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Bosses reveal 10 food courts that inspired vision for new £50m Aberdeen Market

Market operators McGinty's have traveled all across the UK and beyond, seeking ideas for the new city centre destination.

Image shows the food court Boxpark at Wembley stadium, London.
The Boxpark at Wembley is among the venues that have inspired the Aberdeen Market food court plans. Image: Shutterstock

Anticipation is mounting as work on Aberdeen’s new food market is soon to begin.

McGinty’s head honcho Allan Henderson, who will run the city centre venue, is determined to make it a “vibrant” place that will attract visitors from all over.

But to do that, he and his team need to “get the atmosphere just right” – not too dark, not too bright, not too quiet or too noisy.

This is where the new Aberdeen Market building will be erected. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

In setting out their lofty ambitions, McGinty’s bosses have taken inspiration from more than 30 cutting-edge sites across the UK and beyond.

And they have now revealed several developments – all unique in their own way – that have helped shape Aberdeen’s version.

Old Spitalfields Market, London

Spitalfields Market has been hailed as the one-stop destination for food, fashion, art, music and events in East London. Image: Shutterstock.

For more than 350 years, the Old Spitalfields Market has been the mecca for small producers and local creatives with big ideas.

From market stalls and well-known brands to street food traders and restaurants, the venue in East London has it all under one Victorian roof.

The new public spaces – Bishops Square and Crispin Place – were created in a regeneration programme in 2005.Image: Shutterstock.

All of the artisan businesses have been hand-picked with one thing in mind – to offer visitors the “perfect antidote to the high street” seven days a week.

It boasts 42 food and drink vendors, 63 shops and stalls, and hosts dozens of events every year.

There is a wide variety of local traders, who sell everything you can possibly imagine. Image: Shutterstock.

Now, the Aberdeen venue would admittedly be a tad more modest compared to the Old Spitalfields Market – as well as most of the other listed sources of inspiration.

This is strictly due to the size of land provided for it.

However, given the nature of the historic London market – McGinty’s bosses tell us they were able to take away plenty of ideas for their own project.

The market offers a mixture of shops and food vendors. Image: Shutterstock.

Mercato Mayfair, London

Speaking of historic markets, Mercato Mayfair is another notable mention from McGinty’s list.

Located in the regenerated St Mark’s church on North Audley Street, this venue bears many similarities with the proposed concept for the Aberdeen market.

The Grade One listed building has been declared as heritage treasure. Image: Shutterstock.

Deconsecrated in 1974, the building underwent a five-million-pound makeover to become a “glorious” cultural hub in the heart of London.

It is once again heavily focused on authentic food and artisan produce – offering two floors of worldwide cuisine, a rooftop terrace, a wine cellar and a community space.

Given that the Aberdeen Market will be a brand new building, it would be hard to achieve the same authentic feel of the London landmark.

But McGinty’s are still determined to give the venue a “distinctive character”, combining quirky and corporate features.

Pop Brixton, London

Image: Shutterstock.

“Welcome to Pop – where community, creativity and entertainment collide!”

This slogan says pretty much everything you need to know about Pop Brixton, one of London’s quirkier food courts.

Created from 55 containers, the venue was built on the site of a disused ice-rink in 2015.

Image: Shutterstock.

It still has the staple street food and beverage vendors, but Pop Brixton’s main selling point is being a “unique event space” for gigs, film showings and other activities.

This would also be one of the most important features of the Aberdeen market, according to McGinty’s leaders.

The palm trees at the food court give the illusion you are sipping on a cocktails in the Tropics – rather than rainy London. Image: Shutterstock.

They want to hold all sorts of events throughout the year, installing a big stage for bands and DJs, and turning the outdoor area at the Green into a hotspot for sports fans.

Pop Brixton is home to more than 20 independent start-ups and local traders, and is also available for private hire.

Vinegar Yard, London

Customers enjoy a drink at the open air bar near London Bridge just after sunset. Image: Shutterstock.

With “breathtaking” views of the Shard, London’s highest skyscraper, the Vinegar Yard is probably one of the most scenic venues on the list.

The food and drink hotspot is just a short walk from London Bridge, and a prime location for football fans when there is a game on.

England fans watching the European Championship final against Italy at the Vinegar Yard in 2021. Image: John Patrick Fletcher/Shutterstock.

It features art installations – much like the ones planned for the Aberdeen market’s Union Street entrance at the former BHS store.

The proposed digital display has been rather controversial – and historians have had a lot to say about the interactive feature.

But it is hoped the see-through glass panels would bring something new to the Granite Mile and attract more visitors.

The art displays behind the proposed glazed frontage of the Aberdeen market would be changed regularly. Image: Halliday Fraser Munro/Aberdeen City Council.

The Vinegar Yard also boasts pop-up shops, bars, street food traders and an open-air garden area with seating for hundreds of people – which gets covered in winter.

And at the weekends, it is a popular destination for bargain-hunters and artisan lovers, with a flea market offering retro clothes, books, ceramics and more.

Boxpark Wembley, London

The events space has capacity for about 20,000. Image: Shutterstock.

