4am alarm screeches from my mobile. Why did I choose that utterly inane and joyous tune on my sony ericsson - because there aren't any other less zingy ones - more importantly why did I set it for a Saturday morning? Well for almost 3 years now we have lived within a fairly close proximity to Billingsgate Market. (yes that's the one in the lyrics of Mary Poppins song, Well done sister suffragettes: From kensington to billingsgate
one hears the restless cry from every corner of the land womankind arise!)
The 5am to 8am opening hours of Friday and Saturday (for retail customers in addition to the wholesale purchasers who are allowed every am) was a real stumbling block. Friday because it was always a workday and it was a rush to just get to work and Saturday, well just because it's the weekend and it defies all commonsense to wake up before the birds when you don't have to. So Billingsgate has been so close and yet so far.
Our houseguests (whom I am going to moniker the S-Team) are enthusiastic fish-eaters and were keen to check it out. So Saturday 4am alarm, a cup of tea and rubber slipper lopping along later and we were there. It was 5.05 as we entered the gates to find a stream of people coming out. Even 5 minutes after it opened we managed to be late. The market is a well-lit, bustling-at-the-seams affair. Wholesale means that they usually don't sell you less than one zillion cases (yes, I am into extremes at the moment)of the same fish; retail (as defined by the King of Billingsgate) apparently means atleast one box. One of the S-Team managed to secure two huge King Sea Bass and some smoked salmon (that was our Saturday night meal; he stuffed them with garlic, red chillies, parsley and tumeric before baking it. The salmon was added to blanched green beans as an accompaniment and a potato&scallion salad completed the meal; we polished off the meal enthusiastically before I remembered that I should have taken a picture of it!? You'll have to imagine it and take my word for it's sumptuousness)
I bought a box of cod fillets (I'm picky about skin, bones etc; I know I know whats a fish without, but hey that's just me), 24 of them to be precise, from the stall of Lobo Fisheries. Mr Lobo, if indeed that was he, assured me and the S-Team that all his fish including two incredible looking pomfret had come all the way from India (woohoo!).
Home, cod seperated, date marked and put into the freezer. Smelly box thrown out of the house, into the main bins and it was only 7.30am. Sleep long gone I set about cleaning my kitchen; scrubbed till it shone. Could not get back to sleep as hard as I tried, so read till V woke up and went for brekka to our local Saturday haunt cafe. A carefree Saturday sparkled and shone ahead of us.....relaxed and replete with the promise of a brilliant meal.
If today were a fish I'd throw it back.
Billingsgate Market: Trafalgar Way, London E14 5ST; Tel 020 7987 1118