29 Jan Minn’s Munchtime – Mercato Metropolitano
As a regular to the Elephant & Castle area, I was surprised that Mercato Metropolitano already existed for a few years without my knowing. Perhaps it’s down to the unassuming alleyway or the very highly placed sign (hands up for short people problems)! I got a tip off that this is THE spot for between rehearsal meals with the added bonus of avoiding tourist crowds, so I went to check it out.
The unobtrusive alley opens into a covered outdoor seating area equipped with a bar and a macarons stall. A slightly odd combination but one I’m willing to accept 😀 This leads on to the main area, a large complex of food and drinks stalls, complete with its own centre stage bar. Even though it’s obviously an Italian market, the selection on offer is much more widespread. You can choose from Turkish kebabs, Indian curries, Mexican blue corn tortillas, Lebanese wraps, Venezuelan grill, Vietnamese cuisine and more! My choice of dinner came from the Indian Kitchen. The Sag Aloo (potato and spinach curry) comes with rice and you can opt for any of the sauces available on the counter. The friendly owner recommended a creamy yoghurt sauce (I didn’t try as I’m eating dairy-free), some pickles and a mint sauce.
Everything on the plate was super tasty. The curry was perfectly seasoned, I often find curries can be overly salty to compensate for lack in flavour, but this was just right. It had a warming spice that was not chilli hot. For the heat seekers amongst us there were extra chillies on offer next to the sauces. The pickles included lemon, carrot and ginger. These were tangy and the lemon rind added a bitterness which complemented the soft potatoes. I was a bit sceptical of the mint sauce at first, as I’ve only previously tried the type of mint sauce you traditionally eat with lamb. It turned out to be my favourite one, not overly minty, but sour and hot too.
I happened to bump into two colleagues, one who had the Turkish lamb kofta wrap and the other a Lebanese halloumi wrap. Both wraps looked amply filled and were given enthusiastic thumbs up!
Post main course I was easily persuaded into trying some gelato. On the day, three sorbets were on offer – lemon, mango and raspberry. I chose a small cup of the lemon while the others had pistachio, black sesame and caramel ice creams. The sorbet was really fresh like a proper lemon, not a saccharine imposter. Heads up for celiacs, they do gluten free cones!
Speaking of dietary requirements, I’m currently a veritable mixture of gluten-free, dairy-free and no nuts. I was excited to see that the restaurant Leggero has a stall here. I’ve visited their Old Compton Street branch about a year ago and had a really enjoyable meal. They list allergens clearly on the menus which is a godsend for what is often a stomach churning nightmare. Other stalls also have notices stating that they will try to accommodate dietary needs. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free or whatever else, you should be able to find some deliciously satisfying food.
You might think, great, that’s me sorted! But we’re not done yet 🙂 Next door is an Italian supermarket ‘Prezzemolo e Vitale’. Here you’ll find a mouth-watering selection of cheeses, cured meats and pastries for takeaway, as well as sandwiches and salads. I like the sound of ‘peppers with delicate filling’. You can also stock up your larder with dry pasta, baked goods, sweets and preserves. I was met with welcoming Italian staff who informed me of their long opening hours. So if you’ve got late night rehearsal munchies, this place will come to your aid!
The feel here is very relaxed and trendy, drawing from the gritty warehouse environment. I went early on a Monday evening – it was really quiet and hard to tell if some stalls were open for business or not. It seems that the market used to be closed on Mondays until a month ago, so not many people know that it’s now open everyday. I imagine it being pretty vibrant when busy, there’s a good energy about the place. Communal seating makes it great for large groups or for encouraging general chat with random people!
This sociability is part of MM’s rather spectacular ethos of being an ‘authentic, inclusive, sustainable, socially responsible, and educational offering based on a passionate Italian market experience’. Their website is alive with music events, workshops, cooking classes and more (wine tasting after rehearsal anybody?!). There’s also a cinema! All this plus fantastic food at a great price makes for an irresistible combination. This is one alleyway I’ll happily be frequenting.
Rating: 9.5/10 Super Mercato!
Nearest venue: Henry Wood Hall