Pasaje Esperanto 1
When it comes to good food, us Brits tend to leave the house and go find a decent restaurant. Can't have Mum cocking it up again, can we? But in some parts of Europe you can find restaurants run by someone else's mother who was put on this earth for the sole purpose of feeding someone else's kids with endless plates of homemade grub. Some of them are quite good at it.
Spain is one of those places, but Malaga might not have come top of your list. It's a city after all and the best restaurants in Andalucia are more inclined to chase El Bulli-style innovation, than heart-warming tapas. So it was with double delight that I found a small restaurant in Malaga that takes its food seriously but runs the show like a living room.
Figón de Juan is situated on a back street behind Avenida de Andalucia, and on first inspection it could indeed be someone's house. Inside it was busy (with families) and a flatscreen was tuned into a basketball game in the corner. I found a table next to it and sat down.
The son walked up, smiling, talking 'Andaluth'.
No hablo Andaluth.
*No problemo. Should he read the menu out in English? Or just bring me some food? How hungry am I?*
About 'three quarters' hungry.
*No problemo. Each plate of tapas is one euro.* (The first translation error presumably).
About half way down a glass of chilled Manzanilla the first plate arrived: squid and langoustine kebab with home made crisps. Both the squid and the langoustine were deliciously fresh and rich, with an unusual texture more akin to monkfish that contrasted well with the crisps which were, er, crisp.
Two pimentos were stuffed with what tasted like haggis and goat's cheese. Sounds dodgy but don't write it off - again it was warm and delicious. At this point Mamma appeared with a small crepe filled with tuna and sweet onion, adorned with a balsamic reduction. It was surprisingly harmonious and I found myself wishing to cuddle with the chef.
As I sat with my feet up watching the telly, I tucked into some Iberian pork next, served on a little crostini over a Pedro Ximénez reduction which was delicate and creamy. The chorizo was served in a mini bun and had all the mouth-filling flavour of one of those barbequed steak burgers I can only remember finding at the Royal Highland Show when I was a kid.
I was starting to fill up now but Mamma was having none of it. Her deep fried chorizo and rice balls were moist like a carefully cooked risotto and she scurried back with four more repeat dishes, just in case I forgot to eat for a few days after I left. The bill for all that, including three Manzanillas, was a paltry 19 euros (as each plate did indeed cost only one euro). Wishing I'd thought to bring a bag of washing for Spanish Mum to sort out, I exited through the front door refueled and feeling like the Ready Brek kid.
**Verdict:** superior homemade tapas served by a jolly bunch of surrogate relatives. An easy 5/5.
**Written by:** Bruce Elliott
**Figón de Juan:** Pasaje Esperanto 1, Malaga, Spain. For more information, visit: Restaurantefigondejuan.com