Malaga is regularly lauded as one of Spain’s cultural hotspots. The birthplace of Pablo Picasso, the city boasts an ever-growing number of impressive museums, monuments and galleries — combine this with the city’s 16 beaches, and it’s little surprise that more and more people are escaping to the Andalusian jewel every year.

Striking a unique and extremely appealing balance between a beach holiday and city break, there are few European cities that are able to tick so many boxes quite so efficiently.

Amongst that checklist is the all-important culinary offering, another area in which the city is rightfully celebrated. Whether it’s packed-to-the-rafters tapas tavernas, heaps of piping hot calamari or late-night cocktails, here are some of the best spots for eating and drinking in Malaga.

Verum: For otherworldly steaks & tuna

Few culinary experiences can come close to the unbridled joy of slicing into a slab of steak cooked exactly how you had imagined on your way over to the restaurant. At Verum, you can bank on that being the exact case. Nestled just a 10-minute drive outside of Malaga’s centre, in the beachside area of Pedregalejo, the restaurant’s elegant, wood-laden interior provide a sublime setting for what has become a must whenever we visit the city.

A various list of ever-changing cuts that can range from Premium Galician Beef Tenderloin to indulgent A5 Wagyu depending on the time of year is presented, with friendly and knowledgeable staff more than willing to lend their unrivalled expertise based on whatever you fancy that evening. Likewise, a seemingly endless wine list boasts perfectly paired pours to go alongside whatever’s on your plate and we fully recommend letting the team take the lead on this front.

Aside from the steak, Verum also specialises in fresh Wild Bluefin Tuna. Dedicated to ensuring none of the fish goes to waste, guests can choose from various cuts including Grilled Tuna Chops, Tail Tartare and Grilled Lo-Fat Belly, all of which are nothing short of spectacular.

C. Flamencos, 3, 29018 Málaga, Spain
Okey: To drink with locals

After stumbling upon this place by complete accident, we couldn’t have beeen happier that we did. An unassuming little bar filled with locals, we were immediately made to feel right at home. In fact, after bumbling our way through ordering a couple of drinks in questionable Spanish, my heavy Salford accent became the butt of a joke between the group before being reassured ‘we are all like family here’. Soon, what was meant to be a quick stop-off became a much more substantial stay than planned.

If you’re after something a little more authentic, and somewhere away from the often tourist-filled central bars, then this is the ideal drinking spot. The tunes were great too, The Pixies, Smiths and Depeche Mode all getting plays out of a small speaker behind the bar.

27, C. Muro de San Julián, 29008 Málaga, Spain
Bar la Tranca: For authentic tapas in a lively setting

Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of tapas joints to choose from in Malaga, so much so it can at times feel a little overwhelming. Bar la Tranca though, comfortably cuts through as one of the best, combining phenomenal small plates with an electric atmosphere that buzzes through its narrow dining area.

No reservations mean there can often be a bit of a wait, but the reward is well worth it the moment you step into this living, breathing tavern where all senses are immediately set alight as scurrying waiters hum along to traditional Spanish music, passing you by with a dizzying array of tapas, each somehow looking and smelling better than the last.

The empanadas are a staple of the constantly shifting menu and are a particular highlight, as is the flamenquin (deep-fried roll wrapped around pork loin, ham and melted cheese), either of which can be washed down perfectly with the restaurant’s signature on-tap vermouth.

C. Carretería, 92, 29008 Málaga, Spain
CHLOE: For exquisite table-side cocktails

Hidden away down a side street in Malaga’s historic centre, CHLOE is a specialist gin bar that boasts what is almost certainly one of the largest collections of botanicals in all of the city. It’s the cocktails that really won us over here though, and more specifically, the expert craftsmanship and added theatre as drinks are prepared at your table side.

After reading a few reviews about how the Negronis here were the best around, we gave them a go and the hype was very, very real. The basil smash was also wildly refreshing and packed with citrussy goodness — the garnishing for this was actually plucked from a flower pot just behind our heads, which was a nice touch.

