José Carlos García Restaurante – next
The updated, modern and now public port of Málaga, called Muelle Uno, has become the new favourite for both locals and thousands of tourists visiting this charming, old, historic city of Andalucía every year. Here in the recently upgraded Málaga bay, the town's native top chef José Carlos García Ortiz has opened his José Carlos García Restaurante, modestly named after himself.
The Chef Patron is, by the way, not unfamiliar with accolades, as his previous venture, Café de Paris, was one of the top Málaga restaurants. No doubt, the Garcia family has played an important part in the evolution of the Málaga fine dining scene for several decades.
Surrounded by shops, bars and fastfood restaurants, the José Carlos García Restaurante is a bit out of the ordinary in the bay. The dining room is square, and not too big, with an impressive glass facade and both white and unpainted cement walls. Bamboo mats prevent passers from looking in through the big windows, giving the guests at least a little feeling of privacy from the quite noisy and lively nightlife on the pavement outside. But they also hide the yachts and the old sailships which are docked in the bay outside the restaurant.
The kitchen staff can be observed, and they may themselves watch the diners, through a darkcoloured window peep-hole. On quiet nights there are only four tables in use, giving the guests and the waiters enough elbowroom. The restaurant also has an outside terrace, and bigger premises that can accept large parties.
José Carlos García Ortiz was born 1974 and is today considered to be among the big names in the Andalusian cuisine. The new José Carlos García Restaurante in the port of Málaga indicates that José Carlos has moved in a more contemporary direction than the dishes he presented at his previous Café de Paris showed. The 20-course tasting menu (presented as JCG 20 bocados) seems to be built around many of the same inspirations as Daní García's menu at Calima in the same region. But still what this highly creative chef does in the kitchen, and presents on the plates, is deeply reflecting his roots.
It was his father, José García Cortéz, born in Granada, who started the voyage towards culinary stardom for the García family. His first venture into cooking was in the skiing resort Sol y Nieve in Sierra Nevada, then he spent some time in Marbella, working at La Foreda and La Hacienda, before he opened his own place, Café Bar Garrido in Rincon de la Victoria, a very little village east of Málaga.
Café Bar Garrido used to be a churreria, but Pepe, as he is known among his friends, turned it into a real highclass restaurant (with only seven tables), introducing some of the dishes that became a part of his signature dishes when he in 1977 opened the Café de Paris in the La Malagueta part of Málaga, near the city's famous bullring.
José Carlos joined his father in the kitchen of Café de Paris in 1997. He had then finished his studies at the cooking schools La Cónsula in Málaga and CIO Mijas, before working with three famous chefs at three different top restaurants; Martín Berasategui (in Basque Country), Michel Bras (Laguiole in France) and Juan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca). After having served his duties for four years with his father, he was given free hands at Café de Paris in 2001.
José Carlos García Restaurante offers a truly professional dining experience. Two very attentive, English-speaking waiters who are very observant, but at the same time they do not give you a feeling of them being too intrusive. As the evening passes by, and the different courses are brought to the table, you are more impressed by the art presented on the plates than the taste they offer your palate. No one should doubt that the technical performance in the kitchen is on a very high level. But in a way you feel that José García still is searching for his very own personality.
A starter with hot gin and cold grapefruit in the same glass is eyebrow-raising, the airy steak tartare can compete with most of the crowd out there, and the special small Motril shrimps (quisquillas) served with a lobster sauce with an asian twist are just amazing. So is the hake (merluza) with a purée of pears, leek and beetroot crème, not to mention pigeon served with mustard icecream and foie gras. Another highlight might be the foie gras on pineapple cookies with yogurt, and a touch of coriander. These dishes show that José Carlos García Ortiz is capable of creating food that combines richness and good taste with a flow of different flavours.
The restaurant's premises are not too welcoming, and on a very hot night in Málaga, you may experience that the air condition inside the José Carlos García Restaurante is too effective, leaving at least some of the ladies feeling a bit cold, picking up their shawls or sweaters to keep themselves warm. You may also expect José Carlos himself to do the greeting round to all the tables at the end of the evening, not only visiting guests he knows from previous visits. Forgetting or not wanting to apologise to a guest being locked up in the toilet during the evening is actually quite rude. The Chef and his crew at José Carlos García Restaurante still have a way to go to fulfil all expectations, but they are definitely amongst the very best in the region.
José Carlos García Restaurante scored 74 points of 100 points in our rating system. View our Top 60 of the world. Back to the reviews.
José Carlos García Restaurante
Plaza de la Capilla, Puerto de Málaga
Phone: +34 952 003 588