It’s said that if you really want to know what a city and the people who live in it are like, you’ll find the clues in its markets. Coming up to its 103rd anniversary, Tarragona’s Central Market is a worthy representative of the Mediterranean spirit of Tarragona, and more dynamic than ever since its renovation was completed in 2017, which has also imbued new life into its Modernist features. In this new stage of its life, the historical essence of the market is still very much to the fore, but now coexists alongside the ambition and dynamism typical of the twenty-first century.
The real treasure of every market is, of course, inside it: its people, products and stories. But the outer shell of Tarragona’s Central Market cannot be underestimated and the features of this stunning building alone would justify a visit. The Central Market was designed by one of the most prolific architects of Catalan Modernism in Tarragona, Josep Maria Pujol de Barberà. He was charged with satisfying a historic demand that the city had been craving since the nineteenth century: the creation of a large covered market that would unite all the different open-air stalls whose hygiene and comfort conditions left a lot to be desired. He chose for the project the huge esplanade which is now known as Plaça Corsini, and in the early twentieth century was little more than wasteland where football games used to be staged.
Curiously enough, the place where the Central Market was raised is just a few metres from the heart of the Roman city of Tarraco: the local Forum, where a number of ruins still stand that can be visited today. Thus very close to the spot where, two thousand years ago, the Romans used to buy and sell goods, Pujol de Barberà planned a large rectangular building with three naves, built with a material which at that time was very innovative for Tarragona: reinforced concrete or cement. The building was inaugurated with a big formal ceremony in December 1915 and caused such an impact on the local residents in the early twentieth century that it was even mentioned in many popular songs, reflecting their fascination with the new edifice.
The success of the design of the Central Market is partly explained by its modernity. The three-nave structure and the use of wrought iron pillars bear similarities with the Born Market in Barcelona, while its four symmetrical façades are reminiscent of the Viennese Secession style, especially the Otto Wagner pavilion in Karlsplatz. The roof was covered with glazed ceramic tiles, a feature that was lost during successive reforms and the impact of bombing during the Spanish Civil War, but which the most recent renovation has revived.
But it’s not all about aesthetics. Pujol de Barberà had planned a functional market with space for more than 300 stalls and dim lighting that would avoid spoiling the produce by overheating it. However, the Central Market has evolved a great deal since the days when market stall concessions were granted for one month, or the vendors could only have a single 80-watt bulb to showcase their wares. The updated market, which now includes a new semi-underground level for local stores, a hypermarket and a new car park, encompasses a space where people not only go to shop but also to taste, learn and absorb the buzz of the city.
Today, the heart of the Central Market is formed by around forty stalls that specialize in different food products: meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, dried fruit and nuts, spices, patisserie, bread, etc. This is all high quality, local and always seasonal produce, endorsed by the knowledge of the stallholders, many of whom have been preceded by generations of their families. Yet you can do much more than simply fill your fridge or cupboards at the market stalls: many of them offer samples of their products to taste, from freshly-squeezed fruit juices through to a full menu, and even specialities such as freshly-made sushi. In the Central Market you will also find a spacious area to sit down with a coffee, a glass of wine or a tasty meal surrounded by the beauty of its Modernist architecture.
Life in Plaça Corsini also offers a wealth of possibilities for spending an enjoyable day. At the unusual stall of La Teca i la Meca you’ll often find tempting gastronomic ideas, wine and food pairing suggestions, and even crafts and handiwork that will delight young and old alike. Cookery courses, decoration workshops, tasting sessions, shows, face-painting… The Central Market never fails to reveal a new facet to surprise its visitors. And in addition to all this there are plenty of local stores and restaurants in the area, as it stands in one of the main shopping areas of Tarragona.
