Estepona Gourmet Market - Mercado Gourmet de San Luis
by Chris Chaplow
Estepona had a gourmet market called Mercardo San Luis, located on Calle Villa next to the San Luis Castle in the old 'Mercardo Municipal de Abastos' building. It opened on 13th July 2018 and closed on 16th January 2020.
The market is very spacious, with seating both inside and out. Visitors are attended to by smart waiters and waitresses wearing stylish braces over white collarless shirts - all in keeping with the contemporary new style of the market. Alternatively, as at other gourmet markets, you can sit on bar stools at individual stalls inside the market, and place your order there.
There are three drinks bars as well as the café; one for exclusive wines, one for beers, including a micro brewery, and one for cocktails and spirits.
Stalls and delicacies include Arroz and Tapas, La Lonja, Puro Raza, Steak and Sons, L'Atelier Gourmet, Minami (sushi) offering 'Amelie' oysters, artisan cheeses with black garlic and olives served with edible flowers, Jamon de Bellota and Japanese cuisine. The market has a terrace on Villa Street, featuring a 'chill-out' zone with low level sofas, ambient lighting on the old San Luis castle wall, and an abundance of flowers cascading from terracotta pots.
The menu has one page dedicated to each stall. Mercado San Luis has a unique system whereby waiters take your order using a handheld device, which can include dishes from any combination of stalls (such systems have proved problematic at other gourmet markets).
The Mercado Gourmet de San Luis is well situated, close to local archeological sights. Outside on Calle Villa the octagonal foundations of a two storey Roman Mausoleum, dated to the 4th century AD, can be viewed. Nearby are the walls of San Luis Castle, and the Plaza del Reloj.
However, inside the market building, the floor had formerly been opened up to reveal the foundations of a rectangular Moorish watchtower in the south east corner of a defensive construction predating the San Luis castle. Disappointingly, this has not been left exposed or protected with a glass floor, but simply covered over.
On the outside of the building are a number of ceramic murals depicting scenes in Estepona that were designed by the local charity Aprona.
Mercado Municipal de Abastos
The original indoor food market was opened on Calle Villa in August 1949. It was once the main place to buy fish, meat, cheese and local produce. From the 1990s, it became less and less busy as people´s shopping habits leaned more towards supermarket chains.
Since then, the space has been used for numerous municipal events, including the exhibition of old photos of Estepona, the presentation of sporting awards, raucous Carnival presentations and more dignified Christmas nativity scenes.
As mentioned above, the foundations of a Moorish watchtower in a defensive structure predating the San Luis Castle were once on display within the market space.
In recent years the Mercado de Abastos has remained a curiosity for visitors to the town who chanced across the old building and saw an insight into the Estepona of yesteryear.
The stalls in the central area were discontinued in the 1980s, however the units around the outside of the building remained. By 2015, only a handful of stalls, and the café, whose proprietor has been on the job for 40yrs, were still doing morning trade. The stall holders blamed the pedestrianisation of the surrounding streets, which limited parking for potential customers.
Since 2010, conservation-minded locals have sought a solution to the semi-abandoned building´s fate. They hoped it would not be completely abandoned and ultimately demolished like other emblematic buildings in Estepona, such as the Paseo del Carmen, Fabricas de Conservas, Matadero municipal, Hotel Estepona Garden and Segers Club.
In the mid 2010s the fashion for gourmet markets boomed; San Miguel in Madrid, Lonja del Barranco in Sevilla, La Galeria in Fuengirola and Ambrosia in Marbella (which closed after one year) set a trend which inspired Estepona´s Town Hall. In March 2016, they sought bids for the 600.000 € redevelopment of the building, with a 20 year concession. The old market was closed, and began its transformation into a Gourmet Market, expected to open later in 2016. The half a dozen remaining stall holders from the old market, whilst not forcibly driven out, were faced with uneconomic rental demands. The construction work moved at a snail´s pace, worsened by cited structural problems, and the market was finally opened in late June 2018, at a total refurbishment cost of 1.6m euro.
The gourmet market closed in January 2020, whilst it had been popular with tourists during the summer months, it was very quiet at other times. The The sudden closure was announced on the facebook page of the gourmet markets 20 year concession holder.
Calle Villa next to the San Luis Castle