Many of you will know that I travel to Malaga about once a month, loving the climate, the food and the people so much that I now own a tiny apartment and am even trying to learn Spanish.
One consequence of my constant tweeting and Instagramming about Malaga is that people now come to me for recommendations of where to go, what to eat and which museums/sights are not to be missed.
So I thought I’d try and give you my definitive guide to this beautiful city:
Malaga, about three hours by plane from airports all over Britain, is the perfect place to eat well, dip into a little bit of culture and walk until your legs ache. You can swim, watch flamenco, stroll through the historic centre at midnight eating an ice cream or sit out under the stars sipping a glass of wine or a hot toddy.
Local wines, are both easy to drink and inexpensive , wine makers have improved the quality of wines beyond recognition. If you like white wine try Botani or La Ola, named after the wave the trans Mediterranean ferry makes as it leaves port. Gin is a popular choice and many bars have barrels of Vermouth, mix the two, delicious. Beer can be ordered in small medium or large glasses. Tinto de Verano is a summer special made from red wine and lemonade and wonderfully refreshing.
Eating in Malaga is a joy. There are literally hundreds of bars , cafes and restaurants serving food form all over the world. I have found excellent Japanese food in Malaga as there is a synergy between these two fish loving countries, you can eat Italian food and now poké has arrived. Here I’ve mainly concentrated on local food as that is what I want to eat. Malaga is a city where almost no matter which bar you chose you will get a decent meal as most of the people eating with you will be Spanish either locals or tourists.
When ordering tapas you can order three different sizes : tapa, media, or ration. I find a tapa usually good enough to share for a taste and even in restaurants you can share main plates . Do only order a couple of plates at a time, it is perfectly acceptable to linger over a glass of beer or wine ordering more as you want.
I would definitely eat tapas at Uvedoble where you must have the black fideos noodles and almost anything else
Wendy Gamba on Calle Fresca where the hamburgessas and the huevos rotos are unmissable. No website but a facebook page
Las Merchanas on Calle Mosquera is a busy bar on a graffiti daubed street where whole families jockey for space inside and out. The red wine is better than the white!
Restaurants where you can also eat tapas:
At these restaurant you can either book tables or jostle for a space at the bar.
For traditional food and flavours:
Meson Mariano but go early or book as it gets rammed, it’s a place beloved by locals: eat the goat shoulder, the fresh fish and all of the artichoke dishes the place is famous for. My favourite is alcachofa a la plancha. .http://www.restaurantemesonmariano.es
Meson Iberico in Soho is a favourite, here I linger outside until the door opens at 8.30pm then grab a seat at the bar. If they have them try migas (breadcrumbs fried in pork fat), mushrooms with prawns and ham and tiny broad beans with ham. Most things come with ham!
For a more elegant experience, another place I love that is close to the Cathedral, try El Refectorium where the jamon and pan de tomate is divine and the tuna tataki, a favourite.
http://elrefectorium.net/novedades/restaurante-refectorium-catedral-malaga (Not a great wedsite)
Los Melizos the more glitzy one (there are two opposite each other , both are good) in the bar downstairs, is where I head when straight off the plane. Here Emilio will serve wine, bocorones con limon and any number of delicious dishes with good humour and a wry smile at my awful Spanish.
La Parrilla de Mane, behind the Cathedral does wonderful grilled meats , you have to have the secreto Iberico and the morcilla they are all served with chips If the weather is good get a table outside in the lee of the Cathedral and watch the constant street theatre. http://laparrillademane.com
La Montana towards the north of the town and away from the tourist area. This elegant restaurant serves wonderful food and I love eating in the central garden courtyard. Eat roast goat, arroz, almost anything! They also have a wonderful wine list.
El Ambigu de la Coracha.
This restaurant is quite tricky to find as it is on one of the paths that zig zag up the side of the hill leading from the Alcazaba to the Gibralfaro. Well worth searching out for the shaded terrace, modern spanish food and expansive view of the port.
This roomy restaurant is in the barrio Heulin on the road out along past the port, about a 15 minute walk. The food is modern Spanish and I think the kitchen shows real skill. Have the potato puree with egg and truffle, the aubergine fritters with honey and hummus (trust me on this), the steak tartar and any thing else that takes your fancy. I would have a drink at the chirinquito on the beach before crossing the road, carefully, and having a long slow lunch. No website to speak of and you must book at weekends Bagazo
La Reserva group
I am exceedingly fond of these restaurants, of which there are several in the town, as they were the first places I ate when food in Malaga was much more rustic than it is today. Eat Paella, Russian salad , plates of hake and vegetables and always boquerones al limon.
