SW4 – Clapham – Venn Street Market

I am fortunate enough to work as a freelancer – legitimately – this is not code for unemployed. Technically I can wake when I like, wrap up the working day when I like, and take arbitrary random days off without aeons of notice.  I also used to work from home; in my pyjamas, mostly. Officy people are curious about the world of freelancing.

Officy person: “Do you work set hours?”

Me: “I try to keep as closely to a working week as possible, it’s easier that way.”

Officy person: “But what motivates you to work?”

Me: “Money, mainly.”

You see, if I don’t get up and work, then I certainly don’t get paid. And any time I take off – those arbitrary random days I mentioned earlier – is not paid either. Like any form of employment, there are pros and cons. I always like to look on freelancing positively though.

However, times are a changing. For the last two months I have been invited to work in an office which belongs to one of the companies for whom I freelance. Conveniently, the office is about a mile from my house, so even the commute walk into work isn’t bad. I’ve lost at least half of you now, haven’t I?

A short stroll from my desk is Clapham High Street, which even when I lived in Battersea, was a misnomer to me. I think the only thing I have ever successfully done on the High Street was to have a haircut under £25 (successes are relative). The bars are dire, the restaurants (save for Fish Club) leave much to be desired. There are barely any decent shops either.

Now that I work in the vicinity I have forced myself to try to seek out the diamonds from the (my own self-perceived) rough. Clapham High Street must have some interesting foibles which a food fan like me could entertain?

The most obvious (and middle class) of intrigues is of course, Venn Street Market. I’ve not blogged about it properly before, so where better to start? Just off the Clapham Common end of the High Street, this petite marche consists of a handful of stalls. Cheese, cake (Brixton’s Ms Cupcake too), some live action – a hog roast, burger flipping and rotisserie chicken – are the stands which stand out, if you will.

Chocolate chip

Une Normande a Londres

Une Normande a Londres

Unless one is buying mild cheddar for a child, there’s no excuse for going supermarket for cheese. You buy cheese at the supermarket? How could you? Get off my blog! You must try before you buy (it also appeals to one’s inner freebie seeker) and there’s no finer place than a market to do it. I’m no expert on cheese, but I knows what I likes. Plus, the person behind the wheel of cheese knows their shit. Ask them, try different things, chances are you’ll end up buying something which you can barely pronounce but you’ll thank me for it when you’re in the la la land of a cheese coma. The Borough Cheese Company were really helpful when I bought some of their Tomme de Savoie; initially creamy and sweet finished off with an earthy mushroom kick. How their stall supports the huge wheels of Comte I’ll never know. I also got a pretty awesome pecorino from Italian cheese specialists Gastronomica.

The Honest Carrot is another producer which intrigues me. Think vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free burgers and morsels; chickpeas, beetroot, and carrots creatively and attractively made into falafel and patties. I haven’t yet ventured to trying any, so if anyone has ever bought from The Honest Carrot then let me know what you think.

Although they weren’t at Venn Street Market when I was getting inspiration for this post yesterday, the Arancini Brothers frequently make an appearance. Fried risotto balls in a wrap. Need I say more?

The Honest Carrot

It’s a carrot, only more honest.

I don’t need to add my voice to the hype about Bahn mi 11, and I won’t because I’ve not tried them, but they had sold out of baguettes which pissed me off (I was hungry, OK?). I want one!

*Sad child’s face*

So Venn Street Market is the first contender to add its voice to the ‘save Clapham High Street from Room 101’ campaign. But who’s next? All suggestions will be seriously considered, unless you try to convince me about trying the Shalamar kebab house which plays Backstreet Boys videos on a loop.

I’ve already tried it.

Venn Street Market is open 10am-4pm every Saturday.

www.vennstreetmarket.co.uk

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My food week in pictures – £5 for 5lbs – A lot of food

I will give you £5 if I’ve not put on five pounds this week. This week’s gastronomical extravaganza will be difficult to surpass.

Monday was the day of the trout; fresh from Brixton Village market, I left it whole and steamed it with ginger, garlic, bonnet chillis, spring onions and a dash of soy and lime zest. It wasn’t rainbow trout, but you can see from the spectrum of spices and colours, it might as well have been named as such.

Fresh trout, lime, soy, ginger, garlic, chilli

Although I have no pictures to show for it, I reviewed The BreadRoom in Brixton on Tuesday – check it out if you fancy a cheap lunch.

Wednesday heralded the mid-week beer (I’m trademarking that phrase), in celebration of my friend’s birthday. We may have enjoyed food from the voucher-friendly All Bar One (which I will not be reviewing), but the festivities were not complete without a quartet of cakes from the one and only vegan-friendly Ms Cupcake.

Chocolate chip

Saturday was a treat. Beating the queues at 11.30am, the Welshman and the Scouser and I sampled, what for pizza aficionados can be best be described as Mecca.  Franco Manca in Brixton Market has a reputation for its glorious sourdough bases. It has, whether you agree or disagree, been crowned as one of the best pizza joints in London. I made notes. There will be a review. Watch this space.

The number 5 at Franco Manca

On what was a very windy day post-pizza, our trio left Franco Manca and headed to the vintage market which had set up shop on Station Road. Catching my eye and nose, was not the rustle of a musty mink vintage fur coat*, but the fragrant waft of roasting coffee. This traditional Ethiopian coffee vendor, who I am assured comes down to the road opposite the Rec every Saturday, roasts whole Arabica beans in a small tin handled pot, before grinding them and brewing them in a beautiful Jebana (long necked coffee jug). You’re poured a lovely little cup; the actual coffee is thick and grainy with a comforting amount of  astringency (when unsweetened). There’s also a large reed basket full of popcorn to snack on while you sup. Please visit – it’s a real treat.

Ethiopian coffee

Just when I thought the week couldn’t get any better, the Sunday comfort club (me) decided to cook up, not a roast, but a hearty wholegrain smoked salmon tetrazzini (spaghetti bake) with lightly smoked salmon, cream, chestnut mushrooms with a parmegiana topping.

Smoked salmon tetrazzini with mushrooms, cream, and a parmigiana topping

Happy Sunday!

*I don’t wear fur. Please don’t e-attack me!