Words: Mallory Legg
Nothing quite beats a market, specifically food within a market; bonus points if the market is a food market. Specifically in the colder months, the accumulation of people in what might be dreary weather accompanied by Christmas lights, warm drinks, and blanket-sized scarves only invites what some might call ‘Christmas cheer.’ Plus, it's an excuse to overindulge in whatever culinary contributions the stalls might have to offer. So here’s a little list of the must visit Christmas markets from around the UK we recommend for the holidays.
Wasteless Wonderland Oxford (24 Nov - 22 Dec)
Christmas, in all its gift-giving and gracious glory, can sometimes be a welcome opportunity for mindless consumption. Wasteless Wonderland in Oxford has presented us with a promising alternative to this reality in the realm of Christmas markets. Here, you'll find ‘good-for-the-planet’ gifts from independent designers and, among them, a few gems of a food stall. Wonky Food Company sells jars of relishes made from imperfect and surplus fruit and veg, perfect for the Christmas table. Further, Damascus Rose is the ideal stop for warm Middle Eastern food on a cold day, made extra special by knowing your money goes toward a social enterprise supporting refugee women in Oxford. This contemporary reinterpretation of the Christmas market is a much welcome and needed imagining of how things are and should be. Bravo!
Padstow Christmas festival (7-10 Dec)
There is no better place for food lovers to get stuck in this winter than the Padstow Christmas Market. It’s an extra plus that it’s in the beautiful seaside town on the coast of Cornwall. If you’re lucky enough to escape to the little English getaway this Christmas season, it will be short of disappointments. Look to the Cornish Cheese Co. for its internationally recognized blue cheese; full flavored and sweet, it's an incredible gift for your loved ones (or yourself) to take away for the cold season. What's on par with cheese, though? Chocolate. Chocolarder, another featured stall, is Cornwall's first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, shipping beans directly from Colombia and single estate, family-run plantations in Venezuela, Java, Madagascar, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Even the wild gorse flowers are picked directly off the cornish coastal hedgerows. Sustainability and flavor are at the heart of this business, somehow turning the relatively basic gift of chocolate into a special one.
Aside from the treats acquired from the stalls, Padstow market welcomes over 60 chefs each year to contribute to the stalls or cookery displays throughout. Amongst the most impressive is Michael Caines, one of Britain's most celebrated Michelin-starred chefs and owner of Lympstone Manor. The prestige of the chefs which the market attracts only proves its worthiness in your visit. If you have the opportunity, don’t miss out.
Bowhouse Christmas Market weekend (9-10 Dec)
Held throughout the year is a little hub for small food and drink producers on the Balcaskie Estate in East Neuk, Scotland. At any time of the year, it’s the perfect excuse for an escape to the northern coast to peruse the little fishing villages in the area and help uphold the standard ethos of the Bowhouse Market: championing Scottish producers. Expect vegetables from East Neuk Market Garden, local game from the Bowhouse Butchery, and natural wines from the Futtle Brewery. Grab your goods, take a sip, and perhaps embark on an adventurous escape into any of the Fife villages.
Portobello Food Market
When discussing a buzzing atmosphere in the UK, there will always be a reason to bring up the Portobello Road area, as I have and will always hold it so dear to my heart (as do most). Every Sunday until December 17, stalls will pop up amongst the antique stores and quaint coffee shops, selling Christmas decor and artisan gifts from the city's designer-makers. As you walk through, musicians and artists will litter the streets with their performances and pieces. But once you pass under the bridge and come to the end of the road, there is the Portobello food market. Selling authentic hot food all in one place, the likes of which include paella, fried chicken, crepes, you can be assured of the good things to warm the stomach, heart, and soul.