What a place! The atmosphere there was electric and one full of trade and enjoyment. The stallholders dealt with their many customers with a genuine smile and deftness that I am sure was honed over many years of hard work and skillful handling of goods. What impressed me the most was the emphasis on local, home-grown produce and the pride stallholders had for it. Everyone I spoke to was very knowledgeable about their food and were more than happy to give me advice on how best to prepare or eat it.
It is easy to say that the market is dominated by Irish producers and craftsmen but it has also given way to some foreign influence. This is not necessarily a bad thing however, as the dialogue between both Irish recipes and produce and that of other countries is what keeps gastronomy bright and interesting. Influences can be seen from France, the Mediterranean, India and Eastern Europe both in separate stalls and in the Irish ones too.
In terms of space the market was quite labyrinthine with one spacious double-height foyer and small crowded ‘streets’ off of that. The only word I could possible use to describe the place was medieval. The narrow busy streets were crowded enough and it was almost like a fight to get served at a stall. This really added to the experience as there was a bit of chat and banter amongst customers and stallholders alike and it reflected just how much in demand this great produce was.
How was the food you ask? Silly question really, this is the English Market we are talking about here. Amazing is your answer, in short. You could really tell how much these producers cared about their goods. Take for example the food from Frank Hederman’s smokehouse based in Cork. His stall sold the most wonderful smoked salmon, mussels in a kind of vinaigrette, smoked mackerel and various other delicious smoked goods.
What hooked me was his technique of using beech smoke to flavour the fish. The smoke had a delicious, heady aroma and added a wonderful, distinct smoky taste to the food. This truly was someone who knew how to smoke their fish!
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the English Market. The atmosphere of trade and banter was great. You really got a sense that the people here really knew about and appreciated their food. The well-stocked stalls provided me with endless inspiration for dishes to come and the great advice from stallholders would easily encourage you to get cooking! The English Market truly is a great place for the foodie and I would encourage you to visit it if ever you were in the city.