Foodie Hub Tapas Awards

foodie hubAbout three years ago my Twitter pal Niamh @eatlikeagirl got in touch with me about joining a new foodie venture called Chowzter, headed by the dynamic and totally food obsessed Jeffrey Merrihue @jeffreymerrihue, who is also at the helm of @mofilm, as well as being the driving force behind Chowzter (now the newly rebranded @FoodieHub). So okay, I put up my Seville page on Foodie Hub, which I was very pleased with, and then last summer (2014) Jeffrey showed up close to my doorstep and asked if I was free one day to show him my favourite bars in Sevilla. Well, if there is something I LOVE doing it’s exactly that. Plus I was interested in actually meeting Jeffrey. And it was so much fun. We did a crazy afternoon “tapeo extremo” visiting an outrageous number of Sevilla bars in a ridiculously short amount of time, and then repeated the exercise a couple of days later in Malaga with the newly initiated Victor from @WeLoveMalaga. And not only was it great fun, but I got to meet Jeffrey, which made all the difference from this simply being an interesting project I was adding my name to… well, to being a wonderful and crazy foodie adventure that just gets better and better.

jeffrey me (2)

Fast forward to Summer 2015… Jeffrey was going to be back in Marbella and suggested a meet-up/dinner with all the FoodieHub Spain experts, which (of course!) promptly morphed into an epic tapas weekend in Malaga & Marbella, and also gave birth to the FoodieHub Essential Tapas Guide. I love that this is a “living online guide” that is always growing as we add more to it. Here are some highlights from our Malaga FoodieHub tapas tour…

malaga foodiehub tapas tour (1) malaga foodiehub tapas tour (2) malaga foodiehub tapas tour (3)

After this “light lunch” we were whisked away to Marbella for the Main Event. The Essential Tapas Awards event and an exquisite beach-side dinner at the elegant Restaurante Santiago. Rather than MORE food pics I shall just post this lovely photo taken by Victor, which for me captured the gorgeous ambiance of the setting where we dined like royalty.

victor

Here is a shot of the awards handed out earlier in the evening…

foodiehub winners

It was an amazing weekend and really great to meet up again with some of the Spain food experts I already knew, as well as getting to meet the others. But the extra special treat for me was after I came home and got to present the FoodieHub award for Essential Traditional Tapa to my “family” at Bodeguita Romero. Father and son Pedro & Alejandro Romero were thrilled that their spectacular pringá montadito had won.

romero (2)

romero (1)

You can download the free FoodieHub app here, and keep up with global foodie news on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Also check out the amazing FoodieHub YouTube page, but only if you’re not hungry! It’s a real honour – and also lots of fun – being a part of the FoodieHub team.

Málaga | Soho Hotel Málaga

hotel soho malaga

The Soho Hotel Málaga is an almost brand-new 28 room three-star boutique hotel, just outside the old centre of town in the little triangle of land between the harbour and the Atarazanas market popularly known as Soho because of its bohemian and arty feel. It’s a great location, close to shops and tapas bars, and it was also an easy walk from the train station (with wheelie luggage).

My room was comfortable and attractive and featured a large sepia-tone mural over the bed (all rooms have murals depicting different Málaga scenes). There’s good WiFi in the room and plenty of available sockets for charging devices. The bathroom is well-equipped (shower only) and there’s a good supply of toiletries and a decent hairdryer. Adjacent to the hotel there’s a small bar-cafe for snacks, and a fairly typical hotel breakfast is also served here, though the organisation seems a bit hit and miss. Hotel staff are super friendly and helpful. I look forward to staying here again.

hotel soho malaga collage

Soho Hotel Málaga
Córdoba, 5
Málaga
Tel 952 224 079

Tapeo Extremo™

jeffrey me victorJeffrey, me and Victor in Málaga

I can’t even begin to count the ways that Twitter has changed my life, but this is yet another one. Back in late 2012 my Twitter pal Niamh Shields @eatlikeagirl got in touch with me about joining a new international foodie venture called Chowzter,. At first glance Chowzter didn’t seem like the sort of thing I’d be interested in (though I remember years ago saying the same thing about Twitter!) but I decided to give it a go as it had been recommended by Niamh and there wasn’t a lot of work required to set it up. Thus I became their Sevilla food expert.

