Passion for Spanish wine


A few steps away from Tirso de Molina square, in the centre of Madrid, La Malaje is a restaurant with Andalusian soul, visible both in the dishes of Córdoba-born chef Manuel Urbano Torres as in the wines matching his food.

Formerly at Sacha, one of the city’s classic restaurants, Urbano set on this adventure to re-engage with the cuisine of his roots (he was born in Córdoba and grew up in Tenerife) alongside his business partner Aarón Guerrero, an actor who now manages the front-of-house.

The fact that La Malaje serves Andalusian food does not mean that only staple dishes like gazpacho or pescaíto frito (fried fish) are available. You find the typical tapas and platters like Spanish omelette, king prawns from Sanlúcar or potato salad (with prawns, “a la granaína”) but also other lesser-known dishes outside Andalucía like the smoked sardines with mazamorra from Córdoba (an old recipe with bread, garlic, almonds, apple vinegar and milk), green beans with sobrasada roteña (ground pork sausage) or Moorish fried squid. Wine also has a space in the preparation of the food and is used as a base for sauces in dishes like the sherried vegetables with king prawns or the ray fish with American sauce with amontillado. There is also a nod to the cuisine of the Canary Islands in some of his marinades and the olive oils to dip with the rustic bread served as a starter also comes from Andalucía.

As well as the tapas counter at the entrance of the restaurant, La Malaje has a dining room with views of a small outdoor patio and is decorated with white walls and industrial-looking beams with hanging flower plots as is popular in Córdoba. Beyond the menu, there are two tasting menus: the Fair menu, with eight dishes (€55) and the possibility of pairing it with fortified wines (€18) and a menu with two starters, fish, meat and dessert (€38) plus optional wine pairing (€12).

The wine list features selections from each of the eight provinces in Andalucía, including still wines and even a sparkling cuvée from Seville. One style that is not represented is the new wave of unfortified whites from the Sherry Triangle, which deserve more attention as they tend to work well with food. The most numerous are the traditional wines from the Sherry Triangle, Montilla and the odd one from Huelva -most of them are served by the glass at reasonable prices.

The service, managed by Sergio Ortiz on the day of our visit, is swift and solicitous with a bunch of welcome details like a change of (cloth) napkins after eating prawns or other finger foods, free filtered tap water and good quality glasses (happily, no copitas in sight).

Another bonus point for La Malaje is that opens everyday. Y.O.A.