And we shouldn’t forget to mention the latest incorporation into this twenty-first century market. No visit could be complete without watching the Central Market’s new Carillon Clock in action. Every day, seven figures from the seguici popular (popular retinue) of Santa Tecla dance to the sounds of the pasodoble Amparito Roca (the anthem of Tarragona’s Santa Tecla festival) on the main façade of the market. They perform at 12 noon and 6.00 pm every day, all year around, with a third outing at 8.00 pm in the summer. This is yet another ingredient in a culinary and cultural offering that is bound to put a smile on your face during your visit!
The restaurants of Tarragona present “Creative Rice Dishes from Tarragona”, a three-week gastronomic initiative that will bring the most delicious and surprising rice dishes to this Mediterranean city, elaborated exclusively with Delta de l’Ebre rice.
From the 27th of October to the 13th of November, rice will be the gastronomic star in a selection of top-class Tarragona restaurants that will offer a menu with a main-course
rice dish that will change each week.
3 weeks and 3 rice dishes to taste, paired with a bottle of Inedit, the beer created by Ferran Adrià to accompany the variety of flavours offered by modern gastronomy.
Seriously, check out these amazing and creative rice dishes made by the following restaurants: Cócvla (Hotel Urbis), Degvsta, El Terrat, Mare Nostrum (Holel SB Ciutat de Tarragona), Mas Folch, Braseria Passadís, Xamfrà del Fòrum, Els 5 sentits and Ona Restaurant (Hotel Husa Imperial Tarraco), and… you’ll get your mouth watering! Besides the restaurants taking part, Casino Tarragona and Totem Cafè will offer a specially designed cocktail elaborated from a rice licour. Don’t miss it!
More information at Gastronosfera (Catalan and Spanish).
“If history was told using dialogs, no one would ever forget it”, wrote the first English Noble Prize, Rudyard Kipling. Tarraco Viva Festival, which is based on this philosophy –telling history using a story–, opens this Sunday under the heading “Roma i Egipte, una fastinació mediterrània” (Rome and Egypt, a Mediterranean fascination). The director of the festival, Magí Seritjol, hints this year’s edition is a statement of intentions of what we can expect in the next years: “We’d like to present, not just the history of Ancient Rome, but the encounter of the two largest classic Mediterranean civilizations”.
Tarraco Viva offers, between 15 and 19 May, a time travel to takes us back to the Roman and Egyptian worlds. Overall, it’s 124 activities, which add up to 436 events, designed with educational purposes in mind. The Praetorium, Amphitheatre, Circus, Forum of the Colony and Walls, will home most of the programmed activities, despite the fact that, as usual, others will take place in towns such as Constantí, Altafulla, Cambrils, Falset or Porrera, to we add which Vila-rodona’s columbarium this year.
The opening ceremony, due on Sunday 15 May in the Sarcophagus room of the Roman Praetorium, will present a debate concerning the relationship existing between these two civilizations that happened to meet in time, with the intervention of several experts in the field: URV’s professor, Joaquín Ruiz de Arbulo; journalist, Enric Calpena; Barcelona Egypt Museum’s curator, Luis Manuel Gonzálvez; URV’s Greek Philosophy teacher, Jesús Carruesco, and the festival’s director, Magí Seritjol, as the debate’s moderator.
Among the different activities programmed, we can find a bit of everything: guided tours, open days to museums, workshops and games, lectures, school activities, audiovisual projections, dramatic readings, concerts, food tastings and successful historical re-enactments. Concerning the latter, there’s two new ones related to this edition’s tittle, whereas others will recreate funerary banquets, feminine prostitution in Rome, gourmets of the antiquity, or the celebrated Ars Dimicandi, with their gladiators shows, or the Ludi Scaenici, which will bring back the Ancient Rome’s music.
The festival will end on Sunday 29, at 6pm, with a spectacular event, due in the Sala August, Palau de Congressos in Tarragona, where users will have the chande to admire the re-enactment performance “Mirades d’Eternitat. Els retrats del Faium” (Eternity gazes. Faium’s portraits).
