Roman Road Market has been one of East London’s most renowned markets for over 150 years. Running three days a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) with dozens of stalls, it remains one of the capital’s most vibrant destinations. The Roman is an ever-evolving patchwork of old and new East London, with decades-old stalls rubbing shoulders with artisanal newcomers. From loaves of sourdough bread to packs of knickers, Roman Road Market has you covered.
We love it all, but newcomers may not know where to begin. That’s where we come in. We want you to know what you can expect when you come down. Mile End tube and Bow Road station are only only a five minute walk away, and the no 8 bus drops you off at each end of the market. Or if you’re a driver, there’s £2 parking on Saturdays. There’s no real substitute for heading down and exploring the market yourself, but for those of you unsure where to begin, or what to expect, here are 10 brilliant things to do down the Roman.
1. Polenta Paola
Polenta Paola’s homemade Italian cooking has proven something of a sensation on the market since arriving in 2015. The stall’s owner, Paola Battista, has developed a delicious menu of stews, pastas, ragu, and polenta, drawing inspiration from her upbringing in Milan. As well as family recipes, there’s some old classics drawn from Italian cookbooks dating as far back as 1929. It’s the real deal. She even runs a WhatsApp preorder service – order Tuesday and collect on Saturday. Visit Battista’s website to see what’s on the menu this week.
2. Steve’s Pets at Roam
For all your doggy (and other pet) needs, head to Pets at Roam near Gladstone Place. Spanning three stalls it offers pet food and treats, toys, collars, and coats. Best selling items include the branded diamante range of matching collar and leads, as seen on Danny Dyer’s bulldog Lady Di on EastEnders, but at a bargain price. Steve comes to the market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and can be found at pitch 63-65. Smack bang in the middle of the market, this is a proper East End stall.
3. French Connection outlet stall
For decades Roman Road Market has been the go-to place for top fashion brands, many of them at end-of-line discount prices. Top Shop and Ralph Lauren are always well represented on the market, but the jewel in the crown of the Roman’s fashion credentials is surely the French Connection stall. With racks and racks of clothes, this is a must for anyone wanting to stock up on high-quality basics and evening wear from French Connection. The brand had design studios in East London back in the day, though today you’ll have to settle for their products at bargain prices.
4. Adrian’s underwear stall
Fancy fashion brands are a big part of the market, but you can’t forget the essentials. Grab two pairs of fancy tights for a fiver, or the comfiest PJ pants money can buy at Adrian’s underwear stall. Adrian on the left (aka Ginger) pulls out all the stalls at the crack of dawn every market day so he’s a font of local knowledge. A regular at Bethnal Green and Watney Markets, Adrian also runs a toy stall – Toysfourless. Yes that’s how it’s spelled.
5. Candi Donut Co
Andy Adenegan, known to locals as ‘The Donut Man’, has been selling churros on Roman Road Market for over 20 years. His Candi Donut Co has expanded to other markets since 1996, but he keeps the price at £1.50 for Roman Road. He has a selection of sauces to accompany his delicious vegan snacks: chocolate, caramel, strawberry, coconut, apple, and banana crème. Lemon crème and white chocolate are also in the works.You can find Adenegan at his spot outside the old Bow library, usually smiling broadly.
6. Stuart’s fabric stall
Come rain or shine there is always a huddle around this stall. The crowds are so big and so constant that we’re still not entirely sure what Stuart sells, though we’re fairly sure it’s clothes and fabric. The stall has been there for decades, and carries on the old tradition of dressing up smart to go down the Roman. Stuart always looks dapper in shirt and jacket, though we’re not so convinced by the toupée. The stall can be found at the western end of the market, near St Stephen’s Road.
7. Saint Sugar of London
This enigmatic artisan of baked goods has fast become a staple on Roman Road. Saint Sugar of London is a treasure trove of bread, pastries, tarts, soups, and more, all freshly made by Enzo Moschetta and his family during the preceding week. The stall’s Instagram feed is heartily recommended to any food porn fans out there. As well as being a mean baker, Moschetta is also a keen reader of philosophy. Drop by ready to talk Kierkegaard and sourdough bread.
8. Dog watching
Everyone loves dog-watching (well, several people), and there’s no better place to do it than Roman Road Market. Check out this guy above for starters. You get all sorts down the Roman, but our favourite has to be Skye, the noble Shih Tzu who can usually be spotted riding the scooter of Roman Road’s very own Cheeky Cockney, Chris Kimberley.
9. Lucy B’s fabric stall
Outside the school gates of Old Ford Primary School is Lucy B’s fabric stall. It gets mobbed by mothers at the school drop-off and pick-up. Lucy is also a dressmaker and will run up any fabric into your own designs. For rolls of fabric or to get your own bespoke piece made by Lucy, head to Pitch 27 every Thursday.
10. Perfume Pat
Roman Road Market is rightly renowned for its fashion, but looking good is only half the battle. One really ought to smell good too. That’s where Perfume Pat comes in. Her stall is piled high with household name perfume brands being sold at bargain prices. Pat is an institution on Roman Road, coming from a long line of East London market traders. You’ll find her, appropriately, towards the eastern end of the road.
If you enjoyed this piece you may like reading about the history of Roman Road Market
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