After hearing so much about the newly refurbished Mercado San Miguel off Plaza Mayor, I knew that I couldn't avoid going there and seeing what the fuss was all about. Since its' construction in 1916, this Beaux Arts iron and glass was always a working market until then over the years, the structure was left in disrepair until it closed for renovation in 2003 and reopened to much fanfare this year.
The market turns out much smaller than I expected but interesting nevertheless with its' concept of a modern market. The combination of traditional market stalls - fruits and vegetables, fresh fish and seafood, bacalao (salted cod), jamon Iberico, cheeses, fresh meat, Italian delicacies and pastas and gourmet products - Vincon for its' well-known array of designer kitchen gadgets, Libreria LAIE for a wide selection of cookbooks).
There are also several places to enjoy what the market has to offer and eat sur place either directly at the bar or brought to one of the few high tables left in the center area. You can have a major smorgasbord of goodies - freshly-shucked oysters accompanied by champagne from Ostras Sorlut , some freshly sliced jamon Iberico with a glass of wine from Pinkelton & Wine, some Fino and mixed cashews and almonds from Vinos Olorosos. There is also a stall specializing in Portugese delicacies like tiny shrimp fritters and croquettes or smoked salmon and cod from La Casa del Bacalao.
If you'd like to have a proper lunch then sidle up to one of the three bars serving food and squeeze your way into a space on the counter - there is the Cafeteria on one end which serves round pieces of bread topped with all sorts of delicious things: pulpo (octopus), tuna, ham, egg or even better, do as we did and sharpen your elbows for a spot on the counter right beside the fishmonger where there is a list of fish and seafood specials along with two dishes in the cauldrons right on the counter (more on that in another post).
Of course, if you're just wandering around then have a look at one of the pastry counters at the far end where there will surely be something to tempt you. Pasteleria V is an Austrian pastry shop where the cakes are made following the Viennese tradition of pastry-making. Beside it is another sweet-tooth magnet, a long counter with Spanish pastries and sweets from magdalenas to yemas, from chocolates to artisanal ice cream. All you'll need is a cup of coffee and a place to sit down to enjoy your treat. The best part is that all that grazing of top-quality food is easier on the pocket than a full-on sit-down meal at a traditional Madrid restaurant and much more fun too.