The first thing to note about Mercato Metropolitano is that it's huge – 45,000 square feet. Once a disused paper factory, it is now home to food stalls, shops and bars — lots of them. It’s on Newington Causeway in what the website terms the new ‘SoBo’ area of London (south of Borough) but what we prefer to call ‘Nelephant’ (north of Elephant).
Stepping inside the warehouse space to be greeted with a vast number of shops and stalls is overwhelming, and it’ll take some time to explore properly, but first impressions are, overall, positive.
Among the stalls are some interesting and unusual things to eat. We were stopped dead in our tracks by the sight of a tuna because, well, tuna are very large aren’t they? It’s not often you get to see a whole one. We bought some tuna sashimi and enjoyed it sprinkled with salt and dressed with a grassy olive oil — a nice departure from the usual ‘street food’ things-in-a-bun menu.
There’s clearly so much to try here, and we’ll be back. It claims to have the ‘best pizza maker in Naples’, but then every pizza maker that comes from Naples claims to be the best, so we’ll have to give them the benefit of the doubt. It isn’t all Italian food inside either — we spotted British, Vietnamese and Spanish stalls.
There’s plenty to drink, and we popped into a cosy side bar, decked out with fur covered stools and candles, a pleasant spot to drink a couple of glasses of delicious red wine from Etna (lightweight and aromatic); there's a strong Italian wine list actually. Yes, it's slightly unadventurous but there's lots to choose from and it's fairly well-priced.
There’s a huge shop, with a vast selection of cured meats, cheeses, jarred products and preserves and dry goods including really great quality pasta in interesting shapes. We bought a few bags, then treated ourselves to some very indulgent mortadella with truffles. It’s worth noting however, that while anything with truffle is always going to be expensive, this was £2.30 per kilo more expensive than the same product bought a week or so previously at Lina Stores in Soho. Look, we have a thing for mortadella, ok?
Overall, Mercato Metropolitano is well worth exploring, particularly if you live or work nearby and are looking for some new lunch options – it’ll take you a good while to work through them all. The one thing we just didn’t understand was the swing music, playing constantly — a random, specific choice of music genre that didn’t fit at all with the surroundings. Still, we could probably eat pizza while listening to someone banging a bin lid and still be happy.
Mercato Metropolitano, 42 Newington Causeway, SE1 6DR.