Whilst staying in Malaga at the Salles Centro Hotel, we frequently walked along the pedestrianised Puerto Nova to reach the historic centre. Here we discovered a real find, a tapas bar and restaurant called Hierbabuena. It had a relatively limited menu, but the real treat was that a ‘bottella vino blanco’ was only €12 when in many other places it ranged from €15 to €25. As it was our nearest bar, we frequently stopped for a bottle either before or after dinner and enjoyed a generous portion of complimentary olives.
Whilst the inside restaurant looked huge, the September weather was still warm and sunny and so we always sat outside. We tried to get one of the tables at the front rather than one down the narrow side passage, as the restaurant’s second advantage was that it was ideal for people watching. There were always lots of people passing by, but it was also a bar frequented by locals and we quickly got to recognise several of them.
We also got to know the staff and our favourite was a young man, who was so incredibly efficient, friendly and fast moving, he must have been exhausted at the end of his shift.
We also ate there a couple of times. The tapas menu was fairly short and simple, but if you were eating, paper place mats were provided along with a generously filled basket of fresh bread and a packet of mini breadsticks (which always went in the handbag for later after we realised there was a €1 cover charge). We tried several tapas, ranging from €2.5 to €4, which included pork skewers (pinchito cerdo – five tender chunks of grilled meat with a garlic mayonnaise); artichoke and Ibérico jamon (tapa alcachofas – a grilled whole artichoke with small cubes of fried jamon sprinkled on top and a balsamic glaze); tortilla de patatas (a large deep slice of just warm omelette with aioli); and a racion (slightly larger than a tapa) of albondigas (five meatballs in a rich gravy). Interestingly many of the meat tapas were served with a small portion of chips, which I didn’t complain about.
Having seen the breakfast menu we returned, as our hotel package was room only. Dos café con leche, a freshly squeezed orange juice and a serrano ham and cheese bocadilla (baguette), big enough for us to share, was great value at €8.70.
On our second night, having seen staff and food going between the bar and one virtually opposite called Azahar, we realised there was a connection. The menu was exactly the same and if we felt Hierbabuena was a little busy or noisy, we opted to sit outside at this slightly smaller bar.