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

There are plenty of restaurants to try on Plaza de la Merced in Málaga
There are plenty of restaurants to try on Plaza de la Merced in Málaga | © Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo
Culture Trip Travel Team

For the average Malagueño, dinner time is anytime between 9 and 11pm, and eating with friends is commonplace. This dining-out culture means that restaurants abound throughout Málaga, from the humble neighbourhood tapas bars to upscale dining spots. Here are some of the best restaurants in the city, including some of the most memorable seafood dining experiences in Spain.

Explore the best of Málaga with a small group of like-minded travellers on our four-day Mini Trip in Southern Spain. Highlights include visiting the Alcazaba and amphitheatre in Málaga before seeing the Alhambra in Granada.

1. El Tintero, for a different kind of table service

Restaurant, Seafood

Waiters serving grilled sardines on plates at El Tintero restaurant in Málaga
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

The set-up at El Tintero, a chiringuito, or beach restaurant, is simple. First, take a seat on the sun-dappled terrace, at a rickety table with a paper tablecloth. Bide your time until a member of the wait staff leaves the kitchen loaded with plates, yelling the name of whatever they’re carrying. If what’s on those plates looks appealing, beckon them over. Prices are based on the size of the plate, and the bill is totted up and written on the tablecloth by counting the empty plates on your table at the end.

2. El Pimpi, for excellent tapas

Bar, Restaurant, Wine Bar, Bodega, Spanish, Tapas

Barstools and customers sitting at the bar in El Pimpi in Málaga
© Jakito / Alamy Stock Photo

Round the corner from the Picasso Museum, in a building owned by Antonio Banderas, there’s a bodega beloved as much by locals as it is by A-list celebrities (if the myriad photos of famous guests are to be believed). El Pimpi is one of the finest tapas bars in Málaga. A recommended tipple is the moscatel, a sweet wine from Málaga, which pairs well with the classic tapas of boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar). Tables in the wine cellar are overshadowed by vast oak barrels, many of which have been signed by those aforementioned celebrities.

3. Casa Lola, for a traditional tavern

Restaurant, Bar, Spanish, Tapas, Pub Grub, European

People sitting at tables outside Casa Lola in Málaga
© Scott Hortop Travel / Alamy Stock Photo

With three restaurants and counting, the enduring popularity of this traditional tavern is telling when there is so much competition. Casa Lola’s flagship site, on Calle Granada, is still the best experience. There’s a huge range of tapas on offer, including northern-style pintxos (small snacks), classics such as patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) and Casa Lola’s house recipes. Their croquettes contain oxtail, ham, cod, spinach and cheese. In summer, try the classic gazpacho (cold vegetable soup), and wash it down with the house vermouth.

4. La Alacena de Francis, for a personalised experience

Restaurant, Fusion

The peach and brick exterior of La Alacena de Francis restaurant in Málaga
Courtesy of La Alacena De Francis

Crammed into a tiny space is a rustic little restaurant, with aspirations to achieve gourmet perfection. It’s like having dinner at the house of a friend – one who happens to be a fantastic chef. Daniel and Natali, the owners, guide each guest through the menu, explaining the origins and preparation that will go into each dish. There’s a definite Russian influence to the dishes, fused with Andalusian sensibilities. The tabla de ahumados caseros (a homemade smoked fish platter) is a real standout.

5. La Tranca, for dinner and a show

Bar, Spanish, Tapas

Busy crowds around the bar at La Tranca, with album artwork on the wall
© Encarni Novillo

The last thing you’d expect on entering a tapas bar is singing bar staff, but, at La Tranca, that is very much what you’ll get. And, while it might sound like a schtick, it certainly started as a passion, as evidenced by the countless old LP covers on the walls. And, just as La Tranca’s staff know that music is the language of the soul, they also know that food is the language of love. The goat’s cheese toast and boquerones en vinagre are standouts.

6. Restaurante El Huesca, for a top-notch location

Restaurant, Spanish

There are few restaurants quite so impeccably located as El Huesca. The palm tree-lined Málaga Park, Moorish Alcazaba, cathedral and Málaga Museum are all within a minute’s walk. And the restaurant itself has plenty going for it, not least of all cochinillo (roasted suckling pig) and its speciality homemade pâté. Bizarrely, the ceiling is covered in empty cigar boxes, whose lids hang open – a mysterious design quirk, given that no cigars are sold here.

7. Casaamigos, for a great atmosphere

Restaurant, Spanish

The name Casaamigos is a direct nod to the average Malagueño’s favourite pastime of dining out with friends. This playful restaurant is designed with a modern Mediterranean motif of bare brick painted white and mosaic-patterned plates. But it’s what’s on those plates that matters the most: an excellent patatas bravas and a variety of croquettes, including prawn with squid, and local sausage with honey and mustard. There are a few special dishes for kids.

8. Figón de Juan, for regional favourites

Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean

One that the Michelin Guide is keeping a keen eye on is the family-run Figón de Juan, where locally sourced ingredients make the best use of Málaga’s Mediterranean location. The rustic interior of varnished wood and part-tiled, whitewashed walls hints at the restaurant’s traditional approach to Andalusian cuisine. Nobody does the regional favourite of boquerones (anchovies) quite like here, where they’re delicately fried in lemon. For dessert, check out the arroz con leche, a slow-cooked, creamy rice pudding considered to be the house speciality.

For an extra serving of authentic Andalusia, check out our immersive Mini Trip in Seville, Cadiz and Jerez.

9. Restaurante María, for tasty rice dishes

Restaurant, Spanish

You’re sure to find some excellent rice dishes in Málaga, such as paella and arroces, the latter being soupier. At Restaurante María, the arroces en paella dishes are somewhere in between, and full of flavour. The hake dishes, such as merluza en salsa verde (hake in green sauce), are also popular. The restaurant also does a homemade stew of the day: on Sundays, it’s rice and lobster; on Saturdays, it’s fabada, an Asturian blend of beans, bacon, chorizo and blood sausage.

10. La Deriva, for superb wine and cheese

Restaurant, Spanish

When you’ve got wine and cheese, what more do you need in life? The owners at Restaurante La Deriva have struck a neat balance between upscale dining in a modern setting – think classy wood and bare brick with an open-plan kitchen – and excellent value. The large, glass-fronted wine room gives a sense of the wine collection available, while the menu is broad but not overwhelming. The tuna tartare with avocado cream is a popular option, as are the tempura prawns with a habanero chilli mayonnaise. The various cheese boards pair goat-, sheep- and cow-milk cheeses.

Love Spanish cuisine? You’re going to be obsessed with our Foodie Fling to Spain’s Basque Country – four days of culinary delight in Northern Spain.

Craving a stiff drink to wash down your meal? Then, browse the best bars in Málaga. If you’re not too hungover the next day, spend your time exploring the best beaches in Málaga. Alternatively, push yourself by being an adventure-lover at these adrenaline-pumping locations.

This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Mark Nayler.

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