We visited the Mercado Central in Valencia, one of the largest markets in Europe. It was built between 1914 and 1928 in the Art Nouveaux style, which gives it the stunning high ceilings and a light, airy atmosphere.
The first time we tried to visit we were too late in the day, as the vendors had already started packing up just after 2pm. So we resolved to return another day to catch the market at its lively peak.
The second time we were more successful, having to work hard to stay out of the way of busy shoppers while we did the tourist thing and took photos. The quality and variety of the products for sale looked very good.
It would be Spain without olives… and olive oil.
And, of course, there was jamon everywhere. These hanging legs of ham are such a common sight in a Spanish city that after a while we hardly notice them anymore.
The market is so large that Google Maps has actually plotted the aisles and stalls in the market as if it was a small neighbourhood. Handy.
If you wondered where all our Canadian cod went, here it is… salted and shipped all the way from Labrador as bacalao.
We specifically timed our second visit to the market to coincide with lunch, so we could eat at Central Bar. This is a small open-concept restaurant located right in the heart of the market. It was opened in 2012 by celebrity Valencian chef Ricard Camarena.
Customers eat at counters sitting on stools around the central serving area. The ingredients are all sourced from the market, and the dishes are creative modern variants on traditional tapas. It’s a little pricier than a typical tapas joint but it’s not unreasonable for the quality of the food and service.
We ordered some chicken croquetas as an appetizer — these are very common in Spain, small battered fritters usually containing bacalao or some type of meat. But they tend to also be cheesy, so Josie needs to cautiously ration her consumption of them.
We followed those up with a very surprising eggplant and miso dish, meatballs in red curry sauce, and the “Ricard Camarena” special sandwich of ham and mustard on a baguette. All were excellent.
After lunch, we headed back, passing more vendor stalls located on the streets outside the main market.