Pictures: ©Manel R. Granell
Eleven restaurants in Tarragona will offer over 100 Roman cuisine dishes for 17 days, between 13 and 29 May. The event is the 19th edition of the so-called “Tàrraco a Taula” gastronomic workshops, which are part of the Tarraco Viva, the most important Roman festival in the world. These food creations –true delicatessens– will be presented in the form of plates and portions, set menus and Roman-style mussels’ tastings (500g), together with two glasses of wine or beer.
As a matter of fact, one of the new additions to the 19th edition of the festival will be the presentation of two official drinks for the workshops: on the one hand, Rositvm, elaborated by Rosita using orange tree honey; on the other hand, Celler El Mèdol, which created a special natural wine for the occasion.
As for the establishments, both Alhambra and El Cortijo taverns will offer dishes and portions that cost from 3€ to 6€, while Almosta, Cócvla, El Llagut, Entrecopes, Palau del Baró, Sadoll and Txar3Verd restaurants will create 25€ menus. Besides, El Terrat will offer a 35€ menu. Restaurants offering the 500g mussels’ tasting –plus wine or beer– are Alhambra, Cócvla, El Llagut and Txar3Verd, all of which will use their own cooking techniques.
Another tasting event will take place prior to the beginning of the workshops, the so-called “Convivium”, due on 11 May (8pm) in Casa Canals. The Comvivium in fact, will work as the official presentation of the “Tàrraco a Taula” gastronomic workshops, as part of the Tarraco Viva festival. The event will be presented in the form of a free buffet, during which the following dishes will be served: Pernae (pork shank with vermouth and dry peaches), by El Cortijo; Botellus sanguineus triticum in cocvla (spelt cocvla with spinaches, black pudding and green olives), by Cócvla; Ostrea (Delta oyster in pickled oil), by El Llagut; Gadus (cod with dates), by Txar3Verd; Lacertvs conditi sinapi (pickled oil mackerel and mustard salad), by Almosta; and for a dulcia domestica, apple, mint and red wine mousse, by Palau del Baró.
The buffet will cost 25€ and tickets are available in all three Tourism offices (carrer Major 37, Rambla Nova s/n, i Camp de Mart) and the 6 restaurants taking part in the Convivium.
Some projects need just one edition to become popular and an absolute success, especially when they’ve got something to do with food or drinks. This is the case with Quina barra!, a food proposal by Bar Cortijo, one the last real taverns still alive in Tarragona. Following such old, classic and simple formula of making baguette sandwiches, the owners –the cortijeros Santi and Luis– utterly triumph. So, what is so special about it, then? The lot!
For starters, it’s the bread. Baker Jordi Andreu makes such long baguettes as you wouldn’t believe. Each one is over 9 feet long, way over the current tallest NBA player, Boban Marjanovic, at just over 7 feet. These are such special baguettes that they require a special cooking technique and a very complicated transporting procedure from the Forn-Pastisseria Jordi Andreu bakery to the tavern of the Masegosa brothers. Santi, in fact, has been thinking for weeks to make the baguette’s transportation a true sacramental. See what happens on the 3rd edition… If length wasn’t a big deal, Santi has decided to make it even harder with new colourful baguettes. Yeah, why not?
Of course though, everything the Masegosa plan to make, it’s finally made, and so Jordi Andreu has been making several tests to get these new different-colour baguettes, of course, completely natural. And this is how some other creations were born in the past: eco bread with tonic and beetroot; eco bread with Tarragona carob bean flour, and Tarragona focaccia with Isidre Solé Gispert’s olive oil and André Grego’s herbs. With breads like theses ones, it’s halfway through the story. The other half is due to the tavern masters.
Moving on with the colour games, Santi made 4 different fillings: lacón with curcuma and mustard, for a yellowy baguette; vegetable omelette (artichoke, peas…) and avocado aioli, for a green sandwich; cod, tomato, onion, garlic and herrings, for the reddish one, and handmade pate with figs bread for the purple one.
