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Mercado del Puerto

August 18, 2014

What do Paris’ most famous landmark (not you, EuroDisney) and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Mercado del Puerto have in common? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out. Yes, we’re teases are we.

When he first moved to GC, one of Mr Gran Canaria Local’s chores was to help his mother-in-law with the shopping. Now the good news for Mr GCL was that his suegra liked to shop local to her Las Canteras base. At the Mercado del Puerto.

The bad news? She liked to bulk buy. So her son-in-law would pull a full trolley with one hand plus hold on tight to a clutch of carrier bags in his other.

Thankfully, Mr GCL’s last visit to the MdP was less taxing. He was the guest of manager, Antonio Ramos. And he learned a lot, to the extent he could write a book about the market. To avoid your eyes glazing over, here’s a summary.

  1. Mercado del Puerto’s past
  2. Mercado del Puerto’s present
  3. Mercado del Puerto’s future

1. Mercado del Puerto’s past

The MdP has an interesting history. It was designed by French engineers Société des Établissements Eiffel, creative geniuses behind some tower somewhere or other, in 1891. Although this iron giant remained unfinished until 1911.

In the intervening 20 years, the market, known as the Plaza (Square) by locals, was as an open-air one. Its name in full is the Mercado del Puerto de la Luz. It became a hub of the city, so much so that LP de GC’s first traffic lights were built outside the market.

16 years and seven months ago, as in January 1998, Antonio Ramos became gerente of the MdP. A few years back, he felt the bite of the credit crunch. As regulars deserted the market to buy their fruit and veg, and meat and fish too, at the new discount supermarkets.

So what did Ramos do? He diversified, making the market a place to dine out as well as to shop. Where you could also meet friends for drinks.

2. Mercado del Puerto’s present

So now, as well as going for your weekly shop, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Admitting a love for foodie markets like London’s Borough Market, Antonio Ramos wants a visit to his market to inspire you. It’s all about the detail, too, with Ramos admiring the slight head on our lagers, pointing out, “Here we pour the beer like they do in Madrid.”

The focus is on local products and international recipes. So, the fresh fish and seafood displayed at Maketto Sushi Bar‘s sourced from Atlantic waters rather than Pacific ones. Although the cider at Skandi Tapas is imported from Sweden.

What Antonio wants to encourage is for visitors to the market to replicate dishes they try here at home. So, the Asador del Mercado sells the rice they use in preparing their exceedingly nice rice dishes. Everything from basmati through to paella to Thai varieties.

But the MdP’s about tradition as well as innovation. The owner of the Boulevard del Cangrejo Ruso, for example, is from a family of market stallholders going back three generations. And Frankfurt & Burritos incorporate local Valsequillo cheese in their burrito and hot-dog offerings.

3. Mercado del Puerto’s future

And so what does the future hold for the MdP? Antonio listens with interest when we tell him about the gentrification in Brixton following the modernization of their market. But what we like about Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s port market is that it’s spotless without being sanitized.

We ask whether there will be tapas tours or guided visits. Antonio replies that these are on the agenda, although not in the near future. He insists the market’s for the city first.

And despite the longer opening hours, Ramos is adamant that the Mercado del Puerto will never turn into a nightclub. There’s no music played and the background noise is chatter from the crowds. Instead of cocktails, there’s an impressive Canarian collection of beer and wine.

Whatever the direction Antonio chooses to take, rest assured the future of the Mercado del Puerto’s in safe hands. He refers to his stallholders as one happy family. And you can taste the love in the food, with the aubergines marinated in chilli oil at Cachuk Pedscaderia Degustaction, run by a Tuscan twosome, the ideal accompaniment to another perfectly-poured lager.