Ahh, the Med…. The name alone conjures images of sand swept beaches and sapphire blue waters, lingering sunshine and lazy days, romanticism, and fleeting moments of amor. Picture the fishing boats small and large bobbing between the gentle waves near the coast as squawking seagulls circle above, the taste of salt delivered on the breeze.

The Andalusian port city of Malaga embodies these sensations for visitors and locals alike, in this seafront city that refuses to be rushed and never feels hurried. And although Malaga enjoys a bit of jamon iberico, the famed Spanish ham, as much as the rest of the country, the city has a distinctive appreciation for fresh and delicious seafood.

Along the entire coast of Malaga province you will find charming little “chiringuito” restaurants peddling simple, yet fresh and delicious seafood along with your refreshment of choice to temper the heat of the day. The food markets provide similar testament to the locals’ taste for fine and fresh seafood, and any casual observer will see that the locals know the difference. Then of course, there are the innumerable restaurants in Malaga city and the surrounding areas providing an honest exaltation of all that the Mediterranean has to offer.

With this abundance of respect for the fruits and treasures of the sea, it’s not difficult to find a hugely satisfying taste of the Med. However, this round up should help you find the best of the best.

Market faire, for the DIY seafood chef

For those wishing to select their own bounty from the sea and want assurance that quality is key, the historic Atarazanas food market in Malaga city is a must. The sea food arrives early each morning as the fishermen haul their catch and deliver it directly to market. The pride is noticeable in their presentation and pitch, and the competition is fierce enough to keep them honest. You’ll find all manner of Mediterranean fish and sea food, including quite a few creatures that might have you wondering what sort of Jurassic remnant could end up on the menu that evening.

A more serious and less refined market lies to the east of Malaga in La Caleta de Velez. More of an auction than a market, “la lonja,” as it is known, brings together the fishermen directly with buyers on a more industrial scale, with sale by weight limited to chefs and business owners unless you find a wily and connected guide. Nothing presented has been caught more than a few hours prior and this is as fresh as it gets, often still live.

Most towns and cities on the Andalusian coast will have a noteworthy market for fresh seafood. Ask about or search for the “mercado municipal” or “mercado central” in the area.

Seafood served fresh

If an effort free seafood feast is more your style, you’re spoiled for choice across Malaga province. The restaurants are too numerous to list, but there are quite a few that are of a distinctively higher level than most.

To the west of Malaga city, in Fuengirola, La Solana restaurant (http://lasolanarestaurant.com/web/) serves some of the most exciting seafood plates in all of Malaga province. Chef Abraham Garrote, known as “the seafood chef” (if that is any indication) passes by the market personally each morning to see what’s fresh and what inspires. The menu is never set and his creativity leads the way, offering you a unique and memorable experience.

The nearby Restaurante Sollo (http://www.sollo.es), with it’s newly awarded Michelin star, offers a similarly unforgettable dining experience. Chef Diego Gallegos delivers a bit more of a niche approach. Known as the “caviar chef,” he sources the world’s first organic caviar farm in RioFrio, Granada for a variety of caviar and sturgeon focused dishes, all impeccably presented and creatively formulated.

In Malaga city, El Refectorium Malagueta (http://elrefectorium.es) offers a simplistic but perfectly prepared approach to fish and seafood. There’s a feeling of tradition here and it’s always lively, loud and busy. A large portion of the daily offering will be presented as “off-menu specials” owing to the daily dependence on whatever has been delivered from market, and none of it will disappoint.

The cheerful “chiringuitos”

Finally, it doesn’t get much more chilled-out than a stop at one of Malaga’s “chiringuitos.” At one of these little restaurant/bars sat right on the sand before the sea, the server may conceal a look of doubt or disappointment if you happen to order anything other than seafood (the options for which will be limited). These will not offer anything “sophisticated” unless you consider that the simplest preparation of fish and seafood is often the best. Stick your feet in the sand, raise a cold glass to your parched lips and then tuck in to a typical “fritura Malagueña,” the classic fried fish selection lighter than tempura and without a hint of grease, some clams or mussels straight from the sea, or the traditional sardine “espeto.” These tasty little bites are cooked on bamboo skewers over an open fire on the beach, as they have been for centuries.

Try for example, the Chiringuito Gutierrez Playa, Chiringuito El Tintero, or Baños del Carmen in Malaga, Chiringuito Marina Playa in Rincon de la Victoria, or Chiringuito mi Paquito further east in Torre del Mar, for example. Or, wherever you may find yourself along the beach in Malaga province, stride right up to the nearest chiringuito (never far away) and see if it draws you in. If not, continue on another 100m to the next and try again.

Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto.

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Source: A Luxury Travel Blog