Darren Henaghan, Borough Market: “The simple joy of sharing good food and drink”

30 November 2020, 10:52 AM
  • "Have no doubt, Christmas this year is going to be a bit weird," says Darren Henaghan of Borough Market in his latest exclusive column for Speciality Food
Darren Henaghan, Borough Market: “The simple joy of sharing good food and drink”

It won’t be a season of parties and pantos, and we’re not going to be packing out restaurants and pubs in the usual boisterous mobs. But some things will retain a semblance of normality: Christmas will still involve us sitting down with the some of the people we care most about for a hearty feed and a few glasses of something deeply therapeutic. And I strongly suspect that because the opportunities for switching off from the outside world have been so limited this year, the simple joy we’ll find in preparing and sharing good food and drink are likely to be felt even more intensely than usual.

With that in mind, the single most important thing for me and my team at Borough Market is to ensure that as many people as possible have easy access to the high quality, sustainably produced ingredients sold by our traders. This is vital not just because these heroically committed independent businesses need and deserve all the support they can get, but because I firmly believe that the food they produce or source could help elevate a slightly low-key Christmas into a genuinely memorable one. Carving up a joint of meat from an animal that’s been raised with skill and care, tucking into vegetables that taste intensely of themselves, or lingering over a perfect selection of farmhouse cheeses: these are pleasures that can lift the spirits as thoroughly as they fill the stomach.

Coming here to buy that exceptional produce can itself be a release – being largely outdoors, we can offer people a Christmas shopping experience that’s both atmospheric and safe. We want people to come here and shop, and we want them to enjoy the experience of doing so, but our alleyways and arches won’t be thronging with visitors like they would in a normal December. Instead, our diligent team of stewards will be working hard to maintain a safe, steady flow of shoppers. The Market will be open every day from now until Christmas, and late into the evening on Thursdays and Fridays.

We appreciate, though, that not everyone can make it to Borough, so together with our traders we’ve been working hard to make their produce more widely available. We have significantly increased the size and range of Borough Market Online’s London home delivery service and added a postal option for customers beyond the capital. If you live in London but can’t make it to the Market, yet still want some of the old-fashioned personal service that’s so integral to the experience here, we’ve even employed a small team of assistants – ‘Elves’, as we’re calling them – who will pick up the phone (020 7940 7900) to discuss what you’re looking for, then arrange for your shopping to be delivered to you free of charge.

We’ve also come up with a way for our traders to spread a little of their seasonal expertise. One of the great pleasures of this time of year comes from gathering in the warmth of the kitchen to prepare food and share stories; the Borough Market Festive Kitchen, a three-week programme of Christmas cookalongs, interviews and masterclasses, will be summoning up some of that chatter and bustle and projecting it via a live Facebook feed into the home of anyone who wants a bit of company and some festive cooking inspiration. Starting on 2nd December, three hosts – Angela Clutton, Bettina Campolucci Bordi and Edd Kimber – will each spend a week curating the event, welcoming in whole raft of skilful, knowledgeable Market traders, including Bread Ahead, Northfield Farm and Turnips, as well as an amazing line-up of guest chefs and food personalities.

Then, inspired by our traders and loaded up with Market produce, you should be all set. Christmas is going to be weird, no doubt at all, but sharing some magnificent food will push aside the weirdness for a little while at least.