Fancy and fun Spanish tapas: La Moraga

by mary on March 20, 2013

La Moraga contemporary Spanish cuisine

One of Spain’s big food trends in the last five years has been down-scaling as top chefs open simple eateries, restaurants that are more accessible in vibe, cuisine and price point. Some have criticized the trend as an effort to underwrite the money pits that their gastronomy temples usually are, but I love it, because it has meant some super interesting, reasonably priced food. Dani Garcia was a pioneer here with La Moraga, and unique, starting in the south, in Malaga and Marbella. An exciting and changing menu with slightly fancy but also fun and familiar tapas and plates to share. Really delicious food, very few misses and an inexpensive, short, but very good wine list!

The upscale chain now well established in Andalucia with four locations, one in Malaga, one in Puerto Banus (Marbella), Granada and one in the Malaga airport. There was a small outpost for about a year in Madrid in the El Corte Ingles Goya Gourmet Experience, where you could frequently find me! It had a simplified wine and food menu but still offered some great choices. Their website implies that expansion is imminent to some far-flung places, to Madrid again as well as to Frankfurt and Budapest! The most exciting to me besides a large Madrid location would be Naples, Florida, just a hop, skip and a jump away from Miami!

No reservations are accepted and the Puerto Banus branch is a total madhouse at eat time…you have to get there early whether at lunch or dinner and put your name on a waiting list. If you wait too late, you may not get a time slot at all. You can squeeze in at the tiny bar, which can be worth it for great, cheap drinks, or get an approximate time and go somewhere else for your wait.

Amazing Spanish tapas at La Moraga Marbella

Once seated, the fun starts! The menu can be bewildering, so many categories and so many amazing choices. Luckily most dishes are small tapas and you can share and order lots of types. The menu changes a lot but there are always variations of gazpachos and other cold southern soups and nice small sophisticated sandwiches. One signature dish is the burger bull, a delicious bull’s tail mini-hamburger, though I think my favorite mini-burger has always been the pig burger made of ibérico pig. Other interpretations of classics include tortilla de patata (Spanish tortilla) and patatas bravas (spicy fried potatoes). There is usually multiple interpretations to choose from of the classic Spansih salad, similar to a potato salad, ensaladilla rusa, here elevated, by adding luxury ingredients, such as smoked salmon or scallops. The typical southern fried seafood and fish usually make an appearance in one delicious form or other.

Amazing Spanish tapas at La Moraga Marbella

Besides all this wonderful Spanish comfort food, there are lots of more refined choices, amazing fish and seafood dishes, foie dishes, tartares, carpacios, ceviches and crudos. I have amazing memories of a braised octopus dish…pictured below is another longtime favorite….carpaccio of presa ibérica (a cut of ibérico pork)….melt in the mouth spectacular!

On visits to Marbella, I always wanted to go a couple of times at least, it was so hard to try of the dishes I wanted to in one visit!

Amazing Spanish tapas in La Moraga Marbella

My favorite dishes have always been the burgers, sandwiches, anything with ibérico pig, anything with fresh and raw seafood and fish, salads, the creative dishes. The least successful dishes, good, but not causing cravings have been the foie dishes, the steak tartare, the fritos (fried foods.)

The price points are excellent…some ingredients are a bit pricy, but overall great value, especially if you choose with care.

The wine list is short and fantastic! They always have some great sparkling wine by the glass while you wait….they serve my favorite rosado cava deNit by Raventos i Blanc. The mark ups have always been very reasonable particularly on certain wines. I remember for ages you could get a bottle of Roda Reserva (Rioja) for 25€, which is essentially retail price. You felt like you were cheating when you ordered it! They always have some local Andaluz wines on the list and for the longest time the house wine was a special cuvée made by my friend Bibi García at Cortijo de Los Aguilares up in Ronda. It was labelled especially for La Moraga, cost 12€ a bottle!!!! Light, but firm and full of flavor…a delicious wine at an amazing price!

If you are in the south, check out La Moraga…maybe you are just lucky enough to pass through Malaga airport! if you are in NYC, check out Dani Garcia’s new project, Manzanilla. If you have tried La Moraga….what did you think….love to hear your thoughts!


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