Beluga, the Malaga restaurant that explores the common threads of Mediterranean cuisine

Talking about cuisine with a seafaring essence, if we talk about Malaga, is, a priori, nothing that attracts attention.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
31 March 2024 Sunday 10:33
9 Reads
Beluga, the Malaga restaurant that explores the common threads of Mediterranean cuisine

Talking about cuisine with a seafaring essence, if we talk about Malaga, is, a priori, nothing that attracts attention. There are dozens of restaurants in this city that offer their own approach, sometimes more linked to tradition, others with an eye toward more contemporary approaches, to the pantry and the memory of the marine palate, which makes it not only a first-rate gastronomic destination but, above all, in one of the great capitals of Iberian cuisine from the sea.

That is why the proposal by chef Diego René and Andrea Martos is so interesting, since it manages to blend into this spirit of Mediterranean and southern cuisine, but it does so from its own approach, impossible to replicate, since it is based on personal and professional background. of cook.

With roots that extend to Algiers and the south of France and formed in the family restaurant on the island of Tabarca, off the Alicante coast, Diego René's Mediterranean DNA is beyond doubt. After expanding his experience, among others, with Martín Berasategui or María José San Román, he arrived in Málaga where, after passing through restaurants such as Pez Tomillo or Bocallena, he achieved definitive recognition with Beluga, from which he was awarded Best Chef. 2023 by the Malaga Academy of Gastronomy.

Its restaurant, located in the heart of the city, in the quiet Plaza de Las Flores, is an oasis in the tourist bustle; a quiet space, with a really pleasant terrace, where everything goes at a different pace, apart from the crowds and the rush.

The culinary proposal also represents a change with respect to the environment, the possibility of enjoying a product-based, evolutionary cuisine, capable of letting its roots be glimpsed without giving up a current style that is reflected in an interesting menu and a menu. in which the local pantry is combined with nods to the native Alicante.

Lobster stew, to start, powerful, but elegant, served with a nasturtium leaf that, far from being a simple aesthetic nod, refreshes and lifts it. Sea porrilla, or how a traditional stew, of use, adapts to the marine larder, to the intensity of the oyster and the bolos (spitiñas) enhanced by the codium algae. Intense iodized, slightly bitter, unctuous textures that envelop the seafood.

Salpicón of blue lobster and fennel with pepper gazpacho. Refreshing acidity that covers the lobster, with smooth meat; aniseed, the sweetness of the pepper. An appetizer dish, light and full of nuances, of which you would like to order more.

The menu offers tonyina de sorra on a coca, bonito with salmorreta, Santa Pola shrimp in a spicy gazpacho with yellow peppers; constant references to those common threads that join the points of the chef's life path, different approaches to flavors that, to a large extent, Malaga and Alicante share.

We continue with the squid, splendid, grilled just enough, served with its Oloroso ink, which provides an extra layer of depth to the dish, and the contrast in texture of some snow peas. Barely touched product, accompanied by a couple of nuances that enhance it. Well-understood product cuisine.

And the time for rice comes. The restaurant has a good selection of fish - rock mullet in aniseed bouillabaisse, sea bass in seaweed papillote with black cauliflower, wild fish of the day with ham sauce - but the opportunity to enjoy Alicante-rooted rice here is something not to be missed. You have to let it pass and it rightly becomes one of the restaurant's hallmarks.

Rice from Molino Roca, in the Valencia lagoon, a technique learned in Alicante and selected products from local producers that give shape to proposals such as the Señorito rice with shrimp and monkfish, the creamy rice with lechola and artichokes or the feather rice, broad beans and young garlic.

On this occasion we tried two, one, honeyed, with cuttlefish and artichoke, perfect in point, full of flavor, and then what was, surely, the great dish of the day, without this meaning that the rest of the menu was not at a level. great level: ham rice.

Diego René and his team work on a dry rice based entirely on Dehesa de Los Monteros Iberian ham, with a base broth of ham bones, the use of the fat from the pieces during cooking to provide sweetness and that characteristic touch of aroma of cellar, of a certain rancio, perhaps better to say aged, elegant, which is finished, once off the fire, with a little ham that is tempered over the rice before service. All accompanied, as in the previous one, with mortar aioli, which is also one of the hallmarks of the house.

Power, purity of flavor, intensity, a whole grain, perfectly cooked, soaked in the flavor of ham. A true gem, one of those that alone justify a visit to a restaurant and that, supported by the rest of the menu, makes Beluga a reference that should be taken into account.

In the desserts, more nods to the pantries that make up the chef's taste memory: saffron cloud with orange Algiers cookie, rum nougat soufflé with horchata ice cream, ñora flan with salted caramel ice cream...

And the feeling, already after dinner, of having enjoyed a unique Mediterranean cuisine, a different proposal that makes a lot of sense; of a chef's way of assuming his baggage and expressing it without complexes; of an exercise that is strange to the city, but that fits perfectly with its memory of the palate.

There are not many restaurants with such a peculiar personality, so brave when it comes to proposing something of their own, unique, perhaps to a certain extent risky. And even fewer places that do it with taste and common sense. Beluga achieves this and also proposes it in a cozy space, where you want to enjoy the cuisine, the terrace and the atmosphere of this corner of the city without haste and without prejudices. One of those places that are worth keeping in mind when visiting Malaga.