We have lived near Lower Marsh for almost 10 years and we have seen already a couple of times in the past attempts to revive what apparently used to be a thriving local market. Occasionaly there are fun events such as Scoot the Thames which bring crowds to the area but it is mostly very quiet especially at weekends. Two weeks ago the market ‘relaunched‘ its saturday trading – weekdays in fact it is quite busy with street food catering mostly to local workers. The new saturday market was advertised locally and via newsletters and web posts and did look promising so of course, we took a stroll through the market during their first two saturdays and attended the launch pop up restaurant hosted by Chateau Marmot. Here’s what we thought.
The launch day was quite busy. We browsed the stalls and made a few purchases, and the variety is quite interesting but truthfully I think the quality is a bit hit and miss. For example we do have a fishmonger (from my usual beach clean area of Leigh on Sea) but his fish (apart from scallops) is trawled, so I am obviously not buying it. Two fresh meat sellers, and we tried them both. While the ox cheek I picked up from the first stall (towards Radio Days) was expensive and not very good, the bacon and steaks we bought from Boarstall’s was actually great and fairly priced so we’ll definitely be buying more (and they stock also chicken and other meats).
Cheese is represented by a couple of stalls including The Bath Soft Cheese company where I got a soft Wyfe of Bath cheese slice (at around £4).
Of course there are cakes, and plenty of. Delicious macaroons from friendly french seller the Crumbery (£5 for 6), slices and muffins and brownies for local patisserie Konditor & Cook who need no introduction and the Bad Boys Bakery, made famous by Gordon Ramsay in his Gordon Behind Bars tv programme. While I enjoyed the programme and really like the concept of the enterprise, the cakes I bought were really disappointing and not worth the money. A chocolate brownie at £2 was completely uncooked inside and the lemon treacle badly labelled (as if it had expired a month prior) but also had a bottom so soggy it would have made Paul Hollywood scream in agony.
The second saturday unfortunately the market did not seem as busy as at launch. In my opinion it seems the sellers’ selection has not been thoroughly researched. Why the empty western end of the road? And why such a difference in quality of traders, from a non sustainable fishmonger to very high quality British made charchuterie? And why not have some of the weekdays street food sellers present anyway? Maybe this would bring more people and entice punters to actually stay around for the market itself – easy to see how Maltby Street took off and it’s now hugely successful. I hope my local market will pick up and continue to grow, we’ll keep buying for sure!
The Chateau Marmot pop up restaurant
I had only read a couple of things about Chateau Marmot, and was keen to try it. Presented by the Grub Club, the evening at Lower Marsh was priced at £44 per person and the menu was created using produce from some of the market sellers, which was a good way of showcasing the products on offer to a wider public. Hosted for the occasion in the now sadly closed Cooper’s Food shop, they had done a nice job of making the empty store attractive with candles flickering, tealights and wooden shelves. A few tables for 8 people each, this was a busy night. We had booked the dinner for the saturday but brunch at £25 was also available.
The night was not BYO and Chateau Marmot had a decent selection of cocktails (£8), a very restricted selection of wines (two of each with a portuguese and a south african white to choose from) and a few beers. We had a round of aperitif and then two bottles of white for the 4 of us, encouraged by the keen staff.
The amuse-bouche was lovely – a small pot of jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle oil, really delicious creaminess with a powerful truffle flavour.
Our first course was a charcuterie selection from Cannon & Cannon with toasted bread and picalilli and chilli jam. I really enjoyed everything on the plate yet we all felt the portion was a little small, and the slices a little thin. What came next was replaced for @bmcboy as it contained mushrooms. For us, a Wild mushrooms, shiitake dashi, wakame, benito (sic), poached Orchard egg, textures and asian aromas blending beautifully together. Short and sweet, a taste of things to come.
This was followed by a great dish with Hansen & Lydersen smoked salmon, winter veg, blood orange gel and kolrabi. Delicate, foraged themed, this was certainly turning out to be a professionally managed menu with balanced flavoured.
Next our main course, Ginger Pig pork belly, carrot and Karachi puree, ‘Calabaza’ bok choi, water spinach and tamarind chilli sauce. Really intense flavours on the vegetables, absolutely wonderful greens which were the best thing on the plate. The pork belly was good, but again the slices very small and very fatty – ultimately you didn’t eat much of it. Having bought and cooked pork belly from Ginger Pig myself a few weeks ago, I felt once again a bit short changed (err…it’s a cheap cut).
Finally the dessert, hailed as Eaton Mess, ‘The Pressery’ almond milk and vanilla custard, palm sugar jelly, chocolate soil, passion fruit. For me this was the highlight of the evening – deliciously delicate, with some of the classic ingredients of the traditional dessert mixed with an ethereal jelly which was just spectacular. The problem however was that we all found ourselves wanting more, the portion size being ridiculously small. What a shame. Rare for me, I could have eaten more.
And with this, the meal ended. We paid our bill, which included service and was cash only. The final cost of the evening was £70 each and frankly this put a bit of a damper on the evening. I really don’t mind paying money for a worthy night out, but we felt a little ripped off. For this sort of money, then I would rather have more choice on drinks, quicker service, credit card facility and more privacy. It is a shame because the quality of the food was exceptional and I loved every mouthful of our meal, but then the portion sizes were a let down, again comparing to the cost. I realise they don’t look that small in these photos but after each course I thought I could have done with more on the plate, and so did each diner in our party.
Great for us to have a cool food related event in our neighbourhood, however, so thanks Chateau Marmot for visiting our SE1 shores.