After the baguettes arrived, Santi and Luis cut them horizontally and spread their delicious creations onto them. The process began at 7am, and one hour later El Cortijo was open, and there was no bread left at midday. It was just the wooden stands on which the baguettes had been transported. The fact is, as the food run out so quickly, they had to improvise some more using some remaining traditional bread. Incredible…
* “Quina barra!” is held once a year, generally in February, some days after Carnival. The thing is, Lent is so long that it’s always good to find a way to keep sinning. Penitenciagite.
The Associació de Restaurants de la Part Alta de Tarragona (ARPA) is organizing, between 4 and 21 February, a brand new edition of the so-called “Somriu a la crisi” gastronomy festival (literally, Laugh at Recession), a selection of set and tasting menus at very reasonable prices. The project, which will hold its 5th edition this year, gathers ten establishments in total: AQ Restaurant, Arcs Restaurant, Ares Restaurant, El Llagut, Entrecopes, La Nova Taverna, Palau del Baró, Quim Quima, Racó de l’Abat and Sadoll Restaurant.
You can be prescribed with three different “pill-like” menus during the gastronomy festival: tasting menus at 19€ and 32€, and set menus at 19€. The “Somiu a la crisi” festival also gathers eleven wine producers of seven different designations of origin and the Inedit Damm beer, with the same conditions as in last year’s edition; that is, you get a free bottle of wine for every bottle you order in the restaurant.
We strongly recommend that you spend sometime in the Part Alta of Tarragona, and find out more about the menus.
SET AND TASTING MENUS OF THE 10 RESTAURANTS TAKING PART IN THE “SOMRIU A LA CRISI” GASTRONOMY FESTIVAL
The pulvinar, the original Tàrraco’s Circus platform where authorities would locate themselves in order to attentively watch chariot races, has been integrated, after over two thousand years, to one of Part Alta restaurant’s interior that actually adopted the name of this area of the circus. Not many people know though, while being surrounded by nibbles and wine sips, that their meal is being held in one privilege area belonging to the old Roman city, and that it is underneath their feet that Santa Tecla’s marble blocks, once extracted from Mèdol’s quarry with over one metre wide, are kept completely visible and restored.
The owners of Pulvinar pizza restaurant, aware as they are of the establishment’s singularity, tell their customers, by means of some paper tablecloths, that one of the semicircular staircases that provided access to the very same platform had also been rebuilt. From the main dining room, one can see the long Roman wall built following the opus quadratum building process, which still preserves part of the original cornice. If you ever book a table in Pulvinar, ask them to show you the transversal vault of the Circus’ structure, that remains intact and that can be accessed using the underground stairs that are connected to the lower dining room.
Outdoors, at the establishment’s terrace –full of Italian tourists today- we find yet another singularity: the wall that separates the restaurant from the exterior, which was part of the original wall erected in the 12th century in order to minimize the effects of a city that was devastated by looting and, mostly, to restrain diseases. Pulvinar offers a set menu at 12.50€, built onto the Mediterranean cuisine’s philosophy, and it is open every single day, from March until the beginning of November. From then though, the restaurant only opens on weekends until spring is back with us again.
The case of Pulvinar though is not the only one in Tarragona; not even slightly. In fact, the whole neighbourhood is built on top of three Tàrraco terraces at different levels: the Circus, the ludic area; the Provincial Forum, the administrative area; and the temple, the building of cult. Part Alta then, is full of buildings where remains of the Roman and other periods are preserved.
Underneath the Pulvinar and the Baixada de Misericòrdia, in Trinquet Vell street, we find another establishment bursting with heritage: Les Voltes restaurant. This is, unquestionably, one of the architectonic jewels of the gastronomic Tarragona. The establishment, located underneath three vaults of Tàrraco’s Circus, was first opened in the 80s and has always been run by Maria Jové and Francesc Sas.
