Open Wednesday - Saturday
by Pam au Chocolat
Maria is café aristocracy. Her parents – Italian, of course – used to run the Borough Café round the corner on Park St, which was famous for its bubble ‘n ‘squeak and, in the days before gentrification hit the warehouses of the Borough, always reverently referred to as ‘Mama’s’.
But Mama died, Network Rail closed the Borough Café, and for a while Maria set up herself in a hole in the wall on Stoney Street, before moving last year to a stall and a little enclosure of tables within the market itself. She is large, incredibly ruddy, always grinning and has that fantastic bellowing Cockney-Italian screech of a voice that is shared with café owners the city over.
Today it’s unseasonably cold and I’m a little grumpy, so it’s time to hunker down in my thick puffa jacket with the Sun and a plate of bubble, bacon, egg, tomato and black pudding. The bubble is possibly the best thing ever – crusty and crispy with those delicious burnt bits, while at the same time hot and comforting. It cooks in a gigantic frying pan, occasionally replenished from a vat of mashed potato and another of cabbage, the new getting worked down into the old crunchy bits at the bottom. The bacon is thick and salty and has the hint of a crunch around the edge. The over-easy egg (cooked with a casual wrist-flick I’ve never seen elsewhere) does its magical thing, oozing gloriously soft inside its veil of white.
As I eat, I hear Maria shout out to the other traders and customers, trading jokes that always end with her in hysterical laughter, wiping the hint of a tear from her eye as she shakes her head. And the tea, of course, is strong.