Andalucía 3: Food and Art in Málaga
Stop three was Málaga, a city I hadn't visited since a Spanish exchange when I was in my teens. I didn't have the greatest memories of the port city that serves as the gateway to the Costa del Sol but I'd read heaps of articles that hailed it as the 'new Barcelona' further to its regeneration. Whilst it's nowhere near as far up the 'pretty list' as Seville and Granada, it's got a lot to offer for a few nights. As the home of Picasso (albeit they openly admit he spent hardly any time there!) it's got a really impressive collection of his work at the Museo de Picasso but the Pompidou is even better. The only outpost of the French giant, it's got a great collection of 20th and 21st century art organised around four themes. The gift shop and café are also tip top...key for any art institution in my book! The food in Málaga was also mega, but more on that later.
We stayed in a posh hostel (Dulces Dreams) which was essentially eight rooms set above a coffee shop (that served TO DIE FOR carrot cake). Our room (Cheesecake) was right up top with a private bathroom and it totally did the job for a city break. We also had access to the roof terrace. The best thing about it was the location; bang in the old town but a ten minute walk down to the port with its Muelle Uno outdoor shopping centre, array of restaurants and bars, cycle hiring spots and the (uber long) seaside path that leads out to the city beaches.
We arrived in Málaga early evening on Good Friday and had a delish dinner at Los Patios de Beatas. It's a full on vinoteca so they take the wine very seriously but luckily not themselves. Drinks in Spain are SO cheap and we sunk a delish bottle of local wine for 16 euro along with a gigantic charcuterie platter. Calle Beatas is chocabloc with bars and we moseyed down to a sherry bar crammed with locals watching the processions on the TV for an after-dinner drink. The party spirit continued despite the big man's death and there was no suggestion of a dry Friday for the Spanish!
We only had the one full day in Málaga so we hired bikes (from Plaza de la Marina) and made our way down to Pedregalejo, a beachy area to the east of the city. The beachside path was heaving with families and the atmosphere was fantastic. I'd booked a table at El Cabra which is one of the many chiringuitos on the beach. It was full to the brim and we had a light (ish) lunch of BBQ fish and prawns and juicy tomato salad. I'd really recommend it as a good value and very Spanish feeling spot. Definitely call ahead to reserve though. The beach itself was nothing to write home about and whilst Málaga has a few beaches, the options down the coast are much cleaner and prettier. We didn't make it there but the Heladería Lauri on Calle Bolivar (a couple of streets behind the beach front) is meant to be a delish ice cream spot that's been going for years.
Once back in Málaga we made our way up to Museo Picasso (I'd skip the audio guide - it was very pompous!) and weaved our way through the processions which were getting into full swing.
Dinner at José Carlos García was the big treat of the holiday. A local Michelin starred chef, he has an incredible restaurant right in the middle of Muelle Uno. The interior design was almost as good as the food and the 'vertical garden' on the wall made me drool. We opted for the 'short' 6-course tasting menu, feeling we couldn't face - or justify! - the big boy option of 25 courses kicking off at 9.30pm! We feasted on fish curry with cauliflower rice, suckling pig and a chocolate desert of dreams. The only photo I actually took was of the petit fours at the end but it was all absolutely incredible and, for a treat, is a total winner.
The next morning, after a mooch around the Pompidou, we were on our way to Granada. With it being Semana Santa, we didn't get a chance to explore Málaga's shops but the Soho area of the city is meant to have some real winners.
Also worth mentioning is the mega paella spot in Nerja (about an hour outside Málaga) where we stopped for lunch en route back to the airport on the last day of our trip. It's touristy but lovely (with the bluest sea) and Chiringuito Ayo serves up a huge paella on the beach each day for 8 euro. You get two (large!) plates for your cash. And, despite creating a food baby, I managed to fit seconds in...just!
Dulces Dreams: http://www.dulcesdreamshostel.com/
Los Patios de Beatas: http://lospatiosdebeatas.com/
El Cabra: http://www.restauranteelcabra.es/
José Carlos García: http://www.restaurantejcg.com/es/rest.html
Chiringuito Ayo: http://www.ayonerja.com/