(Bloomberg) -- On a Saturday at noon, it’s hard to find a more crowded place in London than Borough Market. Bomba Paella, which makes its specialty in a pan the size of a NASA-grade satellite dish, now requires a “Queue Control” employee to manage customer traffic. At Bread Ahead, the lines for the highly Instagrammable doughnuts keeps growing: In December 2022, the bakery sold almost 180,000 of them, and one year later that figure had skyrocketed to over 286,250.  

It’s easy to believe Jane Swift, chief executive officer, when she says more than 25 million people visit Borough Market each year.

But now, new restaurants are grabbing the spotlight from the over-the-top stalls to make Borough Market the city’s best and most diverse dining area in London. From the captivating French-meets-British butcher food at Camille to the modern Greek restaurants Agora and Omá from Manteca founder David Carter, there’s barely a railway arch or a Victorian warehouse that hasn’t been repurposed as a foodie destination. 

Borough Market has existed in one form or another since 1215 due to its advantageous position at the southern end of London Bridge  — back then it was a direct connection to farmers, traders and customers in southeast England. In the 19th century it was an important wholesale fruit and vegetable market (the livestock that clogged London’s main street had proved to be not good for business) that benefited from the new railways next door at London Bridge station.

By the late 1990s, it had morphed into a British “farmers’ market,” inspired in part by the success of New York’s Greenmarket in Union Square,  with products sold by farmers, cheesemakers, fishmongers and butchers. But by 2010, many of the market’s visitors were hotel-dwelling tourists who weren’t shopping for line-caught mackerel. That’s around the time stalls began specializing in social media-friendly takeaways. Still, by 5 p.m. stalls were closed and Borough was deserted.

Borough Market trustees then focused on a new strategy: Boost the area’s nighttime economy by bringing in notable independent restaurants to complement the handful of existing ones (like the packed pasta joint Padella and Mexican hangout El Pastor). To do so, they offered attractive deals to prospective tenants. “We knew it had great footfall for food-and-drink-loving locals and tourists,” says Mark Dobbie, co-owner of Borough’s acclaimed new Thai spot Kolae. “Also, [the trustees] offered us a six-month rent-free period —  it was a shell site and they knew we needed time  —  but even now we’re paying rent and business rates, they amount to around 10% of turnover. 15% is more typical in the West End.”

And the local restaurant scene will continue to expand. Borough Yards, the £300 million-plus ($379 million) renovation from real estate investment company Mark Capital Management, is an ambitious new development west of the market. Among the tenants are the upcoming two-story Café François from François O'Neill, owner of Maison François, who saw an opening for an all-day, casual dining concept with a bakery, wine bar and restaurant south of the river.  He believes the area is only getting more attractive for diners. “We originally looked at our site in the winter of 2020-21, during lockdown. Since then, we’ve taken on more space.” 

Café François will open this autumn. In the meantime, here are the six new places to sit down to eat in Borough Market.

Camille

One of year’s hottest openings is this French(ish) bistro from Claire Lattin and Tom Hill, who also run Ducksoup and Little Duck. Ex-St. John chef Elliot Hashtroudi sends out plates of mustardy devilled eggs topped with buttery smoked eel, Jerusalem artichokes smothered in garlicky aïoli buried under grated Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, and grilled onglet (hanger steak) anointed with piquant Café de Paris butter (£47 for two).   Robust offal offerings include ox tongue with cauliflower fungus and Riesling; Normandy tripe; and collar of mangalitza pork with pig’s ear.

Camille’s décor is quintessential bistro: bentwood stools and chairs, London bus-red wood panels, mirrors scrawled with cocktails and specials. The unapologetically natural wine list leans toward French small producers. 

Agora and Omá

Serial restaurateur David Carter has put two compelling Greek concepts in one space. On the main floor, Agora boasts a two-meter-long charcoal souvla (grill) to produce dishes like oregano-dusted pork souvlaki and lamb kebabs with sweet, tangy sumac onions (both £4 a pop). Wild garlic butter and metsovone (smoked Greek cheese) flatbread is served warm from the wood-fired oven; Greek salad is made, Cretan-style, with carob rusks and the  soft cream cheese galomizithra.

Upstairs at the more refined restaurant, Omá, the spotlight is the impressively stocked fish counter. Look for gilt-head bream ceviche in a Mexican-style bath of zesty green tomato and apple aguachile; and skewered Cornish squid doused in garlic-spiked za'atar oil. Meat options include oxtail giouvetsi (£22), a rich, slow-cooked stew with orzo topped with smoky, wobbly bone marrow and scattered with beef fat-fried breadcrumbs. The stunning, 450-strong wine list focuses on maritime wines from the Mediterranean.

Rambutan

British-Sri Lankan chef Cynthia Shanmugalingam’s spot in the heart of Borough Market checks a lot of boxes on the trendy dining list: open-fire kitchen, industrial design, sharing plates, suspended globe lights. The dishes are as vibrant in color as they are in spice, as thousands of Instagram posts will confirm. The ground floor is where the action is; downstairs is more relaxed and less buzzy. Order the gundu dosa (£5.30): a Jaffna specialty from the Tamil north, fried spheres of dal and rice batter flecked with curry leaf and mustard seed and excellent dipped into a fragrant bowl of fresh coriander chutney. Grilled chicken saffron pongal rice (£19.50), another signature dish, is warmly spiced with coconut and caramelized onion. The alukku (Tamil for “dirty”) martini (£12.50) features Colombo gin soured with citrus pickle. 

Akara

The outpost of Fitzrovia’s Michelin one-star Akoko takes its name from a black-eyed bean fritter, a popular West African snack. The eponymous fritters emerge chestnut-brown and springy from the fryer, served with sweetly chargrilled slices of scallop or sticky, slow-braised pork belly (£8). Scotch bonnet chilis are a menu feature: They heat up the pool of Senegalese hot sauce alongside main course spatchcocked, grill-scorched poussin (£22)  and a cocktail that turns out to be a great way to accustom your palate to Akara’s spicy cuisine.

The restaurant occupies one of Borough’s many repurposed railway arches, handsomely decked out in blond wood and écru banquettes, with exposed ducting (naturally) and a hidden mezzanine private dining room. 

Kolae

Set on three floors of a bare-bricked Victorian coach house, southern Thai hotspot Kolae is the second restaurant from Som Saa chefs Mark Dobbie and Andy Oliver, featuring a blend of open-fire grills, pungent and fragrant soups and curries. There’s a shatteringly crisp snack of garlic-scented prawn heads (£5) and lime-soured kolae mussel skewers (£6), grilled over charcoal, wood and coconut husk. The concise, sharp list of main courses feature prawn and stone bass gati curry, herb-flecked and turmeric-bright (£16.50), and beef shin hot-and-sour soup, perfumed with Thai cardamom. Asian accented cocktails include a bargain £5 slug of pickled mango dirty martini and a short-but-interesting 20-bin wine list.

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