Malaga: Don’t Just Pass Through

Malaga beach and town

Malaga beach and town

Being a holiday snob, I like countries that have a totally different culture, require at least a five-hour flight and a couple of inoculations. And as I have an aversion to talking to people when I’m away, I don’t want to encounter fellow Brits. So when I won easyJet flights to Malaga I wasn’t exactly excited.

How long should we go for? A friend referred to Malaga as ‘a bit of a dump’ suggesting it should only be regarded as a gateway to more interesting places like Nerja or Ronda. Would a long weekend be too long?

I asked the Saturday Telegraph for advice. Their response: stay in Malaga but explore the surrounding mountains, coast and historic towns like Granada and Antequera by bus and train.

However, having bought the Rough Guide to Andalucia, we decided there might be more to Malaga, so as our flights were free, we splashed out on an eight-night trip at the five-star Vincci Seleccion Posada del Patio. It was centrally located with a roof top pool for cooling off at the end of the day. In its LeDiner restaurant, dishes were paired with a specific Moët & Chandon champagne. Did you know the best fizz to accompany a hamburguesita is Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2002 Blanc? Our basket of breads (ciabatta, cebolla, tomate and olive) was accompanied by small plastic ‘drippers’ of olive oil and three flavoured salts: chocolate, not as bad as it sounds, herb and pimento. To follow, we went for something a bit more ‘grown up’ than burger and fizz.

Our favourite outdoor bar, d’gustar, in the shaded Plaza de las Flores was near our hotel. It was ideal for an aperitif (two glasses of cava for under 8 Euro and complementary tapas) on the way out or night cap on the return. With a number of other bars in the Plaza, it was also great for people watching.

Paseo del Parque

We found so many things to do. On our way to La Farola lighthouse, we walked through the lush gardens in Paseo del Parque. At the redeveloped marina with its boutique shops and restaurants, we boarded the Vision Submarina for an hour’s tour of the marina and surrounding area.

Malaga Marina

We visited Alcazaba fortress, now a museum, and the linked Castillo Gibralfaro reached by a very steep incline of steps and mainly shiny paved walkways. A small kiosk at the top provided reviving cool sodas whilst smugly watching people alighting from taxis and buses to avoid the climb. After the small museum of soldiers’ clothing, weapons and dummies dressed in period items, we entered the ruined castle with fabulous views across the port and city.

The view from Castillo Gibralfaro

The view from Castillo Gibralfaro

After checking out the 130 paintings in the Museo Picasso I discovered I wasn’t a fan and at his birthplace, the Casa Natal Picasso, the audio guide narrative didn’t match what we saw.

The bullring, ‘Plaza de Torros la Malagueta’, was almost empty. I’m not sure I could sit through the gore of a bull fight, but I could imagine it being a spectacular sight. After climbing to the top of the stadium, we made our way to the museum and its 3 rooms full of posters, bejeweled outfits and capes: pink not red and yellow on the other side. The matadors were obviously stars and very small.

Worthy of Strictly Come Dancing!

I particularly enjoyed Museo Carmen Thyssen, a relatively new and modern art gallery where I easily spent a solitary couple of hours with only the guards for company. Here the audio guide was brilliant with lots of information about the most important works of art.

A more quirky location was the English Cemetery with its fascinating history of how non-Catholics, suffered the indignity of a burial upright in the sand until their necks were below the tide line. When the bodies started to surface in the water, the British Consult William Mark, persuaded the authorities to bury the bodies in what became known as the English Cemetery.

We could not leave Spain without a visit to a flamenco show, Kelipé, held in a very small, dark room in the bowels of a shopping centre. Our seats, on the front row and virtually on the dance floor, were fortunately near the door as it was extremely hot. The guitarist and male and female dancers were excellent and there was lots of clapping, stamping of feet, wailing (singing) and sweat pouring down their faces.

Getting into the grove!

Museo Vidrio y Crystal de Malaga, the Museum of glass and crystal, was an unexpected delight. Arriving early the pleasant man who sold us our tickets turned out to be the owner and our guide of his magnificent house. The rooms contained glassware, stained glass windows, paintings furniture and all manner of objects. Many were from Britain and Ireland and the first items we saw were a pair of stained glass windows by William Morris who was born in our home town of Walthamstow. As the windows were mounted at body height we were able to get up close and see the detail and repairs. The display was extensive and the final highlight was a huge gallery of coloured glassware covering one wall.

A stunning display of glass

A stunning display of glass

At the Museo del Vino we had a self guided leisurely tour reading about the grapes, soil types, different wines across the Province of Malaga and the wine making process. Our tour ended with sampling a red and a yellowy white which were not really to our taste, but as the glasses were generously filled, our 10 Euro was well spent.

