Did you know there’s been a Covent Garden in London since medieval times? Originally, the ‘Convent Garden’ was owned by the Abbey of Westminster and sold surplus produce to Londoners. As it grew and gained a royal charter, it became the most important fresh produce market in the UK. Produce from around the British Empire would come to the market for distribution.
This spring, New Covent Garden Market moved home for the third time – this time just a few hundred metres along Nine Elms Lane. Throughout its history, one thing has never changed: ‘a passion for the freshest produce’.
Something that is changing is the market’s new focus on the public. For centuries, the wholesale market provided fruit and veg to the city’s restaurants and hotels. As part of Nine Elm’s transformation, New Covent Garden Market will soon serve the public as well.
In front of the market, the Food Exchange will be a place ‘where food businesses of every possible flavour come together to create, innovate and collaborate’. It is a brand new hub for a variety of food-related businesses. It will be part studios and offices, part co-working space and food factory for start-ups. There will also be a centre for aspiring chefs and ‘foodies’. The ground floor of the four-floor Exchange will feature restaurants, cafés and food shops displaying the same spirit as those working on the floors above.
For anybody interested in food and cooking, the space will give young start-ups the opportunity to learn from experienced mentors, who will nurture and guide them through the early stages of their ventures. New Covent Gardens is calling it ‘the most inspirational kitchen in London’.
The public will also be able to drop in for talks, tastings and supper clubs from the world’s most interesting food characters. Or simply go along to enjoy the theatre of food being made.
On the plaza outside the Food Exchange, the Food Quarter will return London’s oldest food market to its roots. Under the pedestrianised railway arches, food lovers will find specialists, independents and artisans. What has for a long time been a wholesale food and flower market will reach out to a new public community. The aim is to ‘redefine the idea of the artisan produce market’.
The market promises ‘vibrant stalls, specialist food and flower shops, and charming cafés and fantastic restaurants.’ Once Nine Elms’ Linear Park is complete, residents of Embassy Gardens will be able to stroll a few minutes to the new market and enjoy London’s latest food revolution.