I’ve put my favourites first and a few to avoid at the end. Old bodegas and rooftop bars have been given their own posts. You’ll find everything on this Google map.
El Pimpi (Intermediate A), 62 Calle Grande, www.elpimpi.com
A local institution, centrally located near the amphitheatre on Calle Alcazabilla. It’s a big place with two entrances, a sizable terrace out front and a couple of seating areas inside. It was very busy when I went, mainly with tourists.
The building is very intriguing; attractively decorated inside with ceramic tiles, old bodega barrels and climbing plants.
The name comes from the colourful characters who would help disembarking ship passengers get what they wanted, although whether they were tour guides or flesh-peddlers seems a little unclear.
In 2013, wanting a healthy lunch, I had the ‘Ensalada Malaguena con Salmorejo, Naranja y Bacalao Asado’; a Malagan salad of oranges and grilled salt cod, with a dressing of cold tomato and bread soup, which was excellent (A).
With a bottle of water the bill was €8.80. The food was beautifully presented and everything looked and tasted great.
Meson Cervantes (Intermediate B+), 11 Calle Álamos, www.elmesondecervantes.com
The original and largest member of the small Cervantes chain (three locations all nearby) which feature highly in the TripAdvisor rankings. Although only at TA#8 at the time of writing in 2016, it easily has the most reviews, which is what I tend to look for on the rare occasions I use TripAdvisor.
My friend Terry and I ran up a bill of only €41 between us (I know, I wasn’t very hungry). We shared three tapas (salmon, jamon iberico, piquillo peppers), a half portion of seared tuna…
…four medium beers and two glasses of Legaris Crianza, the latter quite expensive at €6 a pop. I was too busy chatting to take notes but everything was good.
El Tapeo de Cervantes (Low Intermediate B+), 8 Calle Carcer, eltapeodecervantes.com
This is the much smaller, and more cramped, sister bar of Meson Cervantes above, just around the corner. It was at TA#6 in 2016, it easily and had the second most reviews. Again, it’s very popular so reservations are recommended.
In 2016 I came here on my first night with a hunger for Spanish food and wine that took a bit of sating. After a beer to quench my thirst I had glasses of three different Riberas and six tapas, all of which was very good (A/B).
The grilled Atun Rojo with cauliflower puree (see pic above) was a winner and these Mollejas (sweetbreads) from the specials board were also a favourite.
Despite my gluttony, the bill came to a reasonable €31.50.
El Marisquero (Elementary B+), 7 Calle Olozaga
This marisqueria, out the back door of the market on Calle Atarazanas, was recommended by a local food blog. It’s a down-to-earth, basic kind of tapas place with standing areas both inside and out so you can catch the shade or the sun as you like. The grilled prawns I had were very good (B+) and it was bliss to slake my thirst with a couple of ice cold canas.
La Cosmopolita Malagueña (Intermediate B), 3 Calle Jose Denis Belgrano
Recommended by the Guia Repsol, this is a tapas bar and restaurant located in the busy part of town but with surprisingly few customers, despite having a terrace on a quiet side street. I’m sure the items on the main restaurant menu are excellent but there seems to be a limited choice of tapas.
I had tapas of the Albondigas and Croquetas de Puchero which, along with three canas, brought the bill to €12. The quality was good so I would go back to try their mains.
El Jardín (Intermediate B+), 1 Calle Cañón, www.eljardinmalaga.com
I come to this beautiful old café just for the décor (Belle Epoque fittings like cut glass lampshades and lace tablecloths).
According to the barman the building dates from 1927 and it’s called ‘The Garden’ because it’s right next to the lovely garden behind the cathedral.
I haven’t eaten but I know G&T made with Beefeater (they didn’t have Bombay) costs a mere €5, much cheaper than the rooftop bars I review elsewhere. Although I love the interior, I wouldn’t mind sitting on the big pavement terrace outside. There’s Tango dancing on Thursdays for more energetic people than I.
La Esquinita del Chupa y Tira (Elementary B), 31 Calle Victoria
This is an old grocery shop that has had its storeroom converted into a tapas bar. They sell wine, cheese and ham, both Spanish and Italian, and the prices are very cheap. The friendly young waitress was Italian by birth so perhaps there are some family connections. It’s nothing out of this world but makes a nice stop on the way to this next place.
Montana (Intermediate B+), 5 Compas de la Victoria
This is a very nice spot as at the back as they have a covered courtyard terrace and a garden with palm trees and a pond with carp and terrapins.
According to the blog they do a tasting menu but you have to order ahead. I had a half portion of Rabo de Toro Croquetas which were nice (B).
Also,‘Huevos Rotos al Estilo Candido con Ajada y Secreto Iberico Confitado’, basically shreds of good quality sautéed pork artistically placed atop a fried egg and potato. The bloggers raved about this although for me it was fine but nothing special (B).
On the other hand I really enjoyed a couple of glasses of excellent an Ribera del Duero from Lopez Cristobal (B+).
The bill came in at €18.50. Service was pleasant.
This is a good place for a romantic date, especially if you snag a table under the palms.
El Refectorium (Advanced B+), 8 Calle Cervantes, elrefectorium.es
For some reason I thought this Frommers recommended place would be quite down to earth due to its location by the bullring but it’s actually fairly posh. Apparently it’s very popular with the matadors and their fans, so it’d probably impossible to get in when there’s a bullfight on. I went at a quiet time so I managed to get in without a reservation.
I had some I had some high quality local fare (B/B+) but I wouldn’t go back due to the fairly high prices, although the adjoining tapas bar might be more affordable.
Embarrassingly I forgot my wallet and had to go back to the hotel to get it. When I came back I was treated like a returning hero, with a ponche on the house and lots of cheers from the waiters!
These last few aren’t bad as such, just non-descript…
La Camapana (Elementary B+), 35 Calle Grande
A well-known and very popular tapas bar selling typical seafood dishes. I didn’t really explore the menu on my visit in 2013 but my squid rings, bravas and two large beers for €11.60 filled a hole.
El Chinitas (Intermediate C), 4-6 Calle Moreno Monroy
Another Frommers and Seleccion del Gourmet recommended restaurant.
It’s old school and atmospheric but I wasn’t particularly impressed by their tapas tasting menu (mainly C except for the cured ham).
La Farola de Orellana (Intermediate C), 5 Calle Moreno Monroy, www.lafaroladecervantesmalaga.es
Over the road from El Chinitas and once owned by the same people although I’m not sure that’s still the case. I had a cana and a tapa of some cheese concoction which I’ve since obliterated from my memory. I didn’t like the food or the atmosphere so I doubt I’ll go back.
Okami (Intermediate C+), 18 Calle Cister, www.okamirestaurante.es
Entirely edible Japanese food, but nothing special.
The ‘Pollo Teriyaki’ looked great but was a bit too salty for me, and I like lots of soya sauce.
The ‘Uramaki Atun’ and ‘Uramaki Salmon Mango’ were okay but amazing (B-).
For Mediterranean/Japanese fusion you’d be better off going to Ba (see my coming Malagueta post).