Araboka – traditional goes modern in Malaga old quarter
You only need to take yourself very slightly off the beaten track to find one of the best restaurants in Malaga. Araboka lies bang in the centre of the old quarter – the Picasso Museum is literally metres away – but unlike the tourist trap venues round the corner, this restaurant offers fine wining and dining at very reasonable prices. If you love a modern take on those traditional dishes that Andalusia does so well, make a beeline for Araboka.
What’s on the menu
Araboka’s culinary philosophy is based on traditional dishes known in-house as “cocina de herencia” (inherited cooking). Manager Antonio Fernández has taken the concept of recipes passed down from generation to generation and together with chef Pachu Barrera, has brought them back up-to-date. The result? Tastes that are familiar on the palate but also slightly unusual.
You’ll find dishes based on recipes by Antonia, Reme, Virginia… traditional Malaga at its best where local ingredients take centre stage. Seasonal produce is also important at Araboka where the menu changes depending on what’s in season at the time.
Signature dishes include tartare of Malaga salchichón (cold cured sausage) with raisins, fried octopus, shoulder of Malaga kid goat and the daily hotpot. There’s also a daily fish special (based on what the chef bought in the market) plus different tapas that ring the changes weekly.
Araboka offers the popular sharing plates option giving you the chance to try a variety of dishes. Another alternative is the tasting menu that includes 5 courses paired with wine. Interestingly enough, the pairing menu isn’t fixed – Antonio adapts it depending on what’s in the kitchen on the day and to each client’s tastes. If you’re new to Araboka, expect a feast of typical Malaga produce paired with the appropriate local wine.
All about wining and dining
Araboka describes itself as a “place of wine and food” and is one of the Malaga restaurants with the best selection of wines. The wine list runs (very) long and includes lots of local Malaga wines as well as some of the biggest names from the Spanish wine scene. There’s also an excellent choice of organic wines. The list helpfully provides the age of each wine but let yourself by guided by Antonio who really knows his stuff.
We also like the selection of “wines of the day”, a list of at least 10 wines that you can buy by the glass. This means you can try a selection during the meal rather than sticking to just one. Araboka sells wine to takeaway too – ask which ones are available.
Araboka does both traditional and modern tapas. And well. We tried the salchichón tartare (in the image below), smoothly delicious and the raisins provide the perfect touch of sweetness. We also went for the croquettes – one of Spain’s most traditional homemade recipes and every family has their own. Araboka’s were just as good as my mother-in-law’s (which is saying something). I loved the mint mayonnaise that gives a tasty edge to the meat stew croquettes.
The toasted noodles (fideos tostados) with prawns tasted of the sea as they should and had a satisfying crunch to their texture. This is one of the first dishes Antonio created and it still ranks as a customer favourite.
This section of the menu is short but sweet. There are just 4 choices on the menu with a few more on the weekly suggestions list. But all are delicious so you can’t go wrong. We chose the kid goat and the fish of the day, corvina with saffron sauce and tempura vegetables in this case. Both came oozing with flavour and despite their very modern presentation you know these are tried and tested recipes that have been passed down for generations.
Other options include Iberian pork cheek stew, another Andalusian classic. The Araboka take comes with pumpkin and bitter almond, giving a sophisticated sweet and sour taste to the meat. Tuna features as one of the staple fish of the day as does yet another classic, cod, usually served with a potato purée and black pudding.
The final section on the Araboka menu is the shortest in house – you get to choose between just 4 desserts. But although the choice is short, it’s also very sweet. Like the rest of the menu, this one chops and changes with the seasons. We shared one of the latest arrivals – baba with limoncello, with a nicely tart lemon curd centre and a comfit of cherries whose sharpness contrasts (again) with the very sweet baba.
Good for vegetarians?
When you first look at the menu, there doesn’t appear to be much for non-meat eaters, but look again and there’s a good choice of options. Also, chef Pachu will adapt dishes to suit vegetarians – just let the staff know you don’t eat meat or fish.
Araboka can also cater for gluten and lactose intolerances, but you need to let the restaurant know 24 hours in advance.
Perfect if you’re sightseeing in the Malaga city centre. We love Calle Pedro de Toledo, an oasis of peace and quiet tucked away from the very busy Calle Císter. Eboka, with a striking ochre façade, is at the top of the street before it narrows and takes you through to the back of the Picasso Museum where you’ll find the lovely patio and famous fig tree.
Araboka offers two dining spaces. The outside terrace makes the most of the quiet location and is perfect for a spot of autumn or winter sunshine at lunchtime. Or a very pleasant al fresco dinner in the hotter summer months.
Inside, you’ll find a light and airy space that winds round to the dining room whose large windows look out on the street. Stunning leaf-detail wallpaper provides the feature wall along with deep blue on the rest. Seats are comfy and there’s space enough for each table to feel separate from all the others.
Unlike lots of restaurants in Malaga, Araboka doesn’t apply a service charge (yey!). Diners get complimentary bread and olive oil on the table.
Very professional and we found the service exceptional. You’re looked after very well and staff take time to explain what’s in each dish. The suggestions for wine are excellent. Things can get a little less slick when the restaurant’s busy so this isn’t a venue to come to if you’re in a rush. But, then again, all good food should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace as is the traditional in Spanish culture.
While Araboka isn’t one of the cheapest restaurants in Malaga, it does offer exceptional quality and excellent service. And compared to the tourist traps not so very far away, you get far more for your money here. Portions are good-sized, particularly the mains.
There’s a selection of tasting menus with prices ranging from €35 to €49. The latter is 5 courses paired with wine – note that this option is available per table only.
Starters €5-14 (croquettes are €1 each)
Good for kids?
Like most restaurants in Malaga, Araboka is family-friendly so kids are welcome. I personally wouldn’t take young children who probably won’t appreciate the food, but teens who like to try new things would enjoy it.
Why put Araboka on your list of restaurants in Malaga
- Good, traditional food
- Great choice of wine for pairing
- Excellent service
- Good value
Calle Pedro de Toledo
Tel: 952 124 671
Note: we always go incognito to the venues included in our Malaga restaurants reviews section and we always pay in full for every item on our bill. This way we guarantee that we receive service and food just as any other customer does. And if they don’t make our criteria for the best in Malaga, they don’t make the section. It’s as simple as that.