Discovering Palma: Mercat de Santa Catalina
This weekend, rather unbelievably, we will be marking two months since we moved to Mallorca – in some ways surprisingly long, in others surprisingly short. For we have already discovered so much about our incredible home city of Palma de Mallorca – from its winding old town streets, to its hidden tapas gems, nearby sandy beaches and even a cinema showing films in English – that it is hard to accept that we have only been here a mere matter of weeks. But despite many an exploration made, there is still much left to discover, as our recent gastronomic sojourn in the Santa Catalina market demonstrated.
We had heard much about the Mercat de Santa Catalina (or Mercado in Castellan) before we ventured there ourselves. Half the problem was that despite its excellent reputation, we could never quite seem to find the market, despite wandering always close by. But this time we had the market firmly marked on the map and did not miss it.
Compared with the Mercat de Olivar, a market on an almost industrial scale, the Mercat in Santa Catalina is a far more select affair, and for that reason is characterised by a clear focus on gastronomy rather than economy – a clear case of quality, not quantity in this refined temple of food. Walking amongst its compact and well stocked aisles, any chef or food lover cannot help but get emotional at the sensational food on offer, from an abundance of fresh fish in glittering silvers and soft pinks, to fruit and vegetables so perfectly rounded and robust in colour and quality that they look picked straight from Eden.
Happily if, like me, you become a little overwhelmed with all that is in offer, so astounded by the impact of the produce that all cooking ideas float straight out of your head, you can at least sample some of the best food from the market in a series of popular bars dotted around the periphery. Such is their popularity however that you must jostle for a space, and that meant seizing upon such opportunities to reach a bar as arose. For us that meant finding ourselves squeezed into a small space at the bar of the Tallat a ma S’agla, which was a fine piece of luck, because the Salamancan bellota ham we indulged in was amongst the finest I have ever eaten.
The Mercat de Santa Catalina can be found bridging the Carrer de Servet and the Carrer d’Annibal just East of Palma’s centre.