Les Voltes restaurant offers high-quality Mediterranean food thanks to a 10€ (plus VAT) set menu, and an average à la Carte price between 20€ and 30€. In general, the establishment remains closed every Sunday night and Monday, but they will open it for groups, prior reservation.
We go out from Les Voltes and back to Baixada de Misericòrdia and Carrer Major and, if we then turn into Carrer de l’Abat towards Misser Sitges street, we find Els Arcs restaurant, which is recommended by Michelin guideline. This is a building raised during the Middle Ages that still preserves eight Gothic vaults in the interior. The building, initially used as a sort of cottage, still keeps a peculiar charming look to it, and the excellent local and seasonal cuisine served is both precise and appreciated. Carles Llobet offers an executive menu on working days at 23€, while tasting menu is around 38€.
If we walk towards Plaça de les Cols, we’ll find El Gallo Morón, of which interior keeps part of the perimeter vault of the great Forum. The restaurant has a couple of very charming areas in the interior, which add value to their cuisine, also around the Mediterranean style. From Tuesday to Saturday, El Gallo Morón offers a set menu at 12€, 13.50€ on Sundays. If what you want is having dinner, the restaurant provides you with a 14€ option.
Walking up the stairs that lead to the Cathedral and turning then right towards Les Coques street, we find AQ restaurant, one of the most sublime cuisines in the city, which is meant to enter, one of these days, the universe of restaurants awarded with a Michelin star, which already is recommending it. The establishment, located on the inside of the Provincial Forum cult enclosure, still preserve Roman remains on the back wall perfectly kept and integrated that belonged to the cult area of the old temple. Before going in though, don’t forget to take a proper look at the 20th century Sgraffitto you will find in the restaurant’s main door. Having lunch in AQ Restaurant is a unique experience for all the senses, way beyond the fact that you are provided with archaeological remains at the entrance. The restaurant offers three different menus: the Menú Gran, at 50€ plus VAT; the Menú Petit, at 40€ plus VAT; and the weekly Menu, at 18€ plus VAT.
Then, go down towards ‘Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Tarragona‘, at 22, Sant Llorenç street, and you will come across Barhaus restaurant which, by means of its decoration influenced by the art school founded in Germany in 1919 by Walter Gropius, still preserves, in one of the private dinning rooms, an ashlar wall of the Provincial Forum, dated back to the 1st century. You will find a great terrace, at street level, and another one in the first floor. Barhaus offers set menus from Tuesday to Friday at 12€, while dinner and weekend is served à la Carte, with an average price of 30€ approximately.
Rice with scallops, beach calamari and clams. Black paella with red prawns, artichokes, European eels with saffron and sweet potato aioli. Free-range chicken and artichokes paella. Rice with trotters and bacon. Mountain-style rice with Angus beef, rabbit and fungi. Creamy rice with mushrooms, Catalan sausage, foie and figs… And up to 33 absolutely stunning rice dishes. Eleven establishments of the Associació de Restaurants de Tarragona Eixample (ARTe) are taking part, until 29 November, in the 4th edition of the so-called “Tarragona Creative Rice Dishes” project, with 3 different rice creations per restaurant, one every week. All the rice dishes will be served with a 33cl Inedit beer bottle, and will cost just 14€.
Besides the restaurants taking part, Totem Cafè will offer a specially designed cocktail, the Pink Rice Frozen, elaborated from a selection of Arrossaires del Delta licours. Actually, the 4th Tarragona Creative Rice Dishes project has the official support of the Arrossaires del Delta trademark, as all the establishments will be using a certificate of origin rice, exclusively produced within the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park.
Creamy rice with red and mantis shrimps, with grilled sea urchin alioli. Rice with octopus and “romesco” sauce. Black paella with Chartreuse licour. Rice with mantis schrimps, baby cuttlefish and seafood. Mountain-style rice with Iberian pork ribs, mushrooms and snails… Seriously, check out these amazing and creative rice dishes made by the following restaurants: Cócvla, Degvsta, DeVins, El Terrat, Mare Nostrum, Toca Peron, Braseria El Passadís, Xamfrà del Fòrum, Txar3verd, Punt i a part, and Els 5 sentits, and… you’ll get your mouth watering!
