An Insider's Guide to the Best Restaurants in Malaga, Spain

Málaga has developed a diverse restaurant scene in recent years
Málaga has developed a diverse restaurant scene in recent years | © Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mark Nayler
22 April 2020

The vibrant Andalusian city of Málaga, capital of the Costa del Sol region, has developed a diverse restaurant scene in recent years. Here’s Culture Trip’s guide to its 10 most outstanding restaurants, from tapas joints to wine specialists, and our insider’s tips on what to try when you visit them.

Over the last decade or so, Málaga has established itself as one of Andalusia’s most cosmopolitan and exciting cities, especially when it comes to eating out. Long gone are the days when tapas were the only option, even if the Costa del Sol capital still boasts many superb establishments specialising in Spain’s signature cuisine. Below, Málaga-based writer Mark Nayler takes you to the 10 best places to eat in Málaga, including a world-class Argentinian steakhouse and a restaurant where you can tuck into crocodile while watching live flamenco.

Mesón Ibérico

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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Since it opened in Soho in 1998, Mesón Ibérico has become one of the city’s most popular tapas joints. Booking is recommended if you want a table, but you’re better off perched at the bar, where you can soak up the atmosphere and choose from tapas in the display cabinets. Fried fish (pescaito frito, a Málaga speciality), stewed and grilled meats, salads and seafood – it’s all here, so sample a bit of everything over a few wines and prepare to be surprised (in a good way) when the bill arrives.

Vino Mío

Restaurant, Fusion, Mediterranean, $$$
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Flagship mains at Vino Mío – a creative eatery in the Merced barrio – are the South African crocodile medallions and Australian kangaroo steaks. The wine list, by contrast, is dominated by Spanish produce (except for the champagne), and features several varieties made from Málaga’s sweet moscatel grape. Seating is outside on the lovely Plaza de Jerónimo Cuervo, or in the classy dining room, where live flamenco concerts are performed every evening. Put on your dancing shoes, as audience participation is encouraged.

El Pimpi

Bar, Restaurant, Wine Bar, Bodega, Spanish, Tapas, $$$
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Bodega Bar El Pimpi
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

El Pimpi is known as much for its maze-like interior as for its quality Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine. Situated in the heart of the old town, this Málaga institution offers several spaces in which to eat and drink: an informal bar area; a typical Andalusian dining room plastered with bullfighting posters; a more modern restaurant on the first floor; and a spacious terrace at the foot of the Alcazaba. Standouts include the succulent rabo de toro/vacuno (oxtail) and the freshly caught lubina (sea bass), served in a crust of sesame and pistachio nuts.

Citron

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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Boasting a prime spot on Plaza de la Merced, practically next door to the house in which Picasso was born in 1881, Citron’s menu takes inspiration from all over the world. Standouts include their burger; the medium-spiced red Thai curry with prawns; and a sumptuous “creamy turbot”, served with roasted cashew nut butter, coconut milk and lime. Vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diners will also have plenty of choice. The high tables outside are great in summer, but the real buzz is in the colourful dining room, especially during weekend lunchtimes.

El Mesón de Cervantes

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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Situated in the heart of La Merced, El Mesón de Cervantes offers a huge choice of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. They’re all available as tapas, media raciónes (half-portions) or raciónes (full portions), making this an ideal venue for diners wanting to sample a little of everything. The cooking performed in the open kitchen is bold and original: you don’t see battered prawns with treacle or lamb sweetbreads with chimichurri on many menus in Málaga. Check out the blackboards for daily specials and a great selection of local wines.

Pizza Pino

Restaurant, Italian, Spanish, $$$
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This family-run establishment does the best pizzas in Málaga, hands down. Situated just back from Playa de la Malagueta and over the road from the city’s historic bullring, Pino’s offers an extensive selection of pizzas priced between €7 (£6) and €12.50 (£11), with crispy, thin crusts and fresh toppings. The menu also features salads, homemade pasta dishes and several inexpensive but quality wines. Service is personable and speedy, even when the place is packed, making Pino’s an ideal dinner spot after a day on the beach.

Los Patios de Beatas

Restaurant, Wine Bar, Spanish, $$$
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Los Patios de Beatas
Courtesy of Los Patios de Beatas

Upmarket vinoteca Los Patios de Beatas is a must for wine-lovers. The restaurant’s in-house sommeliers showcase 24 new wines every month, complementing them with a tapas menu focused on cured hams and Spanish cheeses. Spaces in which to sample Los Patios’ world-class collection comprise a relaxed bar area, a grand cellar where the wines are displayed, and an intimate dining room with just eight tables (where a full menu is served). For something a bit different, try the sardines with bloody mary or the gin-marinated salmon.

La Deriva

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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Humble ingredients receive imaginative treatment at Soho’s La Deriva: just order the restaurant’s inventive version of patatas bravas – a dish that can sometimes be rather bland – and you’ll see what we mean. The vibrant menu also features several other vegan and vegetarian options, meat and fish dishes cooked to perfection and a selection of homemade desserts, all of which are beautifully presented. Dining spaces are served by attentive staff and comprise a stylish interior and a shaded, heated terrace that can be enjoyed all-year round.

La Cosmopolita Malagueña

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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Although surrounded by competition in the heart of the old town, La Cosmopolita Malagueña still manages to shine. Its menu revolves around high-quality, seasonal produce, highlights of which include the crab omelette, the steak tartare and the melt-in-your-mouth tuna. Led by Victor, the knowledgeable staff will provide thoughtful recommendations on food and wine if asked. Seating is on the patio out front, at the bar or in the chic dining room. Cosmopolita’s prices are a little higher than those in surrounding establishments, but justifiably so.

Ocho Bistro

Bistro, Spanish
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This Argentinian steakhouse offers a Michelin-style dining experience, with attention to detail evident in everything from wine recommendations to the choice of ingredients and their preparation. Make sure you arrive with an appetite, as the steaks are enormous – but the meat is divine and faultlessly cooked to order. Vegetarians have options, too, including the “Ocho Salad”, made from the freshest market produce, and a delicious aubergine guacamole. Ocho isn’t cheap, but if you’re in Málaga for a special occasion or simply love your meat, it should be top of your list.

This article is an updated version of a story originally created by Diana Condrea.

These recommendations were updated on April 22, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.