Churros are a Spanish tradition eaten for breakfast, a mid afternoon snack as well as late at night. Dipped in thick chocolate or sugar try Aranda on by the Atarazanas market or at La Malaguena on Sebastion Sauveron ( my favourite). As I don’t have a sweet tooth I order a pitufo mixto (toasted ham and cheese roll) or pan con tomate
A different type of breakfast can be had at the atmospheric La Recova by the church of San Juan on Calle St Juan, or the more modern, think avocado on toast, at El Mortal in the Plazza Enrique Garcia Herrera
Jamon and Manchego
I think eating ham at every possible occasion is an essential part of any visit to Spain. You will find hams hanging in every bar, even the most modest ones. Everyone has a view on where you eat the best ham, all I would say is try it for yourself , I drink cava with ham and a side of pan con tomate . Thinly sliced Manchego, a sheep milk cheese, makes a perfect nibble with sherry before a meal I like the Manchego medium matured .
This rich sweet almond confection , available in both soft, blando or hard, duro, is mostly eaten at Christmas but available all year.
Casa Mira on Larios and Andres Perez make, in my opinion, the best Turron in Andelucia. Their shop at Andres Perez has been fitted out in the inside of an old Pharmacy, it serves tea and cakes as well as ice cream and is worth a visit. The turon liqueur is delicious.
There are many almond sellers around the town and two shops by the market where you can buy freshly roasted almonds. Beware they are both delicious and addictive.
Of the many, many ice cream shops in Malaga I head for Heladeria Freskitto on Calle Granada. This traditional, hole in the wall, consistently wins best ice cream in the town, and is beloved by locals. Try turon or the malaga wine and raisin.
These beach side restaurants are found all along the coast. Traditional and hugely popular, fish is cooked over olive wood on boat shaped barbecues.
They vary in both sophistication and hygiene but I’ve eaten at many of them with no ill results and love nothing more than heading to the beach, hiring a hammock with a parasol and sunbathing, before I eat a skewer of sardines, a whole cooked squid or some shrimp fritters.
If you want a day on the beach but hesitate to eat at these somewhat more costly places head inland by one street where you will always find a restaurant buzzing with local people.
Sights and Museums
You must go to the Atarazanas market to see the glorious displays of produce, the diminutive yet fierce housewives shopping, the Moorish arch which was once on the quay and know at once why I had a new kitchen fitted to the flat, the Spanish don’t necessarily have ovens. I also always eat at the market at one of the bars I like the one to the left when your back is to the sea it’s called, unsurprisingly, the Bar Mercado Atarzanas ,gambas are good here as are the baby artichokes when in season, pinchos of pork or chicken and fried fish
There are many, many museums and galleries some favourites are: The Carmen Thyssen Museum, Picasso who was born in a house on Plaza de la Merced has two one by Merced and another on Calle San Augustin, The Museum of Glass and Crystal, outposts of both the St Petersburg Museum housed in the old tobacco factory alongside the Automobile Museum, and the Pompidou Centre. The Alcazaba, while less impressive than the one in Seville, is also much less crowded and the view from the fort, Castillo de Gibralfaroexpansive . The newly opened Museum of Malaga was once the customs house and is free to enter. Each time I visit I find more and more exhibits, there is now a bar and restaurant with lovely views over the city and the building with it’s central courtyard is stunning. Don’t miss the Roman amphitheatre and take in the view of the Alcazaba above. The walk along Muelle Uno, the new port which has “rooms” of differently designed gardens, is a must for both tourists and locals alike in the evening paseo.
Authentic flamenco can be found at Kelipo Calle Muro de Puetra Nueva where my local bar Hierbabuena , stays open late and serve Heuvos rotos con jamon and vast brandies. For a morning coffee or a late night glass wine do go and see Mark and José at Cafe Estraperlo at Plaza Poeta Alfonso Canales Soho, in the little park across the road from the big wheel. They really are delightful and their bar is both friendly and offers you a little bit of edge.
Everywhere I have mentioned is a short walk from anywhere and the exercise allows for frequent stops for refreshment.
Tours and guides
My knowledge of where to eat and what to see have been helped enormously by my knowing the following warm, friendly and wonderful people :
Michael Soffe ( British) and Laura Dibben (Canadian) who will not only plan your wedding but show you the hottest spots in town Tapas in Malaga
Malaga born Victor Garrido, a registered guide to all the historic monuments and a passionate and knowledgable foodie We love Malaga who offers guided tours not only in Malaga but also in Rhona, Antequera and in Seville, with his business partner Shawn Hennessey, of We Love Tapas