food & drink

Gastro markets

If you have ever tried patenting a concept or an idea, you will know it is not easy.

Last week I was reminded that the barman who invented Irish coffee never made a farthing as a result.

It just so happened that when a transatlantic flight that had taken off from Shannon (then the furthest western launch point for USA-bound air traffic) was forced to return on account of storms, the resourceful barman thought that putting a good slug of whiskey in the coffee would relax the nervous passengers.

He was right, and a drink that would become internationally renowned was born. Nothing in it for him though....

So who invented gambas al pil pil or beef stroganoff, and who came up with the idea of what are known as Mercados Gastronómicos? It translates badly because these are not markets, neither are they 'gastronomic'. They are open spaces where several different restaurant operations try to appeal to a wide public. They are really restaurant malls, offering a wide choice of food.

Just unlucky perhaps

The odd thing is that some are successful while others aren't. The San Miguel Market in Madrid is a classic, and the Boquería in Barcelona has been nominated by CNN as the world's best.

So why don't they work in Malaga? The million-euro Ambrosía investment in Nueva Andalucia had a promising start but did not last the year, and Malaga's La Merced, funded by local investors, had no better luck.

Marbella's town-centre gastro market, small and attractive, is 'closed for improvements'.

Is it the character of the province's inhabitants that has anything to do with it, or have we just been unlucky?

I know many locals who feel they are not in control when they have to order the first course from one stall, the second from another, etc, and the wine from a central wine shop. Nor does the system encourage building up any sort of relationship with a waiter.

It has to be admitted that most of the successful gastro markets depend largely on tourism for their existence, but this should not be a negative factor on the Coast. So if they are successful in Cordoba or Seville, why not in Malaga?