Borough Market “went back to basics” in the creation of its new food court, explained MD Darren Henaghan at MCA’s Food To Go conference last week.

Borough Market Kitchen, which opened in November last year, holds 20 food stalls and 25 traders including Michelin-starred chef Elizabeth Haigh.

Looking to the street food markets of Southern India, China and Zanzibar, the intention behind Bourough’s food court, Henaghan explained, is to emulate the feeling of discovery in trying an authentic and innovative dish.

“Why do people like street food? We think it’s that feeling that you get that you’ve discovered something new,” he said. “That emotional connection that you have with your food is the essence that we’re trying to capture. We think that manifests in Borough.”

Although the market already had an array of hot food traders, Henaghan said that sales in its original hot offering weren’t translating to sales of produce.

“In Borough, the hot food is designed to be an illustration of what you can do with the produce. The produce had got so disconnected from the hot food that 66% of people who came bought hot food, 25% bought produce, but the worrying bit is that people who came to buy hot food and then went on to buy produce was about 9%.”

“Hot food should breed produce sales but that wasn’t true in the way that our traders were doing it. They were trying to justify charging consumers £8 a portion by giving you more and more carbs with slop over the top of it. That is not high-quality food and is nowhere near as good as the stuff we’re selling in the rest of the market.”

Sourcing at least 30% of its ingredients from the market itself and high-quality small plates, the food court was Borough’s solution to this problem.

A continuation of the wider market, it was designed to encourage the consumer to search and find, “it’s a picnic basket and it’s designed to make you hungry,” said Henaghan, “we want it to be a jumbled up mess.”

With a combination of pop-up umbrella stalls and semi-permanent stands, it offers a changing range of cuisines from Thai to Mexican to Israeli.

It also includes a central communal seating area with large sharing tables, which Henaghan said was purpose built to encourage a sense of community.

“We want people to be able to sit down and talk to each other. So much of our life is around convenience and not based on what’s good for our soul. Food is about sharing. It’s about sitting down and expressing the bounty and wonder of food together with your friends, family, and even people you’ve never met before.”

“Borough is supposed to be a communal atmosphere, it’s a symbol of London, a symbol of what’s fantastic about food and a symbol of how people can live if they want to live well.”