Tudor Markets – Christmas by the River
For the third consecutive year, Tudor markets hosted the annual London Bridge City Christmas Market which runs along the south bank of the Thames between Tower and London Bridges. Concentrating along The Scoop and encompassing More London, Hays Galleria and beyond, the German style log cabins, twinkling with fairy lights and some bedecked with Christmas trees, housed a plethora of delights for the Christmas shopper, office worker and tourist alike. Offering an interesting selection of food and drink, bars and entertainment and bespoke gifts and handicrafts.
The event, this year named ‘Christmas by the River’, ran from 30 November through to 3 January and although I attended early December on a rainy Thursday evening, the event was still well attended. The market was open from 11 am until 7 pm, with late night shopping available Thursday to Saturday until 9pm.
New for this year to assist shoppers were directory boards. There were several dotted around and listed the traders in the area along with a map of their location. To make it easier, the outlets were categorised in to Food and Drink, Fashion and Accessories and Home and Lifestyle. Within the Hays Galleria, the regular barrow traders were also listed
I recognised several of the traders from last year, but it was by no means a carbon copy. There were many knew retailers and this article focusses mostly on those.
Food and Drink
The first parade of cabins from Tower Bridge end are mostly food outlets and the presentation of their offerings and the smells emanating from them was enticing. This year, the food retailers had been provided with smart, navy branded aprons embellished with ‘London Bridge City presents Christmas by the River.’ This provided a level of uniformity and professionalism amongst the traders. Most of the main course meals were priced competitively at around £6 with slight variations either side. Along with the bratwurst/sausage stalls, pulled pork, falafel and hot nuts, there were a few new food trends and some twists to the old favourites.
Liali from Flavours of Morocco, who alternated working in the neighbouring burrito cabin, told me that the meatballs and vegetable dishes had proven popular with their customers. The food certainly looked fresh.
Examples of what you get for your money are always a good idea and Chilli Cha Cha had plastic tubs of their rice boxes on display, alongside huge samosas. The business is owned by Ahmad and was established about five years ago. They are already a Tudor Markets trader and can be found at their Kingston Ancient Market. An addition to their rice boxes, they sold wraps and salad boxes which came with either lamb, tandoori chicken or halloumi.
The award for the best displayed food had to go to the Burger Boys. Now I’m not a burger fan but even I was tempted! With eight different burgers to choose from, all served piled high in a brioche bun with their homemade signature sauce, customers would have struggled to eat the accompanying side of skin on or sweet potato fries. Imi, the proprietor, also trades at Kingston selling cheese toasties, which he sold at the Christmas market last year, but decided to give the premium handmade burgers a go. He told me they had proved to be very popular, with the double bacon and cheese being the biggest seller.
Erin Gray was back selling her Chocolate Kisses, whilst her husband Danny was concentrating on a new venture for them, cookies and cronuts. For the uninitiated (this included myself) a cronut is essentially a cross between a donut and a croissant. They came in eight interesting flavours including custard and salted caramel and pistachio with the smore being the most popular. Danny told me that they were a big hit with customers. He treated me to a red velvet cookie which are baked locally in Stratford using premium ingredients and free range eggs. It was chewy, not to sweet and delicious!
Other sweet treats included fudge, Chinese bubble waffles, patisserie and for those trying to be a bit healthier, bananas, strawberries and apples that could be dipped in milk, white or plain chocolate and skewered with marshmallows if you wished!
The Bridge City Bar was one of two bars offering hot and cold drinks and a covered seating and entertainment area was provided for customers to relax and enjoy their drinks.
If cider is your thing, then Somerset cider was available, served hot, either by the cup or in large quantities to share, alongside bottles of brandy, chutneys and preserves. Nigel, who ran the stall trades in markets around London and was pleased with the trade at the Christmas market.
Portugese wine was also available to buy by the bottle or mulled and seemed popular with visitors.
Of course, not everyone wants alcohol and there were a number of bean to cup coffee stalls, which also sold hot chocolate and tea, whilst Teapigs had an outlet selling boxes of their beverages.
There was a good array of giftware available, from paintings and souvenirs, to leather goods, scarves and jewellery to entice the Christmas shopper. New for 2016 was a gift wrapping service, provided by Wings for Life, a spinal cord injury charity.
Perfectly placed for a cold, outdoor Christmas market was Inkita, selling a range of Peruvian alpaca woven and knitted goods including scarves and shawls. They have an online shop and trade throughout the country and this was their first time at this event. They told me that their product range had been well received and they were having to restock as they were running low. A good sign!
Also new for this year was Turkish the Light (I do love a good pun!) As well as selling Turkish lamps, they had a varied selection of Turkish giftware, including the Nazar, (blue eye amulets) brightly coloured earthenware and a range of textiles.
Textiles were the order of the day from The Little Tibet. They have been trading at Spittalfields since 2008 and thought that they would try out the Christmas market. Their pashminas, shawls and jackets were either 100% cashmere or 100% silk. Something I hadn’t seen before was a ‘boiled wool’ blanket. The wool is boiled until it shrinks, creating a warmer, denser product. Tibetan owner Tenzin was pleased with trade saying that they had been particularly well supported by the office workers during the day.
The stand that stood out to me was The Amber Tree. As the name suggested, they sold decorative, handmade, bonsai style ‘trees’ adorned with various hues of yellow, gold and orange amber from the Baltic. A limited range of jewellery was also displayed. This is a family business which started five years ago. They began trading at Kingston Market in November and were encouraged to try the Christmas market. Prices ranged from £9 up to £500 for one of the largest trees. Despite the high price, I was told that interest in their products had been very positive.
For the discerning foodie, Borough Box was the perfect solution. They are predominantly an online ‘hamper’ service and the name originates from owner Andrew Lawson’s time working at Borough Market and Borough High Street. They source a range of artisan, independent and specialised food and drink, often from small suppliers, from throughout the UK.
One of the most unusual stands was Bubblegum Balloons. They are also an online service and thought they would give the Christmas fair a try. They provide personalised helium balloons that are filled with coloured ‘confetti’ shapes. You can buy a single one as a gift or they can provide arrangements for corporate events and weddings. To compliment these and more appropriate for the Christmas Market, were personalised tree baubles.
What I liked about this market was that it had a bespoke feel about it. It wasn’t crammed full of tat and gimmicks and there was plenty of space to move around. And of course, the setting is pretty spectacular!
To be part of this year’s event, please contact the Tudor Markets Office on: 0208 570 6456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org