Mercado de San Miguel – Heaven in Madrid

I have just returned from a whirlwind weekend in Madrid, and this place was by far the highlight. Mercado de San Miguel is foodie heaven. Supposedly the most popular food market in Madrid, we just couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

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Having spent the morning at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium to satisfy the boys (if that’s more your thing you can read about that here), we headed off to find the much talked about food market just in time for lunch. We weren’t disappointed!

We excitedly snapped some pictures of the building itself – a beautiful glass, iron and wooden structure that gifts the perfect balance of traditional and modern – before hungrily joining the bustling crowd drifting towards the mouth-wateringly good smells inside.

We were swept into a sea of people, weaving their way through the crowds to reach the stalls and bars. Now, I am really, really not a lover of crowds or small spaces, but I found myself completely overwhelmed in a positive way and couldn’t wait to join the madness.

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The decor inside was amazing. Each stall had it’s own character, and the transition from smooth, modern bars to rickety, vintage carts made the place all the more appealing. The huge glass windows let in the winter sunshine, whilst indoor heaters and low hung lamps gave the large room warmth and atmosphere.

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We found ourselves moving effortlessly from stall to stall – shouting, beckoning, losing each other, finding each other again moments later to proudly present the group with a different dish we had discovered.

We started with beer and sangria, accompanied by a cone full of chorizo. We swiftly moved on to cheese before heading towards the olives. Stuffed with peppers, chilli, anchovies and cheese; we ordered a selection and demolished them so quickly they barely touched the plate.

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Next we flagged down the pizza waggon and eagerly grabbed a slice. As a full on pizza snob (side effect of having an Italian restauranter for a father), I went into this one ready to be all judgmental but it was amazing! The base was thin and crisp, the sauce packed full of flavour and the toppings light. Perfect!

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After another sangria run, we moved onto a pretty little stall selling a range of savoury Spanish pastries where we trialled chicken, mushroom, spinach and finally shrimp croquettes. These pastries were the type that could have so easily been greasy and synthetic tasting (I expected a cheap British pasty experience) but the pastry was thin and flaky and the flavours were all to die for.

We moved on to caviar and gave the red caviar blinis a go. I am not a massive fan of caviar as I don’t like anything too salty, but the bed of cool crab salad tamed the caviar well and the colour was so vibrant it was hard to just walk by.

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Next, fuelled on by my sister’s excitement, we approached the oyster counter. The oysters were incredible – cold, fresh and really moreish. As Wayne perfectly stated on trying his first oyster, they taste just like the sea! I think that oysters stacked on ice look so beautiful, but I can also understand the common fear of the gloopy consistency. They are definitely an acquired taste but something that I think everyone should try if given the chance.

Sticking with the fish theme we grabbed a huge plate of mussels and stood in the corner passing them between us. They tasted amazingly fresh and a generous mountain of them only set us back 8 euros. This place was fast becoming my favourite part of the trip so far!

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Mountain demolished, we headed towards the sweet stalls where a huge array of cakes, chocolates and pastries were stacked in hypnotising piles behind sparkly glass cabinets. I couldn’t resist the colourful macaroons and they certainly didn’t dissapoint. The others went for a variety of sweet treats from coffee meringue to apple pastries and churros.

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We found ourselves a table and sat back to drink in the atmosphere. To me, the most pleasing part of the market was seeing such an eclectic mix of people enjoying traditional food and drink in such an iconic building. Seeing an old Spanish man perched on a stool at a bar, digging into a plate of mussels, completely unfazed by the group of overexcited tourists next to him squealing at the fish counter (that was us!) made the experience so memorable.

This place is definitely reason enough to go back to Madrid. If you’re planning a visit, just be sure not to overindulge at the hotel breakfast buffet – you’re going to need that space!

Mercado de San Miguel, Plaza San Miguel, 28005 Madrid

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