll be spoilt for choice - various hams and meats, mackerel pâté, masses of cheeses, heaps of fresh salad leaves and watercress, and of course all those tempting breads and cakes.

A slight disappointment, especially in the colder months, is the limited selection of hot, freshly cooked food 'to go'. However, one of the meat stands is usually grilling a selection of sausages, steaks, burgers and bacon for hot sandwiches, and lots of people stop by the fish stand to enjoy half a dozen oysters. The French cuisine, mentioned above, can also be eaten on the spot. But my favourite is always the warm mushroom sandwiches from The Mushroom Table. Delicious!

Get to the market early if you don't enjoy crowds, and to have the pick of those choice items that are only available in limited quantities (pickled herrings, unusual cuts of meat, the tastiest-looking cakes...). Alternatively, things quieten down substantially by lunch time, and you may find some bargains. Whatever time you get there, the Marylebone Farmers Market really is one of the nicest places to spend your Sunday morning.

Beef and potatoes - French style! Marylebone Farmers' MarketBeef and potatoes - French style!
A great selection of breads from the Exeter St. Bakery on Marylebone Farmers' MarketA great selection of breads from the Exeter St. Bakery
Delicious plum and cherry & almond tarts on Marylebone Farmers' MarketDelicious plum and cherry & almond tarts.

Once you've finished at the market, Marylebone has a number of interesting gourmet food shops that are well worth exploring (see list below in Notes), as well as a wealth of cafés and restaurants. Or if you fancy a bit of culture head over to the amazing Wallace Collection, just a couple of minutes walk away. And if you have young children with you, make sure you give them a chance to run around in the Paddington Street Playground, which is right next to the market, but pleasingly 'secret' and hidden away.

Gourmet and food-related shops on Marylebone High Street include:

  • Divertimenti: a wonderful selection of kitchen equipment & tableware. (33/34 Marylebone High Street)
  • Rococo Chocolate: a fabulous chocolatier with some wonderfully unusual flavours, such as Cardamom and Basil & Persian Lime! (45 Marylebone High St)
  • The Natural Kitchen: a very upscale food shop that also offers a great selection of dishes to eat in or take away. The dish of the day is usually great value. (77-78 Marylebone High Street)
  • Fishworks: an upscale fishmonger with a stylish but expensive restaurant. (89 Marylebone High Street)
And on Moxon Street (the street to the north of Marylebone Farmers' Market):
  • La Fromagerie: famously one of the best cheese shops in London, if not the country. It boasts a climate-controlled walk-in cheese room and a tasting café. Paradise for cheese-lovers! (2-6 Moxon Street)
  • The Ginger Pig: a top class butchers and charcuterie, with a fresh meat counter and a changing daily menu of cooked meals and take-away options (8-10 Moxon Street)

Essentials: Marylebone Farmers' Market

Address: Cramer Street Car park, Cramer Street, Marylebone, London W1U 4RR

Nearest Tube: Baker Street or Bond Street

Opening times: Every Sunday from 10am to 2pm

For a full list of stalls at the Marylebone Farmers' Market, see the London Farmers' Markets' website (note that not all sellers attend every week, and some attend only seasonally).

With many markets, unsold produce is simply dumped at the end of the day. London's Farmers' Markets are different - unsold vegetables are collected by Food Cycle, an impressive charity that provides nutritious meals to those living in 'food poverty'.