11 Jul2010


On our first evening in Madrid, we decided to check out the recently renovated Mercado de San Miguel after reading this short article in the New York Times. A short cab ride from our hotel, and just off the Plaza Mayor, this small but beautiful market is housed in an amazing Beaux Arts structure with incredible architectural detailing on the outside of the building that is now enclosed with lots of glass. Almost a hundred years old, it was refurbished by a group of investors and now houses some 50+ food and related vendors in a very chi-chi market. It is a bit contrived, but still wonderful, in my opinion. Certainly lightyears away from a giant food court in a North American mall… :)


More Dean & De Luca than Union Square Market, this has become a watering hole for yuppies and foodie tourists it seems. I sincerely doubt that many locals come here for their daily food shopping.


The first vendor that caught my eye was this fishmonger or more accurately fishwife since it was a lady manning the stall. The fish were beautifully displayed on crushed ice, a still life begging to be admired. Some of the fish didn’t look so fresh, but the variety was impressive. There were some locals buying seafood at this shop, but I suspect their biggest customers were the nearby seafood bars that served cooked dishes and tapas. I do love how the displays were set-up however, particularly when compared to our own large markets that have fish laid out on tiles, hopeful that they will be sold quickly without need for ice…


I have to say that Atlantic or Mediterranean fish can be wickedly ugly in the looks department. Bug-eyed, malformed heads, strange colors. Nothing like the Miss Universe ready cousins from the warm tropics. Heeheehee. Yes, I am biased, but our fish are far more beautiful. :)


These stunningly fire red prawns were an exception in the looks department, but isn’t it so unusual to have raw prawns be so red?


Razor clams, cockles, lobsters, prawns, squid, octopus, etc. made for a really striking display. In the 20-30 minutes we were in the vicinity, they made 2-3 sales, so I can’t imagine they had the retail volume required to pay the rent…


But I suppose if they managed to sell a few kilos of these Percebe Gallego, or gooseneck barnacles that are a HUGE Spanish delicacy, very pricey at Euro100 per kilo (PHP6,000 a kilo). I have never tasted these, and regret now that I didn’t look harder for a place serving them, but they are supposed to definitely worth the money. More info on Percebes here and here, for the curious.


The lone vegetable and fruit vendor was housed in a large corner stall. On the afternoon we visited, and again on a subsequent day visit, they had hardly any vegetables at all. Some 80% of the stall was dedicated to fruit, beautifully displayed and wickedly overpriced fruit. :)


They did have a huge case of wonderful chanterelles on offer, and at Euro19 a kilo, a bargain compared to the percebes…


Peaches, apricots, and other expected fruits vied for space beside more exotic pineapples, guyabanos, mangoes, etc.


This corner half-pyramid of carefully arranged cherries was anal-retentiveness to the extreme. I figured 20% of the price must have paid for the labor to put up such a display! And forget about picking out your own cherries, you CAN’T touch the fruit, buddy!


Mrs. MM purchased a few peaches to eat back at the hotel for dessert…


…and i was thrilled to see such humongous and ripe figs on offer as well.


I spied these two cases of wild asparagus or “mountain asparagus” with very thin stems. If we had access to a kitchen, I would have definitely tried some of these…


There was also a vendor selling all manner of spanish beans/legumes…


…nicely displayed in little sacks.


And if feeling flush, yet another vendor had some pretty pricey black truffles on offer.


But how, oh how could you not step back in awe, mouth agape, at the selection of premium hams on offer? This is a view that makes my knees tremble, or just about. The line for this stall was so long you would have to wait 20-30 minutes just to get a plate of hand sliced Jamon Iberico! And from folks dressed in ties and vests to boot!


Next up, a post on what we had for dinner at the Mercado de San Miguel.



  1. EbbaBlue says:

    Yipee I am the first! Wow, this is such a place. The seafood section is a site. Should I put this place in my bucket list? Well, for now I am happy to visit different towns and provinces on their tiangge day. The seafood being hauled fresh from the bancas and placed in the banyeras.

    Jul 11, 2010 | 6:53 am


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  3. Jen Laceda says:

    wow, my last trip to Madrid was 1996. I think I’m due for a visit!! What a gorgeous market!