As the weather was so good, we walked the twenty minutes to the beach, hired a couple of sun beds and spent the day topping up our tan. We didn’t have to walk far along the 9.5km promenade before hitting a plethora of restaurants and bars for lunch.

¡Que rico! Tapas

A review of Cambridge-based ¡Que rico! Tapas

Two years ago, Estefania Led Ramos left Spain and made what she planned to be a temporary move to Cambridge to improve her English.

Deciding she rather liked the city, however, she gave up a career in journalism and communications to set up a catering business, ¡Que rico! Tapas.

As any foodie worth their manchego will know, tapas are small plates of simple, often finger food traditionally served in Andalusian bodegas - a little something to snack on with your copita of sherry.

¡Que rico! translates as “delicious” and is generally applied to food, but can also be used of people – in the same way that we talk of “yummy mummies”.

The business idea behind ¡Que rico! Tapas is three-fold:

– an at-home catering service

– catering for meetings and business lunches

– cooking events.

Estefania invited the CWB household to try her at-home service and turned up one evening with a Mary Poppins bag full of goodies and a handful of printed menus. After half an hour in our kitchen, she called up to say that dinner was ready.

I did not have any sherries to hand, but dug out a selection of southern Rhône wines from the newly-renamed appellation of Grignan-Les-Adhemar to see how they would match.

We started with an appropriately autumnal chestnut soup and mushrooms.

The first time I have had chestnuts in a soup, this was thick, rich and creamy – and disappeared very quickly; the mushrooms (sourced from Cambridge market) were also delicious, adding a contrast of flavour.

Next was a more well-known favorite – Spanish omelette with bread and olive oil.

Not so much an omelette in the familiar sense, this was more a potato cake, sweetened with onions, held together with egg and cooked to toasty perfection on both sides; pure comfort food for autumn.

Chicken croquetas were little pieces of chicken in a sauce, coated with batter and deep fried, reflecting the origins of tapas as often a way to use up left-overs.

The wine for all the lighter tapas was a Viognier from Domaine de Montine – citrussy and zesty with some sweet spice and floral honey aromas, it stood up well to the rich sweetness of the dishes.

The meatballs in almond sauce was exactly as described – hand-made, lean meatballs with a sauce made from oloroso sherry and nibbed almonds.

The two reds struggled a little with this dish – it is not quite either white-wine or red-wine food, but would have matched perfectly with a dry oloroso.

Traditional Spanish food is big on meat, but the final savoury course was Piquillo’s peppers stuffed with mushrooms and served with a sour-cream sauce – sweet, concentrated peppers, earthy mushrooms and a creamy sauce.

Estefania explained that the peppers are first roasted over an open fire, then peeled and stuffed with mushrooms held together with a flour-and-milk paste.

After five generous courses of delicious food, a refreshing lemon sorbet to finsh was the perfect way to end the meal – it came with a gin and tonic gelatine and juniper berries.

To match with this refreshing and slightly bitter dish, I pulled out a bottle of well-chilled Rutherglen Muscat from Stanton and Killeen. I had found the wine a little syrupy and overpowering with mince pies, but well-chilled and faced with the bitterness of the juniper berries, it came into its own.

¡Que rico! Tapas is the latest in a series of innovative food businesses to set up in Cambridge – as the growth of the Mill Road Winter Fair, Eat Cambridge and Cambridge Food and Wine Society have shown, there is definitely a burgeoning interest in superior food in the city and ¡Que rico! Tapas deserves to do well.

Estefania’s food was one of the best meals I have had in a long time – the dishes are simple and traditional and do not aspire to the sort of achingly-hip, knowingly-ironic cleverness that you may find in some of Cambridge’s more edgy restaurants.

For there is only so much too-cool-for-school food that I can take; a diet of foamed vegetables and trios of deconstructed whatevers may have an initial wow factor, but for me becomes tedious – like a day of back-to-back motivational speakers.

And, after a busy weekend day of various fairs and ferrying children to activities, to be served six courses of simple but perfectly-judged, utterly faultless and delicious food in the comfort of our own home by an enthusiastic, accomplished (and very child-friendly) chef was a delight.

If and when Cambridge gets its first sherry bar, I just hope someone approaches ¡Que rico! Tapas to provide the food.

Other related articles

Hidalgo Sherry Dinner With Cambridge Wine Merchants at The Punter

Inder’s Kitchen

Pavitt’s Pies


¡Que rico! Tapas – website, twitter, facebook