Cádiz is blessed with so many precious gems and plenty of rough diamonds too! Sometimes we need to scratch the surface to find them, sometimes we stumble upon them quite by chance and others are there loud and proud, impossible to ignore.
In your writer’s humble opinion the Cádiz Mercado Central, the central market, is one of those that grabs you and forces itself upon you.
It claims to be the oldest covered market in Spain and despite, or maybe because of, it’s recent facelift, it’s a vibrant, active market. The heart is undeniably the fish stalls in the centre. Tourists, looking for that instagramable shot of the extended swordfish sword, the massive tuna or the bountiful shellfish, squeeze alongside the locals who are going about the serious business of weekly purchases. Further out there are the fruit and veg stalls which heave with fantastic, local, seasonal produce at amazing prices. Then around the edge, there are the butchers for whom butchery is an art and buying good quality Iberico pork (often the famous black pigs raised in the mountains and acorn-fed) is a joy. That’s all your food needs taken of, can there be more?
Indeed, there can… much, much more. A good few years ago, the market was losing some of its appeal, people were shopping in different ways and the market was losing some of its newly refurbished shine. Then something changed, and it changed for the better. A few of the empty market stalls were re-purposed as little bars, cooking the food of the market for the peckish needing a little sustenance during their shopping trip.
From those gentle beginnings, the cocinas, kitchens, have become a major part of market life and there is now a huge selection of places to eat. Because of a rather quirky and welcome rule, there can’t be two market stall kitchens the same thing. This means there’s a huge amount of variety and there really is something for everybody. Kids and connoisseurs are catered for with a delightful equality… hot dogs and a plate of chips? No problem. The best Iberico pork freshly grilled, specialist local cheeses, Gaditano fried fish… it’s all on offer.
One of the jewels in this culinary crown is undoubtedly the sushi kitchen. Sushi in Spain? Surely, that doesn’t sit right? Actually, it makes perfect sense, as testified by no less than Rick Stein on his Long Weekend in Cádiz. He thoroughly approved of the cold Manzanilla (bone-dry sherry) complimenting the freshest atún, tuna with it’s lip-smacking oriental garnishes wrapped in seaweed or generously placed on it’s sticky rice perch. The fish quality is high year round and when it’s Almadraba time even more so.
Next time you’re in Cádiz, don’t forget to make a date to visit the market, buy the produce and then enjoy the market kitchens, you won’t regret it!