Grub street: the Borough Market of the North?
The first new city-centre market for 10 years has just opened in Sheffield. Locals hope it will turn the area into the Borough Market of the North, says Jonathan Brown
Customers are swarming around Waterall Brothers butcher's stall. Piled high on the counter are the kinds of meat delicacies that supermarket shoppers under the age of 50 will probably never have seen before, let alone eaten. There are gloriously sticky roast hocks, trays of "savoury ducks" (actually sausage and bacon, rather than poultry), pork dripping and chitterlings – pigs' intestines that draw gastronomes to the Gironde but which are also rather popular in Sheffield.
Taking pride of place, however, is the celebrated Waterall pork pie. "We sell about 3,000 a week," says Stephen Waterall, who started in the family business aged 11. "It's a hot water crust pastry and the filling is made from the finest cuts out of the shoulder."
On Monday, Sheffield opened the first city-centre market in Britain for 10 years. The £18m project at the Moor replaces the decrepit Castle Market, which had seen customer numbers almost halve in recent years. Yet while many local councils are turning their backs on the idea of the traditional mixture of independent stall owners in favour of the glitzy mall, in Sheffield they are returning to an artisan food offering which, it is hoped, will turn the Moor area into the Borough Market of the North.
"A lot of markets are now rather tired and old, but there is a huge resurgence of interest in traditional food," says Nick Copland, the market's artisan food adviser. "Five years ago, people wanted to know what the provenance was. Now you have people in Yorkshire making their own chorizo and salami. Markets are a great way of keeping those businesses going and keeping things local," he adds.
The opening has been an immediate hit. On the first day, 25,000 shoppers swarmed across the threshold. It's not just the artisan food that will draw comparisons with London's Borough Market. It is hoped that the market will also boost the whole area, just as Borough transformed a few dirty streets under the railway arches into a thriving gastronomic district. The developers hope the project will renovate the Moor – once the city's busiest shopping thoroughfare, but which has been in decline since the 1970s. The council aims to attract 100,000 shoppers a week and the majority of stalls are already let rent-free for the first six months and at half rent for the next six. The average stall will eventually cost £27 a day to hire.
Inside the sunlit interior, the majority of stalls are selling food. Opposite the butchers' row, Richard Golland, founder of Street Food Chef, who used to run a vegetarian café in Oxford, is selling original Sheff-Mex burritos. "All our ingredients are local. The pigs we use could walk here – they are from the same postcode where I live," he says. "If you had asked me before what the food culture was in Sheffield, I would have said a chip butty, but now it is an exciting place," he adds.
Mother and daughter Julie and Rebecca English are selling blends of speciality teas named in honour of the seven hills of Sheffield. "We are proud of our city and we like to think this is a tribute to the heritage," says Julie. At Moya Sketchley's organic vegetable shop, alongside the cavolo nero kale and purple carrots, they are offering a choice of biodynamic local flours – spelt from a watermill in Barnsley and bread flour from a windmill in Nottingham. Yee Kwan Chan, meanwhile, has launched her first retail venture of Oriental ice creams and sorbets, which are already being served at Harvey Nichols.
Jonathan and Susannah Youdan gave up their pet-food shop and started a speciality grocers and cheesemongers six months ago. Their bestseller is a local Peakland white cheese that resembles Stilton, but customers are also proving partial to the selection of Curtis cakes, which are still baked by the business's 89-year-old founder each morning in Lincoln. "Yesterday, we took twice as much as we did on our best ever day before that," said Mr Youdan. µ
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