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Business was done, the sun was shining, I needed a walk to refresh before heading back to the airport. I had been told that the visit of the fairly new Fresh Market in Bratislava is a must for any serious market and food lover.
So I walked down a very busy road with my luggage which kind of swallowed the annoying sounds of the wheels of my trolley case. I arrived in a commercial neighborhood, an area where one mainly come with a car, and yes underground parking was widely available. A rather unusual place for a market hall but making it easier to established new architecture. This market hall has an industrial look: high ceilings, large glass fronts, concrete floors and columns, chip boards as temporary separators. The spacious feeling is accentuated with a large plaza on the ground floor and wide, a wide stairway leads to the upper floor. A generous setup.
The plaza on the ground floor is reserved for the vegetables, fruit, pickles (it is autumn) and the like. Big wooden boxes placed on pallets cover the floor adding even more to the industrial flair. There is no clear separation between the different traders, it is not even clear if they are independent ones or employees of the market hall. So I am not sure how a relationship between individual traders and customers are being built up. Nevertheless the choice is wide.
Next to these movable structures the shops on the ground floor form kind of two circles. The setup reminds a bit a mall, the structures are standardized and allow a quick change in case a new shop needs to replace an old one. The signs with the shop name are all standardized in terms of size and colors, no extravaganza, individualism is expressed in font and name.
The upper floor which is reached through the wide stairway or elevator, is basically a food court. It allows to easily look down at the market scenery while eating and drinking. The large glass front provides a lot of sunshine, the artistically arranged neon lights add to it.
So there is generous space to present all the goodness of this area and the planet in this market hall.
After having tried to decipher the architecture I focused a bit more on the content, meaning food. The Fresh Market has been described by my friends as a hipster place, well I would not get that far but there is certainly more than good coffee and a great selection of craft beer. And since I do not know where to write about it in this post, I’ll do it here: in the market hall there is also a Bitcoin ATM (see photo gallery). I have never seen it before, I don’t know how it works, but I think it is not only hip but also very interesting. For any hints please: https://twitter.com/askans.
I was also told that the market is probably one of the most internationally oriented food places in the city. And indeed, Turkey, Croatia, France, Indian, Thais, Arab, Italian and more are well represented, not only in the food court part. In the produce section there is clearly an orientation towards quality, also organic. Be it cheese, meat, sausages, vegetables or some processed food.
The coffee shop showed solid barista skills and quality, and of course I could not resist the craft beer shop. The owner was very helpful in finding me some very good local craft beer and explaining me a bit about the beer situation in Slovakia. The raspberry and lime gose from Unorthodox Brewing was particularly well balanced and worth more than one bottle.
A little confusion came up when passing by a stall looking at a familiar cheese, not from Slovakia, but from Croatia. It was the Paški Sir, a truly good Croatian cheese I had bought at the Dolac market hall in Zagreb. I looked up, and it was indeed a stall full of Croatian goodies. I was very tempted to buy it, but I was here for the local stuff.
Continuing the walk
As autumn started, lots of pumpkins were on display, but also pickles and fermented vegetables aka sauerkraut. The choice of dried beans was really great. I crossed a few meat, dairy, fish and organic stalls but did not find a noticeable bakery (but there is one, I am sure). Basically it was easy to find a lot of things for good cooking, unfortunately not all suitable for cabin luggage transportation.
Before doing my little shopping I ate at the food court. Most stalls were already closed and only a few people had appetite at this time of day. And indeed the whole market hall was not really busy, which surprised me, especially considering the many fans on Facebook. Google is indicates that the main traffic is around lunch, probably coming from the neighboring offices & businesses. And according to one of the vendors, Christmas and Easter are the peak times as well. So I had a free choice for seats and could enjoy my Slovak pulled pork with mashed potatoes in a calm environment.
Just before leaving it was time to do shopping. I got some funny looking organic wheat puffs – my curiosity was bigger than my expectations. Slovak cheeses found a place in my luggage, the organic cow milk one was really good. And I could not resist to get some local salami and bacon. I should rethink a little bit my choices and go beyond cheese and sausage, but it is convenient and most of the times really good.
I have hard times to judge the Bratislava Fresh Market. I am more used to the old fashioned markets not so much to such modern concepts. I have to admit that they cater for fairly good quality produce in a convenient way especially for truly urban people. It is certainly easier this way to do some good marketing and attract crowds who feel uncomfortable at old fashion markets. Still this market hall needs a bit more time to get what I would call a soul and personality to become a true urban public space. Nevertheless it seems there is a trend towards such market halls or food halls as the New York Times can observe it in the US.
All in all: The Fresh Market in Bratislava embraces local and international produce and food in a modern concept, a contrast to old fashion markets.
A little link list: