Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Northern Food on tour: Tapas in Malaga

Ever since a trip to Madrid a few years back I've been obsessed with tapas. Tapas done properly that is, a succession of snacks and small plates eaten with drinks, often standing at the bar or perched on stools in a series of different bars. Not tapas in the classic British style, rocking up at La Tasca in a large group, ordering the selection menu and sitting down to get stuck in for a couple of hours. That's a party finger buffet with more seats, not tapas.

Doing it properly is just so much fun. It's such a civilised and convivial way to spend an evening, far more so than the traditional Anglo-Saxon approach to getting pissed. Why not dine with your drinks throughout the evening, having a nibble of something quality here and there, as opposed to the 'segregated stomach lining dinner, neck a load of pints, booze soaking late night kebab' method.

To be fair to us Brits we've come along way in recent years, the concept of dining while drinking is hardly an alien one, but we've a long way to go to match the Spaniards.

On the impression of one half day visit, curtailed in the evening by the need to rise at four the following morning for a stupidly early flight (thanks, as ever, go to Ryanair), Malaga is a fine tapas city. I don't think you'll get the culinary creativity of the Basques or the sheer variety and value on offer in Madrid, but you will be fed very well for a fair price, and you will have a grand time.

I didn't make note of the names and locations of the places we went to, but it's not really necessary. Malaga has a fairly extensive pedestrianised central area that throngs with people in the evening. Just follow the crowds and you can't go far wrong. The atmosphere on the Friday night we were there was wonderful, festive and friendly without the slightest hint of unpleasantness.

Hotspots are around Calle Marquis de Larios (of gin fame, possibly), Calle Granada, Calle Alamos and on all the little alleyways inbetween.

Here are some of the things we ate. I should mention that they do sell green foods as well (you know, vegetables and stuff), it just seems that we forgot to order any on this occasion.

Mini sandwiches that were far more interesting than they look. Two each of asparagus mayo and jamon iberico with some sort of rich mousse. I'm sure it was called mousse de ca, but this doesn't seem to mean anything in translation? It was very smooth and rich, but not livery. Both flavours were delicious, and they cost 1.20 euros for two.

Bacalao (salt cod) blinis. I absolutely adore salt cod in anything, especially anything deep-fried. These weren't deep-fried, but were delicious anyway. The cod had been given a good soaking so it wasn't overly salty and was beautifully textured (imagine good, firm smoked salmon). 1.20 euros each.

Patatas bravas. Got to get the carbs in right? The spuds were expertly fried and the sauce had a good kick to it, though I prefer the tomatoey version to the creamy one here. This was a bit pricey as the place was a restaurant rather than a bar;- 5.80 euros for the racion.

Pinchos! One of pork loin with brie and sweet onion, the other of chorizo with fried quail's egg and roasted pepper. These were probably the best thing we ate, the star being the lovely tender pork loin. 2 euros each.

This was a bit of an accident. We ordered a half racion of what we thought would be shallow fried mushrooms (as in olive oil, garlic, herbs, that sort of thing) and what arrived was a whole racion, meaning a bloody big plateful, of deep fried mushrooms. It turned out that this bar was a freideria, basically a frying bar, where absolutely everything, and I mean everything, was doused in batter and deep-fried.

Not the most exciting plate of food, but I really couldn't fault the outstanding frying skills. To coat a load of sliced mushrooms in a thin, light batter and fry them until perfectly crisp and completely greaseless is no mean feat. Great beer snacks these. 4.80 euros for a full racion, and not much more for the seafood plates.

There didn't seem to be much in the way of freebies on offer in Malaga, but we didn't have the chance to dig very deeply so some of the more hidden away places may come up trumps. Free tapas were limited to crisps and olives where we got anything at all. At the bar pictured above the olives were gratis and the manchego tapa was 2.50 euros.

Drinks are consistently cheap by UK standards, a small beer costing around 1 to 1.50 euros and a glass of wine usually just under 2. Sherry of any variety is always a good bet, being extraordinarily good value in these parts (generally a few cents cheaper than other wine rather than a quid or two more). 

All in all you can return to your bed fully sated and suitably merry for twenty quid. Next time you visit the Costa del Sol remember that there's much more to Malaga than the airport.


Ewan said...

One of the best Spanish meal I have ever eaten was in Malaga, I really need to go back to sample more!

Dave said...

Where did you go? What did you eat there? ..will probably be back myself in a year or two.

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