Malaga 2020: Arrival – Rain, Paella & Tapas

I decided to forgo my usual trip to Amsterdam this January and head instead to Malaga in Andalusia, southern Spain. I loved the city when I visited in October 2018 and remembered that it is one of the warmest and sunniest places in Continental Europe during January. There is therefore an irony in the fact that I’ve chosen to come when there’s been an unusual amount of rain. As the plane descended late morning, I saw considerable flooding across the land below and rain accompanied my journey from the airport to my hotel. Fortunately the weather forecast for the next three days that I’m here sees a return to warm, sunny days with highs of 18C and I can only hope they’re right!

I’ve returned to the Salles Hotel Malaga Centro. It’s a very nice central hotel; all I have to do is turn left as I come out of it, cross a bridge over a river, and I’m in the historic centre. It’s easy to walk anywhere I want to go. I arrived around midday and luckily could get into my room straight away. It’s an attractive, comfortable modern room.

I headed out again soon to get some lunch. It was raining and so I decided to go to Cafe Central, one of the city’s most famous cafes, in Plaza de la Constitucion, which I knew from my previous visit. The plaza is a beautiful square, the hub of the historic centre, and a fabulous place to ‘hang out’.

Even wet with rain, it’s beautiful. I didn’t feel it was a day to sit outside at the cafe, though some people were. I went in and found a table at the back. This area leads round to a tapas bar area, decorated in typical Moorish tiles and very attractive. However, I took a table in the main area and asked for a menu. Something hot and warming was on my mind!

It was the kind of menu that comes with photos and when I saw paella, I decided that was what I wanted. It’s quite difficult to find places serving it to one person; it’s usually a minimum of 2 people dish. The Spanish traditionally eat paella at lunchtime; eating rice in the evening isn’t thought to be good for the digestion. So, a paella lunch was perfect on my arrival.

I chose seafood paella and it was delicious; really good, with prawns, clams, mussels and squid. Malaga is famed for its seafood. Paella can be quite dry but this was nicely moist and I enjoyed it a lot. I ordered a small beer to go with it and an espresso at the end. The bill came to €18.70.


It was a great start to my stay. The food was good, the service friendly and efficient. I wandered round the city for a while afterwards but eventually decided to head back to the hotel rather than battle with the heavier rain.

The rain was relentless, but around 6.30 I decided to head out again and find somewhere for an aperitif. I had a table booked at a restaurant for 7.30. Going back to Cafe Central seemed the most sensible option if I wanted to sit inside. I entered via the bar but it was empty and a waiter indicated a table inside the main area.

I asked him to recommend a local dry white wine – which actually came from Cadiz. I liked that he poured a little and waited for me to try it and see if I liked it. He asked if I’d like some olives with it and I said, yes please, assuming I’d pay extra. But when the bill came it seemed the olives were complimentary – I paid just €3.30.

It wasn’t far to El Otro Tapeo de Cervantes (connected to El Tapeo de Cervantes, which was full when I tried to book and they recommended their new restaurant).

Inside it was a typical cosy Spanish tapas bar. I was warmly welcomed by Gabriel, who’d emailed me about the booking. Did I want a tall table with stool or a low table. I opted for the bar stool.

I was quite early but it filled up as I was eating. Gabriel suggested I order 2 raciones (half portions) and 2 tapas (small). I asked for a glass of local red wine – he recommended a wine from Ronda.


There was a blackboard full of specials as well as the main menu. I chose a tapas size of a ‘tomato dip’ which was really like salmorejo with quail’s egg and Iberian ham. Wow! It was amazing; wonderful.

Fried calamari is a popular option but this squid was perfectly cooked, tender and delicious.

The cod dish with leek purée was a ‘special’ and excellent.

My final choice was grilled mushrooms with asparagus and ham; also very good.

The food was fabulous (the bill for food + wine was €27.80). I thought as I ate about how wonderful the Spanish are at this kind of food. It reminded me of being in San Sebastián and the glorious pintxos I enjoyed there. Such dishes are truly works of art as well as being fantastic food.

The rain had stopped but it was still chilly and the air damp; deep puddles lay underfoot which required careful navigation to avoid a soaking. I slowly made my way back to the welcoming lights of the Salles Hotel.

I may not have found the sun I was looking for, but I found some great places to eat and drink, friendly locals and a city that’s still beautiful in the rain. A great first day.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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