San Miguel Market: a bitesize chunk of Spain
Below, the Saucy Dressings’ chief correspondent describes a recent visit to the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid – the biggest monkfish in the world and electric blue wine are among the treats in store:
Fancy a quick weekend escape to Madrid? I can thoroughly recommend it. Just make sure you don’t fly with EasyJet – they cancel your flight!
With a new job just started I couldn’t afford to take longer than the weekend, but I wanted to visit my boyfriend while he was working on a project in Madrid. He had never been before and didn’t have time during the week to explore, so we had two days in Madrid to see as much as possible.
I asked around for recommendations and got many different suggestions, but top of everyone’s list was Mercado de San Miguel. We made it our first stop on Saturday afternoon after we had recovered from one hell of week and an arrival time of 3am by allowing ourselves a glorious lie in. Then on to the market. It was smaller than I was expecting, and surprisingly for Spain was also covered so would be good to visit in the rain too. Its size was misleading however, because inside the stalls were packed tightly together with all kinds of meat, fish, paella, wines and exquisite tapas. It wasn’t just the stalls that were packed either, the whole market was bustling with people.
I can only describe it as a bitesize chunk of Spanish culture. All the different aspects of Spain you would expect to see were there condensed into a few square metres. There was a bank of Iberian ham, which filled the air with the slightly salted Spanish smell that seems to permeate the tabernas throughout the city. This was followed by rows upon rows of Riojas and tucked away in the corner a stall selling plastic beakers of refreshing Sangria made from vino de Oporto. I’m not normally a massive fan of Sangria, but it’s a pretty good drink on a hot summer’s day and its bright pink and orange colours would win me over any day.
With Sangria in hand, we continued wandering round. We picked up some delicious tapas of buffala cheese that looked like it had only just been delivered from the buffalo moments earlier and topped with caramelised onions and a twist of Iberian ham. At the next corner we were surprised by the most enormous Monkfish the world must surely ever have seen (see featured image)! I thought it was a sting ray from behind! There we bought some fried squid tentacles that came in a newspaper-formed cone-shaped package with a slice of lemon.
Our fingers by this stage rather messy, we continued onto the Paella stall for our main course. There we could choose from Black Rice, Meat Paella, Vegetable Paella or Seafood Paella. We got the tapas portions – I dread to think what size the normal portions would be if the tapas size was a full bowl!
Everything seemed very Spanish aside from one unusual detail…I kept spotting something electric blue out of the corners of my eye. It turned out that recently one Spanish wine maker had discovered a way of turning his wine electric blue using the natural pigments of the grape skins. This Vino Azul was clearly a big hitter at the Mercado de San Miguel. It was definitely eye-catching. Eventually I persuaded my boyfriend to try some.
It was a little off-putting to start with, but actually it didn’t taste very different from white wine. Its aroma was a sweet mixture of apricots and honeysuckle while its taste was surprisingly well-balanced between the more bitter mineral flavours and the rounder, sweeter fruity flavours.
Following the wine we went on to the minuscule Taberna Errante (no website: Carrera de San Francisco, 8, 28012 Madrid, +34 915 30 94 42) renowned in Madrid for its fresh tapas. The entrance is only a metre wide – blink and you’d miss it! But inside it reverberates with Spanish voices even at 5pm. This was obviously a favourite with the locals. We ordered a pepper, aubergine and cod salad, some meat loaf and some delicious mushrooms in truffle cream washed down with some excellent Rioja from Ribera del Duero at an incredible 2EUR/glass.
Absolutely stuffed at this point we finished off the evening with a dramatic flamenco performance at Casa Patas where we even managed to nibble at some slices of Manchego cheese. How’s that for a whistle stop tour of Spanish food?
Other good food markets in Madrid are the Mercado Barceló and the Mercado de Antón Martín.
For another post on the Mercado de San Miguel, follow this link.
For a post on Ribera del Duero wine, follow this link.
For a post on Manchego cheese, follow this link.