Then about ten days ago I got to meet Chowzter founder Jeffrey Merrihue @jeffreymerrihue. He was holidaying in Marbella and came up to Sevilla for the day to do a tapas tour with me, which morphed into a tapeo extremo (a term coined by my friend and travel writer Annie Bennett @anniebennett a few years ago when we went out for tapas – I have no idea why! 😉 ). That day Jeffrey and I broke my personal record by visiting 7 tapas bars in 4 hours.

tapeo extremo sevilla 08-08-14Tapeo Extremo Sevilla 08-08-14 | 7 tapas bars in 4 hours

Chowzter began as an argument between two well-travelled food-obsessed brothers about where to get the “best this-or-that” in every city they visited. Not Michelin star fare (everybody knows where to find that), but fabulous day-to-day local food. Fast feasts. The trick was to find passionate locals who wanted to share their knowledge. Which now includes me. And now also includes Victor Garrido @welovemalaga, who runs the best tapas and walking tours in Málaga. At first Jeffrey asked Victor if he wanted to meet him in Marbella, but then mentioned that he’d never had good food in Málaga (!!!). And when he asked if I wanted to come down for the day too… well, it just had to be another Tapeo Extremo!

tapeo extremo malaga 14-08-14Tapeo Extremo Málaga 14-08-14 | 10 tapas bars in 4 hours

Jeffrey, Victor and I met in front of the Atarazanas Market in the centre of Málaga and what happened next was epic. Of course you can’t “properly” visit every excellent tapas bar in any city in just one afternoon, but the purpose of tapeo extremo (if there needs to be one) is to show someone with huge interest and little time as much as possible. Both tapeos were wonderful, though I think Málaga had the advantage of the bars being closer together, having both Victor and me as guides, and also knowing by that time that Jeffrey was a complete food maniac (had I known this in Sevilla we would have got into more taxis). But I’m sure that Jeffrey will agree that both Victor and I killed it, and we both loved showing someone around who clearly appreciated the best. In fact, Jeffrey’s enthusiasm was so contagious that I’m now helping find “chief Chowzters” for other areas in Spain and Portugal. So watch this space and also @SevillaTapas for future developments. And thanks again for a great couple of days, Jeffrey. Hasta pronto!

Antequera | Parador Hotel

parador antequeraBack in February I won a free night for two including breakfast at the Parador of my choice and had decided to stay at the fabulous castle one in Carmona, but then found out that this wasn’t included in the list of available choices for Andalucía. So I ended up going to Antequera, which turned out to be quite serendipitous as I had never been there before and I was keen to do some research for my new trip planning biz. To wit I asked to book a second night along with my free offer, and I’m very glad I did. My friend Peter @SVQconcierge joined me for the first night and I stayed on by myself for the second.

The Antequera Parador is a modern 4 star hotel on a hill at the edge of town, with an easy walk to the town centre and monuments. Reception was friendly and efficient, and although we arrived quite early our room was already ready for us. One odd quirk that results from its hillside location with reception and “ground floor” at the top, is that the first and second floors are numbered in reverse, so that our second floor room beside the pool was the lowest level. Although we didn’t get to spend any real time there, the pool area was attractive with a terrace area and bar on one side, but otherwise the public areas, though clean and comfortable, seemed a little lacking in personality.

parador antequera collageOur room was quite spacious, with comfortable twin beds, a big desk, lots of cupboard space (with mini bar and safe) and a nice view of the pool outside the window. The bathroom was also roomy, and had some nice touches – twin sinks, big mirror, cleverly positioned make-up/shaving mirror with excellent lighting, and a sensibly simple shower in a full bath. I also really liked the pale green opaque coloured glass wall that separated it from the bedroom, but it could have been better ventilated. And it was a bit of a shame that the complimentary bathrobes and slippers didn’t show up until the second afternoon. But these are very small “complaints”.

Breakfast was typical large hotel fare (though with spectacular views from the dining areas). There was plenty of choice, from coffee and toast to fruit, to full English, but everything pre-prepared and a bit bland. It set us up for the morning, but I think hotels generally need to rethink how they do breakfast. I actually preferred the simple tostada & churros breakfast we had at a nearby bar when we first arrived.

But as you can see, I have no serious complaints at all. It was a lovely and luxurious getaway in a beautifully quiet and peaceful spot. A perfect introduction to Antequera. I’ll be back!