    Jul 11, 2010 | 7:22 am

  4. marilen says:

    Right on, MM. Fish in the tropics are infinitely lovelier than the pugnacious looking North Atlantic variety!! (He, he – This comment sounds like kids running around taunting ‘ye, ye, ya, ya, ya.’ ) Many years ago while shopping at a seafood stall in Alicante for my in-laws lunch, medio tanga pa aco, I hesitated to purchase the pinkish-reddish gambas, baka hindi ‘fresh’, used as I was to our greenish, pale lettuce colored translucent pasayan. We are enjoying your travel posts immensely. Wanted to note also our practice of handling, poking, smelling anything in our markets vs. the ‘no tocar, non tocare’ !!

    Jul 11, 2010 | 7:29 am

  5. Footloose says:

    The angler fish looks so crossed it’s cross-eyed. But we do have our share of ugly fish in the tropics though. Remember the fiercely ugly lizard fish that can hurt your feelings just by looking at it. Most eels are unappetizing ugly too.

    And woe to the shopper who ignores the bi-lingual warning signs and dislodges some good-looking fruit near the bottom of these pyramids and triggers a fruity avalanche.

    Jul 11, 2010 | 7:34 am

  6. present tense says:

    When i was there, there was this big dep’t store, El Corte Ingles, smack in the center. And the hippies / gypsies who come out on weekends for the locals to score some reefer from. The seat of gov’t is Madrid i understand yet it doesn’t come out as a dense city and is in fact, highly uncluttered when you leave the gov’t capital. And if you drive by the parks ( which we did to get home which during that time was at Prado de Somosaguas ), there are always these Madrid hookers scuttering among the trees who really dont even come close to our Malate counterparts, and that surprised me. But that was during the summer. But i was younger then

    Jul 11, 2010 | 8:06 am

  7. quiapo says:

    We have our share of ugly fish in Australia, but they taste quite nice. One of the ugliest is the flathead, which is also difficult to clean, is so delicious.

    Jul 11, 2010 | 8:23 am

  8. witsandnuts says:

    The pyramid like arrangement of cherries is wonderful!

    Jul 11, 2010 | 12:20 pm

  9. Isa Garchitorena says:

    Madrid is definitely on my to do list! Perhaps 2011 will be the year to connect with my roots :-)

    Jul 11, 2010 | 1:00 pm

  10. kurzhaar says:

    I like the Mercado de San Miguel’s reincarnation… which is not as a regular “market” and the shops/hours clearly reflect that. It’s a good place for noshing with decent wines.

    Jul 11, 2010 | 2:45 pm

  11. chinachix says:

    beautiful market, great food selection!

    Jul 11, 2010 | 4:23 pm

  12. kikas_head says:

    Is not touching the fruit a European thing? I noticed it almost everywhere in Italy whereas here and the US one is always allowed to pick up items, smell them, etc.

    Jul 12, 2010 | 9:23 am

  13. Marketman says:

    kikas head, yes, it’s a European thing. But it makes sense really, so customers don’t bruise more fruit while they pick what they want. It actually highlight the suki system as locals who are known to the vendors will inevitably be given the finest fruit. However, if you have a bionic eye, you can point out the fruit you prefer and they will have no choice but to give those to you when you buy them… :)

    Jul 12, 2010 | 9:32 am

  14. Sherry says:

    We just came back from Spain. We went to this market and tried quite a few things. Stupid me thought the Percebe Gallego were turtle feet. :). We tried quite a few olives there and some of the pastries. Got some new ideas for tapas. Had a great time in Spain. Loved Sevilla especially.

    Sep 23, 2010 | 11:10 pm

  15. Julie Gilley says:

    I literally stumbled on Mercado de San Miguel and had the best lunch and most fun on my recent trip to Madrid. It impressed me so much, I wrote a post about it too: http://juliegilley.typepad.com/my_far_and_away_blog/2011/02/mercado-de-san-miguel-the-best-lunch-in-madrid.html

    Feb 10, 2011 | 1:52 am

  16. Perri says:

    Just to mention that the “no touching” signs doesn’t apply all round the Mediterranian area. I’ve lived in the South of France for 26+ years and have never seen “no touching” signs on fruit or vegetables – only on breakables such as glassware and ceramics.

    Aug 23, 2011 | 1:10 am


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