C. Correo Viejo, 9, 29015 Málaga, Spain
Pez Tomillo (Thyme Fish): For sea view dining

Few spots could be more idyllic than the top floor of Pez Tomillo’s Thyme Fish at sunset, overlooking the ocean as waves slowly curl up the ramp below. As the name suggests, seafood is very much the speciality here, and the restaurant’s take on Fideuà — a Valencian dish similar to paella, only with pasta noodles instead of rice — has become one of my favourite dishes of any restaurant anywhere.

Thyme Fish’s Fideuà is as aesthetically striking as it is delicious thanks to the jet-black colour brought about by its incorporation of cuttlefish, alongside cod and chopped hazelnut. Cooked to serve two, and it definitely does, you’ll find yourself filling with joy with each sumptuous spoonful you take. The tuna ceviche is also exceptionally good here and is the perfect pallet-wakener after a long day on the beach.

Paseo del Pedregal, 1 29017. Malaga
El Rincón Del Cervecero: For craft beer lovers

Soho is recognised as Malaga’s creative quarter, vibrant murals line the walls and there’s an abundance of indie cafes, bars and exhibition spaces scattered around the busy streets. It’s here that you’ll find El Rincón Del Cervecero, a craft beer haven that stocks a plentiful catalogue of lagers, IPAs, sours and stouts. The team are always wonderfully friendly too, and are more than happy to oblige if you can’t quite decide what kind of tipple you fancy.

C. Casas de Campos, 5, 29001 Málaga, Spain
Niña Bonita Cantina: For lunchtime tacos

It always takes something special for us to step away from Spanish cuisine when visiting Malaga, but Niña Bonita’s divine tacos are simply too good to be missed. A charming little corner cantina, also in Soho, we turned up dead on opening time and just 10 minutes later, all tables are filled — once our food arrives, it’s quickly evident as to why this is.

Our tacos, one serving of gravy-soaked birria and another of crispy spiced prawns, are explosions of ginormous, fragrant flavours, ones that have us immediately delving back into the menu for more. For anyone after a cheap, quick lunch that doesn’t sacrifice on quality, Niña Bonita is an absolute gem.

C. Martínez Campos, 6, 29001 Málaga
Er Pichi de Cái: For stunning seafood tapas

Another old-school, casual tapas tavern, Er Pichi de Cái specialises in market-fresh seafood, along with pancakes and wine. Like many of the best tapas spots, this is another with a no-reservation policy, so expect to wait for 20 minutes or so if you’re turning up at prime time. This is little sacrifice for what is to come, as evidenced by the hordes of locals gathered around tables and packed into any space they can find, eagerly awaiting whatever shellfish or tentacle heads their way.

Things are no-nonsense here, seafood is sourced from the Cádiz fish market and the quality and freshness of each oncoming dish is the focal point of the whole operation. Giant oysters and mussels served with just a slice of lemon, great luscious shrimp steamed and brought out immediately, a constant, mouthwatering conveyor belt of the most delicious things the sea has to offer. One dish that really, really blew us away though, was the simple Tuna with Onion Sauce, picked out from the specialist stew section of the menu — huge tender lumps of tuna smothered in a hearty, almost gravy-like coating — nothing fancy, just simple and seriously good.

C. Tomás Echeverría, 6, 29002 Málaga
Los Cuñaos: For Espeto (sardines) on the beach

There’s no way we could complete such a list without including the dish that is probably the most synonymous with Malaga. Espeto refers to a skewer of fresh sardines, often cooked over the open fires upon old fishing boats along the beachfront. No trip to the city is complete without enjoying at least one plate (we advise more) of these while sitting alongside the sand and sipping on an ice-cold cerveza and watching the afternoon go by.

There are plenty of places to get your fix along the coastline, but some of the best on our trip came from Los Cuñaos, which like Verum and Pez Tomillo can be found in the popular beach village of Pedregalejo.

Marítimo el Pedregal, 93, 29017 Málaga
Bradley Lengden
Published on:
Wed 15 Nov 2023