As I mentioned in my recent Airbnb review, Malaga is definitely becoming recognised as a food lover’s destination this year.
I must confess, I did very little research on this Spanish city before we left for our three day jaunt. Mr C and I were relying on an interview we’d torn out of a Flybe inflight magazine, with chef and restaurateur Omar Allibhoy a month or so before. The Spanish chef, who owns El Pirata and Tapas Revolution restaurants in London, had recommended a few top places to eat.
We were also hoping that our Airbnb host might let us in on some inside foodie tips. (Very kindly, she did).
There are 400 restaurants surrounding the historic Plaza de Constitucion where we stayed, so it can be difficult to know how to pluck out the best – but I think we did pretty well.
Here are some of the food and drink places we found – with our honest thoughts. Think of it as your personalised Culinary Guide to Malaga… You’re welcome.
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 1: Pastries and churros
I guess we should start with breakfast. And if you’re looking for a indulgent breakfast of these naughty little morsels of dough, head to Casa Aranda Malaga – home to the best churros in Malaga.
The local Granier bakery on Alameda Principal is also incredible. It offers fantastic value for money and their coffee is delicious. I also fell in love with the amusingly named ‘fartons’ – a kind of long croissant covered in icing sugar. Delicious.
If you’re looking for something a little more special, do head to the cafes of Plaza de Constitution.
Only afterwards did I find out that Cafe Central is the most famous here. It turns out, we went to a little place next door to Cafe Central and it had a fabulous balcony where you can enjoy coffee and croissants while you people watch over the Plaza de Constitucion, home of the fabulous Fountain of Genova.
If you look directly in front of the cafe, you’ll also find some interesting bronze plaques fixed into the floor. They’re the front pages of five Spanish newspapers from 7th December, 1978, when the Spanish Constitution was implemented, hence, I suppose the name of the plaza. See what you can learn over breakfast….
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 2: Iberian charcuterie and cheese
You can’t beat a smorgasbord of authentic Spanish iberico ham and other cured meats and cheeses. And we found a brilliant example of this at a restaurant in Plaza del Obispo – the square in front of the city’s majestic cathedral – The Catedral de la Encarnacion de Malaga.
I’ve since read some quite negative reviews about La Taverna del Obispo, so I can’t vouch for the main meals. But if it’s simply meat, cheese, olives, a refreshing cold beer and a pleasant view you want, personally, I don’t think you can go wrong with this place.
We were initially sucked in by the fact this restaurant is immediately next to the Cathedral and the tables outside were soaked in sunshine. So we were concerned that it might just be a tourist trap. I guess it was in some ways, but there were plenty of locals eating around us. So do consider it for the charcuterie.
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 3: Sardines and Spanish Omelette
If the sun’s shining and you’re in the mood for some beach action, head to Malaga’s seafront for traditional sardines. Our Airbnb host told us that in other parts of Spain, the Malaga people are actually known as ‘sardines’. We had to see what the fuss was about with these teeny tiny fish.
We ate ours in Chiringuito La Farola, a contemporary and sleek restaurant with outdoor seating, right on the beach – La Playa de la Malagueta. We chose it because the sardines seemed super cheap here (even though this was one of the swankier looking cafs).
I have to say, the staff weren’t the friendliest bunch. We felt like we were being overlooked many times, despite our obvious efforts to catch the waiter’s attention.
That said, the sardines were the real deal. They’re chargrilled on those BBQs that look like little fishing boats and with a sprinkling of rock salt and a good squeeze of lemon, they’re delicious.
The menu was so reasonably priced, I ordered a Spanish omelette on the side. Real Spanish tortilla should be buttery and with thinly sliced potato in it, both of which this had.
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 4: Tapas in Los Gatos
Los Gatos means ‘The cats’ in Spanish. And once you know this, you probably won’t miss this local’s haunt, thanks to the cat logo on the outside.
It’s obvious when you arrive that this is a place off Plaza Uncibay that locals genuinely want to go to. Old timers sit at the counter drinking Vermouth on tap and groups of locals lean on the big barrels outside, deep in conversation over red wine.
If you want to eat inside and marvel at the various quirks and iberico ham hanging from behind the bar, beware of the huge bull that stands at one end of the restaurant (yes it’s real). We were seated right next to it but I really couldn’t concentrate on eating with its nostrils over my shoulder. So we moved to some high stools on the other side. We then delved into an wonderfully eclectic Andalusian menu.
