Until a certain someone met me, I’m not sure he ever considered food markets to be a legitimate tourist attraction. Who in their right mind would want to spend any part of their time in a new city wandering through food markets or supermarkets? Me. What’s the point of browsing the stalls or aisles when you don’t need to buy anything? Er, no point necessary. And by golly, does the long-suffering certain someone know that now.
I could waste hours pacing up, down and around the aisles of food markets and I get embarrassingly excited when I see new produce or speciality local ingredients. My mind usually oscillates between devising ways to smuggle things home and imagining what my weekly shop would consist of if I were a local. It’s not as weird as you (and a certain someone) might think, I’m sure there are others who do the same…
Chef Liam Barker has devised a tour that is perfect for me and my fellow food market enthusiasts; his ‘Eat Like a Chef’ Experience takes guests shopping at his favourite neighbourhood stores then into the kitchen to cook and eat together. The experience aims to give visitors a taste of local life and showcase the best of British produce. This is literally the stuff of my market-stroll-fantasies so of course, I had to join in and experience it for myself…
Fishing at the Fishmonger
Our menu was predominantly seafood based so it made sense that our first stop was the local fishmonger. As we waited for our gigantic seabass, mackerel and tiger prawns, Liam gave us some tips on what to look out for when buying fresh seafood – check for clear eyes, avoid smelly fish, and if in doubt about what’s best for your recipe, ask the fishmonger!
Vegetable Picking at the Greengrocer
Next on the shopping list were the vegetables; we were led to a quaint little greengrocer and each had the task of gathering a few specific ingredients. As I went round looking for my chillies and thyme, I really noticed the difference between their produce and the stuff at the supermarkets. All the produce was loose and not prepackaged in unnecessary plastic, and it had been left to ripen naturally, you could just tell by the colour and smell that it would taste even better!
Grabbing a Drop at the Wine Shop
When it came to choosing the wine for our dinner, we all suspected that a white was on the cards but we didn’t anticipate it being an English white wine. Liam was adamant that this tour was all about British produce and that included the wine; I was impressed by this commitment and also the wine he picked! English wine is gaining in quality but also in popularity and I can definitely see why after tasting this refreshing drop from Giffords Hall.
Treating Ourselves to Chocolate
For our after dinner sweet treat, we stopped into one of London’s best chocolate shops to select a couple of chocolates from their large and tempting selection. With interesting flavours such rhubarb and pink peppercorn or Marmite truffle, it was very hard to choose but we couldn’t resist their award-winning sea-salted caramel and some more classic combinations such as Glen Moray whisky truffle and raspberry and peanut butter. Be warned, it’s best not to linger in store too long as you’ll find yourself wanting to buy the whole range of goodies!
Cook Like a Chef
With all our shopping done and dusted, it was time to don our aprons and get into the kitchen. After spending almost an hour carefully selecting our ingredients and discussing our menu, I was excited to get into our teams, be given our tasks, and start cooking! A certain someone and I started by whipping egg whites and sea salt for the salt-baked seabass, while another pair prepared the potato salad to go with it. We then moved onto lightly blow-torching the mackerel fillets which would go on top of the garlic brushetta and salad that another pair had prepared.
We then turned our attention to another team who carefully marinaded then grilled the lusciously large tiger prawns, while the other pair braised baby gem lettuces in herby butter. The smells coming from the kitchen were sensational and the laughter was also infectious; if we weren’t hungry earlier, we were certainly hungry now. When all our tasks were done, we let Chef Liam put the finishing touches on the dishes while we piled into dining area for another well-earned glass of wine!
Eat Like a Chef
Dinner was served ‘family style’ with everyone digging in and taking a little bit of everything: perfectly moist seabass, mackerel bruschetta, buttery potato salad, braised gem lettuce, grilled garlic and chilli tiger prawns. We thought it was a really well-considered menu; it shone the best light on some beautiful British ingredients, we were introduced to new cooking techniques which we will definitely be replicating at home, and most importantly, all the food was fresh and delicious. If this is how chefs eat all the time… I wouldn’t mind being a chef!
I was really impressed with the ‘Eat Like a Chef Experience’ that Liam has created – even though I live in London, this tour took me to another part of the city I rarely set foot in and revealed to me some hidden gems in that neighbourhood! For any tourist (or local looking to explore somewhere new) who is as obsessed with food markets and local produce as I am, this is the experience for you, and the great news is you are able to book it for yourself through Airbnb Experiences now!
Are you a food-market enthusiast like I am?
Thanks to Chef Liam for inviting us to test drive his ‘Eat Like a Chef’ Experience, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!