Parador de Antequera
Paseo García del Olmo, 2
Tel 952 84 02 61
Antequera, Málaga

Málaga | Urban Living Holiday Apartments

liborio apt 4 (1)
A couple of weeks ago I booked a two-bedroom holiday apartment with Urban Living in Málaga for a three-day getaway with friends. I shared the apartment in calle Liborio with one friend (our other two friends were staying at another Urban Living apartment in calle Fajardo). The apartment was located on the third floor with balconies in every room, which gave a lot of light. The beds (one double, two single) were very comfortable and both bedrooms had lots of closet space. The open kitchen was well-equipped and the living room next to it was bright and attractive. The only complaint about the apartment itself was that the bathroom was missing a light over the mirror (there were just wires sticking out of the fixture) and it really needed some shelves – both in the room and in the shower – to put toiletries. In the end we had to leave our things on the floor.

liborio apt 4 (2)
Calle Liborio runs between Larios and Nueva streets, an ideal central location, though it can’t be directly reached by taxi and is a few minutes walk from the main road. The Atarazanas market is nearby, as well as a supermarket, so it’s easy to pick up food and supplies. The Urban Living office is located on the fourth floor of the building, which was convenient for leaving our bags after checking out (my train wasn’t until 7 pm), but checking in was a bit of a fluke. I’d made arrangements for someone to meet me there at 2 pm because I was on crutches at the time, and they forgot – it was just by chance that someone else was in the office when I arrived.

But my main complaint – and it is a big one – is that I had specified before booking that I needed to have an excellent WiFi connection because I had to work that weekend, and I was assured of this. But the connection was very poor. I mentioned this immediately after arriving on Thursday and was told that something would be done to “boost” the connection. By late afternoon Friday nothing had been done and when I called the office nobody was there. Finally someone brought over a router (while we were out) which didn’t work at all, so we went from having a poor connection to none at all. And nobody returned my calls for the rest of the weekend. VERY disappointing. The connection should have been tested before we arrived, as it had been a specific request and had been guaranteed.

Overall it was a pleasant stay, in a nice bright apartment right in the centre of town. But I’d hesitate to book with Urban Living again because of the management issues.

Urban Living Málaga
Calle Liborio García, 1
Málaga
952 60 22 47

Málaga | Hotel del Pintor

hotel del pintor room
After three fabulous nights in Málaga mid-December I realised I needed/wanted to extend my visit by one more night. Unfortunately the lovely hotel I’d been staying at had no availability and they asked me if I would like them to call somewhere for me. Well, back in July while I was on summer holiday in Málaga a friend of mine came to visit and spent the night at Hotel del Pintor. I’d seen her room and, while not as nice as where I’d been staying, I thought it would be fine for one night. But imagine my surprise when I showed up at the hotel and saw that my room was nothing like the one I’d seen before. In fact, it was barely a room at all. There was one single bed in a room just slightly larger than the bed itself, with two small windows looking into two other small windows across the patio. Small, dark and uncomfortable. There wasn’t even a place for me to put my carry-on suitcase and I ended up leaning it against the door. The (surprise!) very small bathroom was clean enough, though the toilet seat was soaking wet when I arrived, and the toilet made odd gurgling sounds throughout my stay.

hotel del pintor
I spoke to the receptionist who told me she couldn’t change rooms because they were fully booked and when I asked to speak to the manager I was told he was away in Sevilla for a meeting and couldn’t be reached. What? This was at midday on a Friday. I was pretty much resigned to spend my final night in Málaga in that dreadful room but certainly didn’t want to spend 54€ (the same price my previous – and much superior – hotel had charged per night) and so asked for something to be done. When I returned to the hotel in the evening to change for dinner (I’d stayed out as long as possible so I wouldn’t have to spend time there) I was told that the manager was still unavailable. I told the receptionist – a different one this time – that it was scandalous to charge so much for what was little more than a walk-in closet and was told that this was because of the hotel’s “excellent location”. Yes, on grimy calle Álamos, with no parking, no restaurant… all of which was available at my previous hotel (which is actually in an excellent location). Whatever. I left to meet my friends feeling very upset.

That night I had a terrible sleep on the small bed that creaked whenever I turned over (receptionist: “oh, that must be because the bed is new!”) on a too-soft pillow that was full of lumps. The next morning I got dressed and got out of there as soon as possible, and while checking out yet another receptionist told me that the manager – who was now unavailable because he was off for two days – had instructed her to tell me that they would not adjust the price for me. Unbelievable. What kind of hotel has no manager available from mid-day Friday until Monday morning?? Totally unprofessional. When my friend stayed there during peak season in July she paid 48€ for a room that was easily twice as big, yet management maintained they could do nothing for me. Trust me, there are plenty of other places to stay in Málaga where you will be treated much better than here.

