Nestled in between London Fields and Hackney Road lies Hackney’s infamous Broadway Market. Growing up, it was Ridley Road Market that I frequented as a child with my parents before they drove me to Saturday school in the morning. It wasn’t until I moved to Hackney Central in 1999, when I was 17, that I really ventured into this market.
Historically, Broadway Market was a working-class retail area throughout the 19th century before it became a lively street market in 1871. After which, it evolved into on one of Hackney’s many fruit and vegetable markets during the late 20th century. But in the late 1990’s, footfall dwindled and the market was limited to a small number of stalls in the early 2000s.
It wasn’t until the launch of the food market in 2004 which gave the traditional market, and later the surrounding local businesses, a new lease of life and is now open every Saturday. Since then, new restaurants and cafes have appeared, London Fields has become a popular destination for new residents and many stalls have now taken up residency as the market continues to gain popularity.
The Cat and Mutton pub is probably one of the market’s oldest landmarks, signalling the beginning of the market. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of food options to choose from including, falafels wraps, gourmet burgers, salt beef wraps, oysters and more.
There’s also a resident stall that specialises in a variety of scotch eggs, meat pies and sausage rolls if you’re into your traditional English grub.
As a vegan (and someone that likes some real flavour in their food), I found a growing number of plant-based options to choose from other than your classic falafel salad box. From Thai food and Ethiopian dishes to veggie Indian curries and vegan desserts, there’s plenty of options to satisfy most vegan pallets.
If you don’t find the plant-based options up to par on the main street (or like me, you find the idea of a ‘rasta wrap’ perplexing and quite unoriginal), head over to the Broadway Vegan Market tucked away in the playground area of London Fields School. Here you can enjoy a culinary mix of traditional dishes and Asian fusion, including ‘tofish’ and chips and Korean BBQ rice bowls – plus popular deserts such as mini doughnuts and brownies.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, have no fear. Broadway Market is packed with cakes, sweets and other confectionery delights to appease your sugar craving. And if you’re a vegan – I’ve recently spotted some great plant-based treats outside the siloed vegan market too.
It’s sad to see that some of the old businesses have shut up shop in the wake of Hackney’s regeneration efforts to make room for estate agents and a heavy rotation of businesses that don’t seem to make it past a year. But some of these more older, notable retail proprietors still seem to be maintaining success.
Off-licences that cater to the wider community, beyond the one day the market is open, have expanded their range of products, Percy Ingle bakery continues to attract regular customers every day and Fred Cooke’s pie and mash shop is still serving regular customers since its inception in the late 1860s.
As you venture further into the market there’s also some resemblance of the old east end market. Owners of local fruit and vegetable stalls, with roots in Hackney, are peppered up and down the market where you’re able to get fresh produce at decent prices.
You also have the benefit of purchasing fresh produce from some of the market’s new vendors too. Purveyors of fine meats, including fresh organic produce and cured meats, are now commonplace in the market. There’s even an opportunity to fill up your pantry with a wide variety of olives, imported olive oil, freshly baked bread, pastries and artisan cheeses.
Towards the end of the market, stalls selling clothes, candles, jewellery and other handmade products are met with more culinary street food vendors.
But what I find the most intriguing about the market, and keeps me coming back, is how the local businesses have evolved. Fancy a cocktail? Simply head to Off Broadway (a personal favourite of mine) and enjoy a cosmopolitan. What a coffee to start your day? There are plenty of cafes to choose from. Fancy Japanese, Italian or Turkish food for lunch or dinner, Broadway Market seems to have it all!
All images were taken by Demetrius Williams unless otherwise stated.