The months without an ‘R’ in them are starting, and we travel south on the search for sardines. Malaga welcomes us with a gift in the shape of fish: prepare yourself to lick your fingers and discover the taste of the Mediterranean thanks to the ‘espetos’.
Come on, we’re leaving. Never have six sardines on a stick gone such a long way! A boat full of sand, some cane from the river, fresh sardines, olive wood embers and the perfect amount of salt.These are the main ingredients for a good ‘espeto’. When the winter is over and the sardines are slim after spawning, come the months without an ‘r’, in which they regain their strength and all of the fat that gives them its flavor.
In the province of Malaga there are tons of ‘chiringuitos’ where you can enjoy this simple but exquisite dish, and prices that go from a euro and 50 cents up to about ten. That’s why we’re embarking on a route on the ancient ‘National road 340’, which will lead us from one beach to another, from Nerja to Manilva, until we see sardines in our dreams’
Nerja is a city of blue-skied summers, streets in which you hear a British accent more often than a Spanish one, and a balcony for the whole of Europe to look over at Africa. Its coastline is the most appealing one of Malaga. And not only because of the crystal clear waters of the Natural reserve ‘Los Acantilados de Maro y Cerro Gordo’, but also because you can find some of the most popular ‘chiringuitos’ there.
One of the classics is ‘AYO’, on the Burriana beach, where a large part of the series that starred ‘Chanquete’ was filmed. It’s too bad they don’t have ‘espetos’ there, only grilled sardines, which is similar but not entirely the same. For the nostalgic, this stop is a must. Also for those who want to have seconds: when you order the first plate of paella you can repeat as many times as you want, until you’ve got enough, for the same price
But let’s move on. Without a hurry, and in the mood to enjoy, the best ‘espetos’ route parts from Nerja across the ancient national road 340. In the outskirts of the town there’s a beach called ‘Playazo’, with a spacious parking where you can leave your car without worries. A short walk of about 150 meters leads us to the first temple of sardines: the ‘chiringuito’ Mauri.
Today, the restaurant is run by two brothers, Francis and Manu, although their parents opened it in June 1990. Ever since then, the surroundings have maintained more or less intact -kind of a rarity in the Costa del Sol- turning it into a very special place. So special, that you will dig in to the ‘espetos’ the same way they did fifty years ago: in a little garden with some grass, next to the sand from the beach and with the waves crashing in just a few meters away.
“The ‘espetos’ Francis makes are very tasty, and the natural surroundings improve the experience even more”, says Manu. To go with it, they recommend the fried fish plate, with some of the best treats from Malaga’s sea: Kingklip, squid, octopus, cuttlefish eggs, fried prawns, or sole, among others.
Don’t forget to try the ‘Gambas al pil pil’ (pil pil prawns) that they make following mother’s recipe, or the paella, cooked with firewood.
The N-340 travels on towards the east, with its roundabouts, curves, residential areas, and, sometimes, so close to the Mediterranean sea that on stormy days it can be quite scary to drive. But the weather is nice on these shores, so don’t worry and enjoy from behind the steering wheel. You’