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ANDALUCÍA - MÁLAGA - A JANUARY TAPAS BAR CRAWL IN MARBELLA

It is not easy to have tapas bar crawl in Marbella. At least, not in the strict sense of the term, as the bars are not very close together. So we were pleasantly surprised with our evening stroll in mid-January.

The geography of the town is quite peculier, without a clearly defined old town or centre, which means, there can be a bit of walking between bars. There are various styles here, including tapas and pintxos, markets and seafood cuisine, from traditional small wineries, to flash, gaudy looking, new designer gastro bars.

Please note, it is always best to try and avoid the franchises, which are ruining the local culture.

Our first stop was closed but we have been here before, so, it is recommended.

SIDRERÍA BAR Y TAPAS PACO Calle Peral, 18, 29601 Marbella A Traditional Asturian tapas bar in the modern style, with tapas like artichoke hearts sprinkled with Santoña anchovies, grilled anchovies with tomato dressing and authentic Asturian fabada, plus, of course, Asturian Sidra.

Next stop, which fortunately was open, was

BAR EL ESTRECHO Calle San Lázaro 12, 29601 Marbella, Málaga

Open since 1954 and famous for its Russian salad, which people are known to come especially for, it was excellent!

There is a short list of decent wines or a beer with which to accompany your tapas.

You can enjoy tapas at the bar or sit in the restaurant area for a full meal.

We had the famous Ensalada Rusa (Russian salad)

Carrillada (pork cheeks)

Sardinas de límon (sardines deep-fried in a lemon batter)

Hidden down a narrow passageway, this authentic bar is busy with locals.

All served with friendly and helpful service.

Across the street, is

TABERNA LA NIÑA DEL PISTO Calle San Lázaro 2, 29601 Marbella, Málaga

The bar inside is really old, it's like arriving back in the 1970s but the food is very good and is cooked to order by the two lady cooks in the open kitchen to the side of the bar. There are many sherrys on display behind the bar.

You can have tapas at the bar or sit down in the restaurant area.

We tried the boqurones di Donosti (served slightly warm)

Tosta de Sardina Ahumada (smoked sardines on toast)

And from the specials board, cocochas (deep fried, battered hake cheeks)

This was all washed down with a glass of Albariño, Fino en Rama and a Monteagudo Cream Sherry.

We left the narrow street and the next stop, down towards the marina, was

BODEGA LA VENENCIA Avenida de Miguel Cano, 15, 29602 Marbella

José González or Pepe for friends, opened in 1985, a small winery in San Pedro de Alcántara, La Venencia. More than three decades later, he has two restaurants including this very busy one in Marbella.

The food is the typical food of an Andalusian bodeguita, where you can taste high-quality Ibeéian produce, like, Jamón de Bellota 5 Jotas, Guijuelo from Salamanca and Manchego cheese.

As well as cochinillo (suckling pig) Rabo de Toro (oxtail) and chuletas de Cordero lechal (baby lamb chops).

The bar was very busy,

Even in January.

Our next visit, was to

BACK! Calle Pablo Casals, 8, 29602 Marbella

David Olivas and Fabián Villar, chef and sommelier, respectively, are the creators of Back! A colourful and informal restaurant with a focus on traditional Andalucian cuisine, which has been updated with touches from around the world.

Although it does state this is a tapas bar and restaurant, it is probably more of a restaurant.

When we sat down and ordered only a few dishes, we got some funny looks.

Once we explained, that we were on a tapas bar crawl and were trying a few bars, everything was fine.

We had a complimentary free soup starter

Wonderful chicle-foie Micuit (homeade foie gras)

Tapa vieira (Scallop tapa)

Lentejes grisadas (gray lentils)

This is probably a place to enjoy a longer sit down meal

This is what we did on a visit in July 2020 as they have a very good value seven course menu.

This time we had a stunning bottle of La Rioja Alta 890 2004

Cerdo de castaño con salsa de rodaballo (chestnut pork with turbot sauce)

There is outside seating for warm evenings.

Then onto our final stop, which unfortunately, was just about to close.

BODEGA SAN BERNABÉ

Calle Carlos Mackintosh, 3, 29602 Marbella

It seems the bars close earlier in January than the rest of the year.

Again, we have been to this bar in the past.

This is a minuscule bodeguita, one of the very few small traditional bars that remain in Marbella.

The service is charming and friendly.

It's a great place to try their quality preserves, like, embutidos ibéricos (Iberian sausages) morcilla de hígado (liver black pudding) chicharrones (pork rinds) tostas de pringá (pulled pork bun) plus the usual anchovies and boquerones.

In the end they managed to russell us up some boquerones and anchovies

All in all, quality wines and food, in a cosy, sometimes chaotic, atmosphere.

Next day, we tried the tapas at the excellent but relatively unknown

EL FIESTA EL BAR DEL MERCAO Mercado Municipal de Marbella, puesto 38 Calle Francisco de Quevedo, 29601 Marbella

Rubén Pérez has been serving in this bar at the Municipal Market of Marbella for some time. The Fiesta is one of the favourite places of Michelin starred chefs Dani García and Juan José Carmona amongst others.

You must try the sandwiches with roasted meat, especially the El Fiesta (roasted meat, omelette and a slice of tomato). The dishes of the day and their paellas are also good. It's nice, to sit on the outside terrace, on a sunny day.

Afterwards, you can have a stroll around the market and maybe buy some of the produce on offer.

The very friendly staff described all the fish and where they came from and gave us a few tasters!

Zamburiñas from Galicia (smaller, scallop like and some say, tastier)

Málaga concha fina (thin shell Málaga clams)

Vegetables

Many deli items.

You can also have a few oysters and a glass of champagne.

The Market is hard to find, being above a public car park, which may be why it is not that well known.

Other interesting bars we did not make on this trip but have been to before, include

BLANCO BAR MARBELLA Urbanizacion Parque Elviria L1, 29604 Marbella, Málaga Classics include tuna tartar, patatas bravas and excellent croquetas. Good wines, reasonably priced for the style of the bar. Seating is mainly outside, so, warm clothes, jeans, jacket etc recommended from October onwards.

PIKARO GASTROBAR & COCKTAIL LOUNGE Puerto Deportivo Virgen del Carmen 4, 29603 Marbella

Don’t be put off by the plastic chairs, the food, drinks & service are good. Located in the marina with good-sized tapas and value for money.

LE KUNE BAR DE PINTXOS Edif. Granada, Avenida de Fontanilla 1, 29601 Marbella This is a pintxo bar that is always busy. Many good items are available. Cod pil-pil, breaded hake, battered pork trotters, grilled foie gras, blood sausage and chistorra.

TABERNA CASA CURRO Calle Pantaleón 7, 29601 Marbella

A very lively and busy spot in this small street. Stop for a beer and a few excellent tapas.

LA SACRISTA BY CASA CURRO Calle Nuestra Señora de Gracia 5, 29601 Marbella

Very good food, where everything is homemade by the owner's mother. It's like popping into grandmas house.

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