More information at Gastronosfera (Catalan and Spanish).
This month’s guest to tell us about #lamevaTarragona (literally, my Tarragona) is an illustrious fan of Tarragona, what Italians would call città elettiva, and which he enjoys with all his senses. Joan Gómez Pallarès (Igualada, 1960) is, among others, Doctor in Classic Philology, director of Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica (ICAC) and author of the wine blog De Vinis, which we truly recommend if you’re a wine and food lover. In fact, the three photographs Joan Gómez provided to show us his most personal and private Tarragona are very related indeed to these three jobs, passions or virtues of his curriculum.
The first picture he chose to share with us shows a present landscape that takes us back to the past: “This is what I see when I make it to Tarragona every day, from Mare de Déu de la Salut and the Torroja car park. I’m talking about the views you get over the Marenostrum up to Torre de la Móra. I really love it because this is where I get Tarragona’s light and brightness at its best. Standing here, I can imagine the way Valerius Avitus –owner of the Roman village of Munts, in Altafulla– had to walk every day through Via Augusta. I really like when all this pops into my mind and the nostalgic feeling I get about the Tarragona of the 2nd century, up from a similar perspective people would have had back then”.
The second photo Joan Gómez Pallarès has chosen is almost a symbol. “This is Portal de Sant Antoni. There are a lot of people who think this is one of the Roman entries to the city. In fact though, it’s from the 18th century, and therefore, it’s not Roman. It was made using stones from Savinosa beach, that means it was made using materials they’d find around here and it represents, somehow, a will to reuse. And so those stones were taken to build a spot that provides the most accessible way of admiring the sea from within the walls. Moreover, this is also a symbol of the inhabited wall, of the people that live near it and those reusing Roman materials throughout history”.
“The third picture I’ve chosen shows a plate and a glass of wine; a dish from Restaurant AQ, run by Ana and Quintín. It’s one of the establishments I love eating the most in Tarragona. I chose it because I think Tarragona is a sort of square, a gastronomic location where people have really enjoyed throughout the years. We found written material, from the 1st century, that suggests Tarragona had a great standard of living; and today, we can tell this standard remains untouched. To me, one of the things that better symbolize a high standard of living is food. Besides, Tarragona is a privileged location when it comes to wine. We have not just one Designation of Origin named after the city, but up to seven other designations within the Tarragona territory. Therefore, I think the combination of a glass of wine and good food seems to be the perfect recipe to describe my favourite and most beloved Tarragona”.
We end the Joan Gómez Pallarès chapter of #lamevaTarragona in one of his most personal locations, just a few meters from Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica (ICAC), in Carrer Merceria, just by the Cal Corderet chandlery. It’s a space that gathers a number of Roman epigraphs and, since Joan is a specialist in this field, we ask him to provide his last considerations. “These are inscriptions that are not on their original location. People have been reusing stones for ages and this is yet another of the symbols of Tarragona. They have been used to build houses and then, among other projects, we study, edit, publish and comment on them in the ICAC. The inscriptions in Tarraco were studied and publish by a wise man, Géza Alföldy, who, unfortunately, passed away some years ago. However, we are still part of this tradition. In the ICAC, which is located on a historical spot, just by Plaça del Fòrum, we study various items that go from the protohistory to the late antiquity, and in the core of this study there’s some of the Roman Tarraco, and one of the symbols of the Roman Tarraco are, in fact, the inscriptions. Inscriptions are symbols of life, of daily life, of what people do, and what people say and live; and this is also part of my job. I’m not just the director of ICAC, but also a researcher, and so I spend most of my time studying these inscriptions; not so much the ones we saw today, but metric inscriptions; that is, poetry engraved on stones by Romans. And this is part of my daily life in here nowadays”.