Hotel del Pintor
Álamos 27
Málaga
tel 952 06 09 80

Málaga | Hotel Room Mate Lola

lola
Those of you who know me know that I usually opt for holiday apartments if I’m staying somewhere more than a night or two. I just like the extra space and having a small kitchen for making coffee and snacks. But on this recent trip to Málaga I came across a nice 3-night online offer at Room Mate Lola, where my friend Annie Bennett had stayed not long ago and, based on her positive experiences there, I thought I’d give it a try. I was also interested to stay in the new hip Soho barrio, so it suited me quite well. I liked that I could walk to the hotel from the train station in less than 15 minutes (no problem with small carry-on bag with wheels and laptop). I wondered if the “standard” room might feel a bit cramped, but although it wasn’t overly spacious and only had one window looking over a side street, it actually felt quite cosy and pleasant. Nice use of mirrors helped make the room feel larger and added more light. There was also lots of closet space (with a mini bar and safe inside), a good-sized desk and comfy armchair in the corner.

lola collage[click on image to enlarge]

Lola’s retro-chic style totally fits in with its location in the newly designated “Soho” neighbourhood of Málaga. What used to be a rather dodgy area of town is being transformed into a trendy barrio filled with galleries and boutiques, and almost daily more and more buildings are being covered in street art and graffiti, some by quite famous artists. And the Contemporary Arts Museum is just a short walk away. In fact, I found it a comfortable walking distance to pretty much everywhere I wanted to go: the Atarazanas market, the recently refurbished port Muelle Uno, Larios street and the surrounding shopping areas, and even Plaza Merced.

lola (2)

I opted out of the breakfast (an attractive buffet served until noon) but was still able to enjoy a cup of coffee in the bright dining area on the main floor. There was excellent free WiFi throughout the hotel and the staff were very friendly, professional and helpful. The only “negative” I can think of is that the lighting in the bathroom was a bit too dim for doing hair and make-up, but it was nice having both a bathtub and shower. I honestly felt completely at home and comfortable at Lola and look forward to future stays there, and to trying out some of their other hotels in Spain.

Hotel Room Mate Lola
Calle Casas de Campos 17
Málaga
Tel 952 579 300

Málaga | Hinestrosa Siete Holiday Apartments

view from my private terrace
view from my private terrace

I am just back from two wonderful whirlwind weeks in Málaga, my second home here in Spain. As some of you know, usually when I visit Málaga I stay at my friend Manolo’s apartment on the Malagueta beach, but normally only for a weekend or a few days at a time. This time I was actually taking two whole weeks – my first real vacation in over 20 years! My original plan was to go on a northern Spain adventure but once again (just like last summer) Life Stuff got in the way, including this lovely wee thing that happened into my life. So in the end I decided to take a total RELAX holiday in Málaga. Manolo very generously gave me the use of his fab beachside apartment for the first week and for the second week I thought it would be fun to stay in the centre of town for a change. And as so often happens, Twitter came to the rescue.

Turns out that the the brother of the owner of one of my favourite tapas bars in Málaga – Taberna Uvedoble – has four fabulous apartments in a newly renovated building (designed by their architect father). Take a look on the Hinestrosa Siete website (my apartment was Duplex 1) and you can also see more pics on their AirBnB page. Normally I would have taken a lot more of my own photos but when I moved over from the Malagueta I had just enough time that morning to get Morcilla settled before dashing off to see some processions, and later I forgot to take any before unpacking, so instead you get these.

I just loved the apartment. It’s on a quiet pedestrian street and is all white minimalist, clean lines, with a bright well-equipped kitchen and – very important – a good wifi connection. And Fede was fine about Morcilla being with me. As the week went on we discovered we had even more mutual friends in town. It’s a small Twitter world out there.

Morcilla waking up after a siesta
La Morcilla de Burgos waking up after a siesta

In fact, I’ll be going back to Málaga at the end of August and staying another week in what I think of now as My Apartment. I guess just for one person (and a small kitten) one of the studio apartments would suffice as they are also very bright and cheerful. But I kind of like the extra space and Morcilla loves running up and down the stairs.

I don’t know about you but if I stay somewhere for more than a night or two my choice is always to go with a holiday apartment rather than a hotel. For the same money (and usually less) you get a lot more space and also a small kitchen. Turns out I did next to no cooking this last holiday but it’s great having the option to make brekky at home, have a fridge to keep drinks cold and basically not feel cramped. And it’s great having a washing machine too.

One of the many things that set Hinestrosa Siete apart from most holiday apartments is finding a little “welcome basket” of snacks in the kitchen (and cold juice and water in the fridge) along with travel size shampoo and shower gel in the bathroom. Also, everything is sparkling clean when you arrive, with perfectly folded towels and the bed made so professionally you actually feel like you’re in a hotel. Plus Fede is just a phone call or email away if you need anything. I almost hesitate to give such a glowing review here lest I never find My Apartment available again, but I honestly can’t recommend this place enough. Perfect for a weekend getaway or even a longer holiday (it’s just a ten-minute walk to the beach). And Fede will also give you lots of recommendations for things to do while you’re in town. Can’t wait to go back.

Hinestrosa Siete Holiday Apartments in Málaga