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Malvarosa, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Malvarosa offers a little bit of Spanish summer in Edinburgh's own occasionally sunny seaside, finds Lynn O'rourke

Published: May 10, 2015

This tapas restaurant began bringing a taste of Spanish cuisine to Edinburgh’s occasionally sunny seaside in 2011. Named after a Valencia beach, Malvarosa is cosy, with red and white walls, dark grey wood panelling, terracotta-style tiled floor and a sombrero and black cape adorning a wall.

My dining partner, Rhian, lived in Valencia for more than a year and was much taken with the Spanish way of life and food. She happily converses with the sole waitress in fluent Spanish, which adds to the holiday feel of the place.
There is a good range of well-priced wines and we order a bottle of Los Bailadores Rioja. With its spicy, fruity notes, the first sip feels a little like the sun coming out; it’s a fine start to our Spanish evening.
We kick off with txoripan, a moist, rustic loaf dotted with little chunks of cheek-suckingly good chorizo.
(We also order a simple salad that simply doesn’t show up.) Despite being wary of peaking too soon, the txoripan is gone before our calamares fritos (crispy squid rings) show up. Usually a favourite for both of us, this evening’s offering is a bit disappointing,
the lightly battered portions a little rubbery.
On the other hand, our wild-card choice, pescado adobado – crispy haddock marinated in sherry – is a beautifully cooked revelation, with a perfectly seasoned, crispy coating and a delicious marinade.
The fish is swiftly joined by patatas bravas, made from locally sourced organic potatoes, fried and served in a spicy tomato sauce. “They should have heat, but not blow your socks off,” my Spanish food expert notes, before declaring the dish just right.
Next up is fabada asturiana, a stew-like dish of butter beans, chorizo, black pudding and pancetta. Now, folk can be funny about black pudding, but there is a mile of difference between a slab of the stuff wedged between a couple of slices of Mother’s Pride and here, where there is just enough of it to enhance the rich flavours of the dish, adding an extra layer of interest without being overwhelming.

‘Patatas Bravas should have heat, but not blow your socks off’

Perhaps because the last couple of dishes have been so good, our pollo al ajillo seems a little dull by comparison. The deep-fried chicken bites are not as garlicky as expected, although they are still a decent option.
Our final dish is escalivada – baked aubergine, onion, red pepper, tomato and garlic on a couple of slices of thinly sliced crusty bread. It’s a delicious combination of Mediterranean flavours crowned with a couple of the saltiest of anchovies.
So far so full, but when our waitress mentions the dessert of the day is churros con chocolate my dining companion’s eyes light up and there is the wistful murmur of... “I haven’t had them since Valencia…” I opt for the tarta de Santiago, a traditional wheat-free almond cake (having noted the level of excitement surrounding the churros, it seems safer to order a dessert of my own – if they are as good as Rhian hopes, there might not be a lot of sharing going on). More typically served at breakfast in Spain, churros are a traditional sweet treat and, according to my guide to all things Valencian, you will instantly know whether they are good or not. Five looped churros arrive, thin pastry tubes that look as if they have been piped from an icing bag. Crispy on the outside, soft and melting inside, you dip each fried pastry into a bowl of chocolate sauce. Rhian declares them sublime – high praise indeed. I manage to wrestle one from her and she’s not wrong, the hot pastry oozes into the dipping sauce for a real melt-in-the-mouth moment. And despite its stiff competition, my almond cake holds its own, being an incredibly light bake with just the right level of sweetness.
These are the kind of desserts to linger over, perhaps with a glass of something sweet or a cup of good coffee. However, on a Wednesday night after 10pm we are the only diners left and get the distinct impression that lingering isn’t an option.
However, we’ve enjoyed our early taste of summer, and the bill of £59 for two, with £42.90 for food and £16.80 for wine, doesn’t detract at all from that holiday feeling.


Starters £1.20-£5.80
Tapas £3.70-£7.90
Tapas as main portions £9.40-£15
Puddings £3.70-£5.90


The paellas sound tempting. There are four options, for a minimum of two people, and they require 30 minutes for them to be freshly made to order. Choose from the traditional paella mixta with chicken, mussels, squid and prawns combined with vegetables, paella rice and saffron (£12.80 per person); paella de verduras, a vegetarian alternative (£11.50 pp); paella de carne with chicken and chorizo (£12 pp); or fish-based paella de marisco (£12.80 pp).
There are also two party menu options for larger groups at £15 or £18 per person, comprising bread and olives, and a wide selection of tapas.
The restaurant also offers a takeaway service (prices discounted by 10 per cent) so you can even attempt to pass off that delicious pescado adobado at home as your own creation.

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Lynn O'Rourke is atHome editor at Scotland on Sunday and a lifestyle editor for Spectrum magazine. She has been working for the magazine since 2003, editing the weekly property and interiors pages, and more recently also covering food and drink, travel and lifestyle news.

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