Saturday, September 6, 2014


We were five at table for lunch, all us semi-professional eaters—cooks, food writers, restaurant critics and guides. (See, I totally avoided saying “foodies.”) Málaga food mavens.

Our leader was Shawn Hennessey, she of Sevilla Tapas (I wrote about Shawn and Sevilla tapas here ), who was spending a week in Málaga. Shawn brought us together and chose a venue. (I had balked at going all the way to Málaga to eat sushi, so it had to be Spanish or, anyway, “Spanish.”)

Here I am at lunch with new friends, from left, Andrew Forbes , travel writer and communications consultant ; Victor Garrido, Málaga guide, and Fred Shively, photographer . Shawn Hennessey took the photo.
So, here we were at El Tres, which bills itself as “alta cocina clásica,” a mash-up of Spanish, Basque and French, right in the center of Málaga—not a tapas bar, but a proper restaurant (wonderfully comfortable chairs and welcome air conditioning on a blazing-hot day), part of Grupo Gorki which has several restaurants and bars in Málaga.

Presented with the carta, the menu, we dithered. For €47 per head (including wine), we could have a nine-course tasting menu. Or, we could exercise choice, with a la carte starters ranging from €12 to €23 and mains from €18 to €28. Many of the a la carte choices offered the option of media-ración, a half-serving.

A tasting menu is a good way to get to know a restaurant’s specialties. But, then you are locked in to what the chef wants you to eat. Shawn, who has plenty of dining-out experience, solved the dilemma—we ordered half-portions of eight different dishes on the a la carte menu—three starters, five mains—and split each of them between five of us (Shawn is an expert at divving up portions), providing a generous bite of each.

Here’s what was for lunch.

Porra antequerana
Two taste-teasers—a classic porra antequerana, sort of thick gazpacho cream with garnishes of chopped egg and ham, and a leek terrine with a smear of monkfish liver pâté and parmesan cream.

Porra is very similar to salmorejo, a Córdoba dish. Someone asked me, "what's the difference?" I don't rightly know. (My recipe for salmorejo is  here.)

Smoked eel terrine--divine.

Starter. Silky and rich, smoked eel terrine layered with sweet williams pears. Gorgeous. Best-liked dish by all of us, even Andrew who claimed he wouldn’t eat eel! Of course, we were famished and our palates were fresh.

Vegetable menestra.

Starter. Menestra de verduras con velouté of jamón ibérico, a vegetable melange, each one cooked to crisp perfection, with the unctuous ibérico ham as garnish.

Smoky rice with octopus and rabbit.

Starter. Arroz meloso de conejo y pulpo de roca al sarmiento (rice with rabbit and octopus, smoked over vine shoots). This was my favorite dish of all. Meloso rice has a juicy, creamy texture, somewhat like risotto. The smokiness brought together the mar y montaña—sea and mountain—of pairing octopus with rabbit.

Hake in green sauce with clams.
Entrée. Merluza de pincho en salsa verde, almejas y patatas confitadas (line-caught hake in green sauce, clams and confit potatoes). My second favorite dish—a classic rendition of a Basque dish (my recipe for this dish appears here.

Monkfish with artichoke.
Entrée. Rape envuelto en guanciale con crema de cangrejos y alcachofas (monkfish wrapped in cured pork cheek with crab cream and artichokes). The sauce was based on a traditional Málaga dish, with ground almonds as a thickener. Monkfish is a “toothsome” fish, as chewy as meat. The cured pork made it unusual.

Juan José López prepares steak tartare.

Entrée. Steak tartar de solomillo de ternera gallega (steak tartare made with Galician beef, prepared tableside). Classic.Galician beef is the finest.

Shawn snaps the steak tartar and tweets it to the world. (Follow her on Twitter @SevillaTapas.)

One bite--crispy roast pig.

Entrée.  Cochinillo con su piel crujiente y confitura de manzana (suckling pig with crispy skin and apple confit). Succulent. Time to switch to red wine!

Squab with carrot purée.
Entrée. Pichón deshuesado con puré de zanahoria y tostada de higaditos (boned squab with carrot purée and toasts topped with livers). Loved this, my third favorite.

The chef at El Tres is a young malagueña, Rosa Serrano, who has been in the kitchen since the restaurant opened in April.

Our made-to-order tasting menu worked fine. Enough food and a wonderful variety of tastes. Personally, one bite of steak tartare was enough. I’d rather have my beef with nothing. And, I could happily have eaten much more of the hake in green sauce and the squab with carrot purée. Good reason to return to El Tres.

El Tres
Calle Strachan 7; Málaga center
(34) 952 22 33 64
Open for lunch and dinner; closed Sunday.

One bite--smoky rice with octopus and rabbit.
One bite--flaky hake in green sauce with clam and potato.
One bite--menestra of vegetables with ham.


  1. Hi Janet,

    I am a student investigating the Spanish cuisine and I was hoping you would be able to answer a few questions regarding the cuisine as part of my research:

    What are the main principles of Spanish cuisine?
    What are the common ingredients used in Spanish cooking?

    Thank you for your time.

    Pallavi (

    1. Pallavi: Spain has a Mediterranean cuisine. The most important ingredient is OLIVE OIL. For much more about the culinary geography, see this blog post