Tucked in behind Madrid’s Plaza Major – where naked nymphs and shepherds disport themselves on the 17th century facades, buskers entertain the crowds and waiters issue open invitations – is Mercado San Miguel.
At first I thought it was just a fancy market with artfully displayed fruit in the windows. Turns out it’s a giant tapas bar and one of my favourite places to eat in Madrid.
Of course Madrid is famous for its nightlife and eating tapas late into the night as you wander from bar to bar is one of the many pleasures of the Spanish capital.
In the centre of the Mercado San Miguel there are mini bars or high tables to lean against and enjoy your gleanings from the many, many stalls offering Spanish foodie delights to Madrilenos. Pause for awhile with a cone of olive oil chips, some croquetas para llevar and a sangria and vermouth cocktail, before diving back in to the Mercado San Miguel.
You’ll find more types of olives than you’ve ever heard of, certainly more than in Waitrose, and similarly encurtidos (pickles).
Everything is ‘handmade’ or ‘artisinale’ – possibly the same thing. I found papas y mojo picon from the Canary Islands (salted mini jacket potatoes with spicy sauce) and no end of glistening Pinchos.
One huge stall has a million variations on jamon. The Mariscos or seafood is something to be seen: especially the oysters. When you’re thirsty there are stalls at the Mercado San Miguel for beer, wine, coffee and fresh juices. Go Sherry tasting or try some of the best Champagnes.
For dessert there are a number of pasteleria offering everything from tiny baked delights to full-blown cakes.
Unsurprisingly the Mercado San Miguel is a very popular place to eat in Madrid, where you can graze and graze and graze to your hearts content.
By Natasha von Geldern
Where do you like to eat in Madrid?