I think our order got a little bit lost in translation but we adored our waiter for putting up with our rather amusing attempts at ordering our meal.
The result of our rather confused Spanglish was this:
- pork cheek with gravy. It doesn’t look too pretty in the picture but it’s the kind of dish you can’t help delving into for more. It was incredibly tender and dunking those chips into the gravy became quite addictive. You can’t come to Spain and not eat Iberico pork.
- Potato and iberico pork croquettes – so delicious. Probably packed with butter and I’m not sure if the added mayonnaise was necessary but hey, the Spanish don’t hold back. Again, these were very moreish.
- Open sandwich (see first picture) – I don’t think we actually ordered these but we certainly didn’t turn them down when they turned up on our table. These huge hunks of bread were topped with a soft goats cheese with caramelised onions and black pudding. Both were quite tasty but best of all, they’re ridiculously cheap.
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 5: Tapas in Gorki
We found this place on the corner of Calle Torre de Sandoval and Calle Bolsa in an article we’d read in The Telegraph. Gorki has a slightly more contemporary and upscale vibe than Los Gatos and is all sit down rather than perching, but we were very impressed with the food.
Again, we went for tapas and chose a sausage-topped ‘pizza’ with quince (very tasty), some canopés topped with more pork and white fish, and the most delicious aubergine and sun dried tomato on crisp bread. It was a bit more on the pricy side but the staff were great and the wine list is pretty good.
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 6: Dorada fish on the seafront
Eating dorada on the seafront reminds me of being on holiday in Spain as a kid, so this was a must for me while in Malaga. Our best find was “Miama’ – a beachfront restaurant a few hundred yards down the beach from Chiringuito La Farola.
Don’t be put off by the slightly naff pink exterior, this seafront café has a relaxed vibe and delicious food. It’s a bit pricier than you might expect but it’s worth it. The Dorada and deep fried baby squid were brilliantly cooked and absolutely devine. As for the staff, they were brilliantly attentive and friendly.
Oh, and while we were basking in the sun, we thought it would be a good time to try a ‘tinto verano’ – it’s simpler than sangria and is basically chilled red wine with a soda or lemonade. Perhaps not the tipple of choice back in the UK, but it’s surprisingly refreshing in the midday heat. Trust me.
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 7: Bodega de El Pimpi
This is the place that chef Omar Allibhoy recommended and it’s one of the oldest bodegas in Malaga. You come here, it turns out, more for the experience and the history than the food, which our Airbnb host also remarked. Our food was good, although not amazing. However we liked this place for its messages scrawled by famous Spanish guests, its fabulous entrance and lively entertainment upstairs. Make sure you join in and order a muscatel at the bar. You’ll find people from all over the world gathering for their live music and chit chat on stage (although it’s obviously all in Spanish).
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 8: Vermouth
To get a feel for a real Andalusian vermouth bar, head to Casa Lola on Calle Granada or Bodega Antigua Casa de Guardia on Calle Peinado where you’ll get vermouth on tap.
We went to Casa Lola – a brilliantly colourful and traditional place where we had the most deliciously sweet yet strong glasses of this fortified wine. I didn’t get any photos but I highly recommend you go.
I did sneak my head into Casa de Guardia around lunchtime on our last day, which seemed far more on the ‘no frills’ end of the scale and and looked absolutely ancient, so I’m sad we didn’t have the time to pop in. I can only imagine the history behind this place.
There are no tables and chairs, there is simply a bar, set in front of giant barrels and cabinets of wine bottles. It was full of old guys standing at the bar eating plates of cold, fresh seafood. It doesn’t get more authentic than this.
Malaga Foodie Tip no. 9: Deep fried squid and cold beers at Ataranzas – Malaga’s Central Market
This was the last little meal we had. Our time to board the train to the airport was getting painfully closer, and we were sweltering in the midday heat, so the cold glasses of beer and cones of deep fried squid on the pavement outside Malaga’s Central Market were a godsend.
So eating roadside isn’t the most civilised of set-ups. But it’s certainly one of the most fun. We had just enough time to have a quick nosey at the various butchers, grocers and incredible amount of fresh produce in the market.
It was then a reluctant dash to the airport to return home.
And that’s how you do a culinary tour of Malaga in three days.
I think we did pretty well, don’t you?