Chef Marga Coll opens her third restaurant amid market stalls providing her with a daily selection of each season’s freshest produce

January 13, 2020

D. Ch.

Marga Coll, chef at the Miceli and Arrels restaurants, buys in produce every morning at the Inca market in one of Majorca’s larger towns, Selva. Here she decides the fare she will be cooking up a few hours hence, on the basis of the raw materials on offer there. “I conduct a search of each stall”, the chef explains in her talk, ‘A bar at the market’, at the Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión Congress. “Often that just means listening, and sometimes it means asking, but all the vendors have something to tell me. Then there’s intuition. I buy whatever draws my attention. I have my notebook, and I write down the name of a dish that occurs to me, and how I’d like to cook it. When I have a clear idea, I call my team”.

Part of Coll’s art lies in changing the menu every day, improvising with whatever the seasons bring. “During my comings and goings around the market I gradually noticed all the stalls were starting to close down. Only half the market was operational”, reports Coll, whose patrons occasionally have to book three months in advance. I felt another approach was necessary to give residents a daily option so they would come back. It distressed me to see the market that had given me so much fading away”.

When a stall owner she knew closed down too, she decided to take action, and a year ago opened ‘La barra de Miceli’ right in the middle of the market, between a vegetable stall and a fish stall. “There’s no menu at the Miceli”, says Coll. “It’s the market that decides what’s going to be on the menu. This means going back to a lifetime of tradition, with taste sensations reaching out to memories and pleasure”. The space, the same size as any other section of the market, transforms as the day goes by. Earlier in the morning, coffee, sandwiches, tapas and snacks, whereas at 13:30 h it gives way to lunch and the daily menu, and ensaimada pastries move aside for haute cuisine: pork-and-paprika sobrasada croquettes, for instance.

“It has its limitations, though”, she admits. “First of all there’s the space, which is very small, the kitchen isn’t closed off, and it’s right beside the bar, the customers, passers-by and the diners. You have to really focus on what you’re doing”. But it also has its advantages: “Produce comes in with no plastic, no cold chain, no cold rooms. And if I think a few prawns could liven up a fish, I just go over to the fishmonger’s slab and take them”.

A tireless Coll arrives in Inca at around 8:30 h, and can share the space with the others until eleven o’clock. The outcome is five savoury dishes and two desserts, which were not there the previous day. “There’s no routine around here. Only with the bread. It’s very important to have a fine proactive team”.