I’ve got a venison burger and a cup of sangria on the wooden barrels just outside the entrance of Borough Market. Don’t let it fool you, though. Travel writing isn’t some game of restaurant musical chairs. Especially being a wizard. Look. I’m not judging muggles. Please don’t misunderstand me. Like Ricky Gervais said in Extras, it’s mind your own season. I’m just saying when people ask me for recommendations, especially in London, the first thing I have to do is to determine whether you’re a muggle or a wizard, and it’s not as easy as you think. Especially after the squib Joe Rowling blew the whole damn thing wide open. I mean it used to be someone would ask me what to do in London and after a once-over of their appearance I would think, purple cloak, half-moon spectacles, end of a stick poking out from their sleeve. Yep. That’s a fellow wizard, all right. Or if I still wasn’t sure, I could just yell, “Stupefy! Mother F*&ker!” If they dove out of the way, I knew for sure it was a wizard. 100 percent. Then I’d offer my best Diagon Alley bistros, or Hogsmeade museums and my favorite places to sit and read in their beautiful courtyards or cafés. Likewise, if instead of a cloak there were yoga pants, or instead of half-moon spectacles there were contact lenses, or if I started to slowly mutter Vol….. de…mor…and nobody winced, then I knew. Yep. Must be a muggle. And I’d give my best muggle London recommendations that didn’t at any point require a series of taps with the tip of an umbrella that is actually concealing a wand to open a brick wall.
Then J.K. freaking Rowling the squib came along (I’m convinced she based the character of Aunt Petunia off of herself) and because of jealousy for her sister, who married the Potter fellow, blew the whole thing wide open in a memoir that, through clever damage control, the Ministry of Magic construed as a “fictional” series of popular children’s novels. But I know the truth. That J.K. stands for just kidding. Because they aren’t novels. It was real. All of it.
Bottom line is now wizards don’t dare step out in their purple cloaks because they get pinned immediately, forced to the ground by a mob of twelve year old Cedric Diggory fans who spend the next hour flicking stinging jinxes from a stolen wand at any girl whoever stole a boyfriend in middle school. I mean even wizards don’t recognize other wizards anymore. That’s how good we’ve become at concealment. So there was a pretty dark time there for a little while when someone would ask me for a recommendation in London and I would panic because I didn’t know whether to answer for the wizarding world or for the muggle one.
But then I found Borough Market and all my dreams as a travel writer came true because it’s both worlds in one. United. I mean the question isn’t does Borough Market satisfy meal recommendations for both wizard and muggle alike. The question is how does it not. I mean blimey.
For muggles, it’s a quick and easy stop on The Tube at London Bridge station. For wizards, we know it’s a quick and easy jaunt on the Knight Bus because Borough Market is where the Knight Bus dropped off Harry for the Leaky Cauldron (under the bridge on the other side of the street from the Borough Market entrance).
For muggles, it’s a cheap meal, so if you have something a bit more on the expensive side planed for a bit later in the day like tea or a once-in-a-lifetime Michelin star dinner, then from Roast To Go a cheap little pork belly and crackling sandwich with Bramley apple sauce from local farms balances out the day’s spending. For a wizard, the very same stall offers a roast chicken sandwich with sage and onion stuffing for about one galleon (exchange rate at approx. $7.35 (US) or £5 (GBP) as of this writing), which means you don’t have to choose between a meal and a nimbus 2000 with a leather-handle upgrade. And I hear the Leaky Cauldron next door is known for jacking up prices, not even including tip, and not telling.
For muggles, it’s the perfect first stop in London to stretch away that plane ride in the great outdoors of the city, sure, but also it’s a reminder that London is not just at the absolute forefront of food but making sure people have food from sustainable sources for at least a generation or two more. For wizards, it’s no more hanging on for dear life to the rotten shoe laces of some Portkey that’s an old boot just because you feel like farm-fresh produce all the way out in the English countryside. It’s all been brought right here to Borough from farms not but a few hours away. No more of this, “Oh, no. Seven of us grabbed the Portkey and only five of us made it. Two of us must have let go somewhere over the Thames as we were spinning violently around. Shouldn’t have taken that bathroom break. Bloody hands probably weren’t completely dry. Those bloody air dryers never do the job all the way. What a way to start the trip.”
And don’t forget about me. Not only is Borough the best first stop in London to show any muggle or wizard or squib that London is on the forefront of cuisine, but I also don’t have to suffer any soul coming back from London and like nails made of glass dragging along a chalkboard saying to me, “I loved London, but I just got tired of fish and chips in pubs.” And I don’t have to make anybody feel bad when I retort by asking if last they were in New York did they also get tired of eating boiled hot dogs in dingy bars. Borough Market is a win-win situation for all parties.
P.S. Learned today the spell for a sangria refill:
For wizards, it’s an upward swish of the wand and the spoken incantation: “Refillaramus!”
For muggles, it’s a reach into your pocket with the spoken incantation: “Here’s two pounds!”