39. Market Food Stop…

One of our favourite haunts in any town is the market, and Santa Florentina Market in Cartagena is no exception (there is another one, Mercado Gisbert, but it’s an earlier affair and tends to be where the restaurants go to buy – it’s usually all over by 8am). The main market is an altogether more sociable affair though!


We can’t walk past the olive stall without stopping – usually for a tub of the garlic-stuffed green olives… But that’s not all there is on offer here… There is a vast array of fruit and veg stalls, but also fresh bread and pastries (of course…), some stalls selling ‘high-end artisan wares’ – pâtè in fancy jars, flavoured oils, preserved fish and vegetables, local honey etc, there’s a home-made lemonade stall run by a really friendly guy who is the third generation of lemonade-makers in his family (who knew it was such a craft?!), and always gives a free sample of one of his new recipes. There are also several butchers who sell pretty much every part of the cow or pig you could wish to buy. Long gone are the days (in most British markets at least) of being able to buy tripe, pigs heads (whole, or parts thereof…), cows’ feet, intestines, head cheese etc – but you’ll find it all here…

The real treat for us though, is at the back of the market; the fish aisles. You can buy fresh fish (almost) daily – it’s closed Mondays as the fishermen don’t go out on Sundays – and seasonal variety reigns supreme. Occasionally, you can find popular fish from other parts of the country, we have seen spiky whelks, berberechos (cockles from Galicia, traditionally harvested only by women) and percebes (goose barnacles, also from Galicia, and harvested by men from the jagged, storm-lashed rocks on the Atlantic coast). See the video below for more details on what they look like (and how they taste….)!

However the coolest thing back there is the cafe. It’s not the most glam location (or the most glam place itself, to be fair), but it has been one of our favourite eating discoveries… We actually discovered it in two phases – firstly just for eating what they had on their menu, and secondly for bringing our own fish which we’d bought in the market for them to cook for us.

Deep fried fish is universally popular here (to a degree that we can’t quite comprehend to be honest; it’s good – sometimes it’s excellent – but it’s still a plate of deep-fried fish…almost the default way of serving it unless you specify that you’d prefer it grilled), however this cafe’s version is on the excellent side, so we usually order a (small) portion of that, they also do a great line in prawns in garlic and chilli, mini-squid (deep fried), and a curious thing called ‘Letones’…. We saw this on the menu and weren’t quite sure what it was so we turned to Google Translate, which translated it as “Latvians”… Hmm, well, that’s as may be, but it doesn’t sound quite right in this context… Some general Googling enlightened us: Fish testicles (or more specifically, the sperm sack…). So that sounded interesting – a must-order item!! It turned up – deep fried, obviously – and we dug in… It’s kind of iron-y in flavour (not that surprising…) – a bit similar to liver, but consistency-wise could almost be a piece of firm fish… It’s actually really good, so we often order it. Especially when we take guests there, just for the entertainment…

Then we discovered (first by watching other customers, but then we noticed a sign) that they will cook products that you have bought in the market – usually people bring fish, but they will also cook your steaks etc. We asked how it worked (you bring your fish and they cook it; it really is that simple), and off we went. We chose some things that we wouldn’t cook ourselves; razor clams, cuttlefish, the percebes and spiky whelks etc, as well as some mussels, sardines, and local prawns. We specified them ‘grilled’, and before long, they turned up – the presentation is not of note, but they are cooked really well by people that know what they’re doing; the cuttlefish isn’t rubbery at all, and comes with a delicious green sauce simply called ‘salsa verde’ (parsley olive oil, and garlic), and the fish and shellfish are cooked ‘just right’.

You pay EUR1.50 per person for the ‘bring your own fish’ service – and obviously you pay for the fish at the stall you buy it from – but it’s a really cool way to try something you wouldn’t normally attempt to cook (or something you don’t even know what it is, as we have done a couple of times).  We made a video of our last trip, so here it is…


  1. A complete smorgasbord of food I’m so hungry now that fish looked sooooo delish I just have to try some of that and poor Hugo that lemonade must be lethal nearly blew his head off brave little fella take care love you all eat well drink heartily be merry and stay safe ❤️❤️❤️

    1. It’s pretty good! That lemonade though… It was really nice, he just wasn’t expecting it!! He always gives it a go though! Come and try some fish sperm, it’s right up your street hahaha!

  2. Cooking,shopping and eating in England might be a bit boring after these experiences in Spain! Looking forward tò your visit..  On Monday I am off tò Cornwall for a few days. Love  Jane  xxx

    Sent from Samsung tablet.

  3. I love percebes (goose barnacles) I had them twice this past month alone haha I do like spiky whelks as well but that letone busiess? Not happening. 😉

      1. If you can believe it, I actually like taramasalata. I was reeeeally apprehensive at first but my friend gave it to me. Then holy ### it was good! My first try was the jarred version and it is actually good, too. Krino’s actually makes a good one : ) Now I am craving it. But, yes, the percebes are a bit odd. It’s that super ocean-y flavor. It smacks you in the face.

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