Continuing my tips for exquisite budget bites round Spain, here’s the latest from Malaga – the good, the bad though no ugly. With tough economic times all round, prices are competitive and announced in black and white…


I know I am not the first to discover El Marisquero, an unassuming little backstreet shellfish bar, but it’s definitely worth flagging up. Right behind the cornucopian market (Mercado Central, calle Atarazanas), of which I never tire, this little hole in the wall place whips up some fabulous fresh shellfish a la plancha – on the grill. Here they sizzle…


and here I eat…


You can devour a plate of fresh prawns, razorclams, clams or scallops at the bar with a glass of Rioja or a beer, or sit down at a formica table in a side-room. Both sections are open to the street, but there’s little traffic, so you can relax. Best of all, the owner has installed lots of hooks beneath the bar so that inveterate marketeers such as myself can suspend their bags of goodies. Intelligent! Don’t expect anything smart, this is designed for hungry market-people on the run. A plate of clams is 9€ and a racion of succulent prawns 4.50€.
El Marisquero is open daily at Calle Olozaga 7


One place in Malaga I am sad to say has NOT survived well, recession or not, is the once-fabulous, still famous old bodega on the Alameda: Antigua Casa de Guardia. Too picturesque by half, too much exposure and too many tourists have dealt the death-blow and it is now a theatrical line-up of old men serving stuttering tourists. Beautifully aged casks filled with sweet wines from Malaga’s stark mountains line the wall behind the long wooden bar where prices are chalked in front of you when you order. 1.60€ for a glass of Muscatel straight from the barrel seemed steep to me (though cheap in any other country), specially in these dark days of Iberian crisis. Nor did the dispenser of tapas have anything to write home about, so I abstained. At peak afternoon pecking period, there were only carousing foreigners – making it a less than authentic experience. Maybe it picked up in the evening, I hope so for the sake of the weary looking barmen: seen it all, answered the same questions in broken Spanish thousands of times – where will it end?
Bodega Antigua Casa de Gardia, Alameda Principal 18


Finally, a bizarre but delicious market find. While scouring the snacking temptations (the usual juicy olives of all shapes, colours and textures, tiny dried figs, almonds et al) I came across these zingy strips of grapefruit skin, dried, lightly salted and wonderfully crunchy. Now back in freezing London, I watch them patiently, awaiting sunnier days for snacking them while sipping G&Ts, imagining how perfect the pairing will be. Outside, snow falls gently.