The last frontier to the real life lies past the ‘Jaboneros’ stream, as a counterpoint to the Malaga of cruise ships and museums. In ‘El Palo’ you can have grilled sardines, but also Hawaiian ‘poké’. You can go paddle surfing or row in a ’jábega’ (fishing boat from Malaga). Do you want to discover its secrets? Come along with us!
Without losing its naval heritage out of sight, this neighborhood is modernizing in a slow but steady way to such an extent that it has become the new temptation in Malaga.
Arnault Scheidhauer was born in France, in the Normandy region. When he was ten, he moved to ‘El Palo’. He grew up, and for a couple of years he traveled all over Asia, visiting countries like Nepal, Myanmar or Laos. Finally, he decided to open a restaurant in Malaga. He weighed his options, analyzed the center of Malaga and came to the conclusion that this wasn’t his place.
So he returned to his roots, and looked for a small place with personality, under the recognizable green shaded buildings of ‘Echevarría del Palo’. He named it ‘La Revuelta’, and took the flavors from his travels and his know-how as a chef with him.
As a kitchen artisan, Arnault offers dishes with a clear personal stamp, which he serves right at the bar, so you can see there are no secrets. “Everything is fresh, made at the moment”, he says.
To help you choose from the menu, Marta (a girl from Cantabria that he met in Barcelona), tells you the story of each dish, whether it’s sea urchin with rice, seaweed with parmesan cheese, a grouper hamburger with oyster sauce, sea bass taco with truffle or crab in the wok with udon and a chili custard.‘La Revuelta’ celebrated its first birthday in the end of April and has turned into a local culinary reference. A good example to show that Malaga is more than its historic center and that something is changing in a neighborhood that has always lived bound to tradition: El Palo.
The area has converted to the last frontier with reality in a city that today lives from, and for, tourism. With an offer that doesn’t stop growing, a lot of people fear Malaga will become the next Barcelona (if it hasn’t done so already).
Nonetheless, territory of ‘El Palo’ still shows a face that resembles that of a few decades ago. And, although it hangs on to its history and its essence, it’s clear that modernity is welcomed, as long as it comes with common sense and respect.
This is why in the last years some new places (La Revuelta, for example) opened to refresh the panorama of El Palo, without it moving too far from what it really is: a place where the people are the main asset. And where they still say they’re going ‘down to Malaga’ when they get on the bus.
The ‘Jaboneros’ stream (always dry unless it’s pouring down) is the imaginary border between the capital of the Costa del Sol and the fisher’s village where the streets only got paved in the mid 80’s, and which looks like a small town.
It has a football field, a market, a police station and even its own cemetery. There’s not even one hotel, but there are two beaches and a mountain: you can go up to the hills known as ‘las tetas de Málaga’, ascending on the ‘Villa Cristina’ slope and passing through the ‘Pinares de San Antón’ urbanization, where the chameleons live.
They even have a team in the traditional fishing boat league, and a construction competition that is on its way to its 51st edition, organized by ‘Peña el Palustre’, where every Sunday you can hear the numbers being called out for the popular ‘Bingo’ game.
Apart from that; gastronomy, townhouses, tranquility, life outside, and neighbors that know each other. You can even find work from urban artist ‘Invader’. These are just some of the reasons why a neighborhood –that was never considered especially ‘great’ in the city- is now one of the most sought-after places to live.
‘El Palo’ has its best days in July, celebrating the festivity of ‘Virgen del Carmen’, patron saint of the fishermen, that honors her with a procession that leads right into the sea. A lot of those fishermen still live in small houses by the beach, with the boardwalk as their living room.
It’s easy to spot the families enjoying their lunch at the doors of their houses, as well as the dinners that go on until dawn, with the sound of Parcheesi tiles as a soundtrack.
In front of them sometimes young foreigners pass by on a bike, or practicing paddle surf thanks to ‘Kayak y Bike’, a business that is also a good example of ‘El Palo’s’ update to the 21st century. Its responsible is José Dominguez, but in the neighborhood everyone knows him as ‘Dino’.
The crisis ended his career as an electrician, but his ingenuity and efforts allowed him to convert a house full of rubble by the sea into a shop where you can rent kayaks, surf boards and bicycles, and where a lot of the neighbors keep their gear to practice nautical sports.
“I went to Nerja and saw that this was a good idea that nobody had started yet here, so I took the plunge”, says this ‘paleño’, grandson of Cenachero (traditional fish vendor from Malaga) that knew how to use the Mediterranean to his advantage.
“There’s almost no fishing anymore, but this is our treasure and I wanted to make a living of it”, he adds, whilst speaking English to some clients that just came back from a two-wheeled tour.
In the shop, also his home, a bar and three tables give you the opportunity to freshen up after all the effort. The business just turns one year, and the summer hustle almost leaves him no time to rest, thanks to tourism. In the winter it’s the locals that enjoy the climate of Malaga to go and have a ‘walk on water’.
Among the houses facing the beach you can find some of the most vintage ‘chiringuitos’ in the city, especially now that the historic ones of neighboring district ‘Pedregalejo’ are disappearing at a dizzy rate.
One of the classics is ‘El Zagal’. This ‘chiringuito’ first saw the light in 1971 as a tavern, a time when Jesús Jiménez ran around the tables when he was little, and his mother, Antonia, started making her prestigious paellas. Back then, they served beer and the fresh catch the fishermen brought in every morning. Today, Jesús runs the place with his brothers, although it still belongs to his father (José El Zagal).
Of course it doesn’t have ‘chill out’ music, nor do they serve cocktails with names impossible to pronounce. In exchange, they offer some of the best smoked sardines of Malaga, and grilled fish of the day: the best of which is the bream grilled on a cane skewer. “And while you’re waiting for the food, you order a ‘caña’ (small beer) and time flies by”, says Jesús. You could also order a tasty glass of sangria, or even take a dip in sea, because the beach is right there, between the fishers boats and the ‘chambaos’.