Another source of inspiration is Boxpark Wembley, which launched in December 2018.

Erected just a stone’s throw from Wembley Stadium, the venue has become the ultimate fan park destination, offering an “immersive food, drink and leisure experience”.

The venue hosts a number of cultural events and a diverse selection of food and drink vendors – attracting thousands of people on a daily basis.

Fans watch the England Lionesses take on Columbia in the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals at Boxpark. Image: Mike Ruane/Story Picture Agency/Shutterstock.

It also features a dedicated space boasting a range of leisure activities such as axe throwing, virtual reality experience, table tennis, pool and others.

McGinty’s bosses say the place was “absolutely buzzing” when they last visited it.

And this is exactly the atmosphere they want to create at the new Aberdeen market.

The venue tends to be football fans’ go-to when there is a big game on. Image: Mike Ruane/Story Picture Agency/Shutterstock.

They do recognise that the Granite City is no Wembley – and reaching 10,000 people would perhaps be a bit difficult.

However, they still hope the city centre market would attract thousands on a weekend.

Much like Wembley, the Aberdeen market is planned to have an outdoor area at the Green, for events and screenings – including big sports games. Image: Halliday Fraser Munro/Aberdeen City Council.

Bonnie & Wild market, Edinburgh

Moving from the English capital to Edinburgh for a bit, the Bonnie & Wild marketplace is all about taking visitors on a cuisine trip around the world.

This is Scotland’s first food hall, which opened in the St James Quarter shopping centre in summer 2021.

McGinty’s bosses visited Bonnie & Wild indoor market in Edinburgh for inspiration for the new Aberdeen Market. Image: Ellie Milne/DC Thomson.

The venue features 12 independent chef-led food stalls and retailers, three bars and an events space for more than 370 guests.

And it tends to be always busy.

Bonnie & Wild regularly host live events, private dinners, cooking shows, pop-ups and festivals, as well as a Scottish country dancing night once a month.

However, McGinty’s leaders have previously said they would like to go away from the “polished, glossy” look of a shopping mall – which is exactly what Bonnie & Wild is.

So we will see how much inspiration they have actually taken particularly from this one.

Seven Dials Market, London

The covered food court opened in 2019. Image: Shutterstock.

Seven Dials Market was established at Covent Garden by Kerb – a membership organisation of London’s most promising street food traders.

And so – naturally – it focuses on giving independent businesses the platform to showcase their products.

It is the West End’s answer to Mercato Mayfair (which we mentioned earlier).

Bosses describe the food offering at Seven Dials as “diverse”, with “slap-you-round-the-face-it’s-so-good flavour”.

When it comes to the building, the layout is perhaps the closest to how the Aberdeen development has been envisaged.

The Edinburgh market is spread across two floors – with street food kitchens downstairs, and cafes upstairs, and a large dinning area in the middle.

Initial design images of  how the Aberdeen market could look like inside. Image: Aberdeen City Council.

Grainger Market, Newcastle upon Tyne

Grainger Market is known far and wide as Newcastle’s first supermarket, having opened in 1835.

And 200 years on, the historic landmark is still one of the busiest food courts in the city.

The traditional market boasts hundreds of old-fashioned shops, which still enjoy a steady flow of visitors. Image: Shutterstock.

Home to hundreds of local traders and small businesses, it boasts everything from cobblers, florists, and jewellers to artisan bakeries, butchers and greengrocers.

Grainger Market has proved to be a big hit among local foodies, and was named ‘Britain’s Favourite Market’ in 2020.

Market Hall Victoria, London

Vendors at the market include Eggslut, Jude’s Thai, Black Bear Burger, Hotbox and DF Tacos. Image: Shutterstock.

Market Hall Victoria, as the name suggests, is located near the capital’s Victoria station.

Across three floors, you’ll find eight different kitchens and three bars, serving more than 60 dishes from London’s most exciting brands.

Its trademark is perhaps the scenic roof terrace where visitors can enjoy a cocktail while overlooking the city’s skyline.

The venue’s convenient location has made it a favourite spot to grab breakfast, lunch, dinner and after-work drinks. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson.

Kingly Court, London

Carnaby’s iconic Kingly Court is a three-storey alfresco dining destination in the heart of London’s West End.

The bustling hub hosts 21 restaurants, bars and cafés from all corners of the globe, secret cocktail bars, quick and healthy lunch take-aways and decadent brunch spots.

This shows the market’s courtyard, which is usually heaving with people. Image: John Alex Maguire/Shutterstock.

It’s a one-size-fits-all destination, with a courtyard that is open air throughout the summer months and covered in the winter.

Again, the layout and design of Kingly Court is quite close to the Aberdeen market one.

This place is also often used for different festivals and events. Image: Ray Tang/Shutterstock.

So these are the bosses’ top 10 picks…

But hospitality leaders really have a “clean slate” with the Aberdeen venue, and only time will tell what the future holds for it.

Read our interview with McGinty’s Group director Allan Henderson to find out more about his ambitious Aberdeen Market plans. 

And there’s still time to help choose the new name for the Aberdeen venue.