Dinner with Picasso
On the Picasso trail in Andalucia, visiting the artist’s Malaga birthplace and discovering his favourite dishes
A small easel and paintbrush on the table are a subtle clue to what’s in store. The brush is dipped in blue paint, and the table is set for dinner. This is the Picasso Experience, and we are about to eat a meal inspired by the artist’s favourite dishes, recreating recipes that he loved with ingredients from the Mediterranean that he remained drawn to throughout his life.
We’re intrigued. What did Picasso eat?
Half a century since his death, there has been a lot of focus on Picasso recently. A BBC documentary revealed his complex personal relationships and his – let’s say – challenging behaviour; his children have long fought among themselves and struggled to manage the estate and legacy. But separating the art from the artist: he was hugely prolific, and with more than 10 museums around the world filled exclusively with his paintings, drawings and ceramics he is probably the 20th century’s most famous artist. And while we might associate him most with the south of France, Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, the sunny Andalusian city known by British tourists mostly as the gateway to the Costa del Sol.
But all the visitors who land at Malaga and head straight for the coast are missing out. This is a beautiful city that’s been undergoing a bit of a renaissance over the past few years and has emerged as a significant cultural hub. Not only is Malaga home to more than 40 museums but it has a remarkable cathedral, a Roman theatre and an 11th century Moorish fortress as well as great beaches, excellent restaurants and a buzzing nightlife. It’s an excellent weekend destination and would make a great base for a longer stay too.
We’re staying at Anantara Villa Padierna Palace, along the coast from Malaga between Marbella and Estepona. It’s a sprawling, luxurious hotel that offers a Picasso Experience package for culture lovers as well as three 18-hole golf courses and a golf academy that attracts golfers from around the world. We’re here for Picasso, and after a smooth flight and a short ride from the airport, we’re ready to discover what the artist liked to eat. But first there’s a tour of the place, which is improbably beautiful.
The hotel is known for its impressive art collection as well as its impossibly photogenic courtyard pool surrounded by lush palm trees. There are several private villas in addition to the main building (the one where Michelle Obama stayed has been named after her for posterity). Our room is vast, with views over manicured grounds with a lake and a golf course.
As part of the Picasso package, dinner is set up for us privately in a romantic, secluded room. It starts with champagne and Picasso’s tastes, perhaps not surprisingly, prove to be very much focused on the Mediterranean. There’s a lovely chilled almond and garlic soup to start, followed by a simple bowl of clams in tomato sauce and a piece of grilled tuna with onions. Picasso was said to love the local Vino Dulce, and a glass of that accompanies an excellent honey cake dessert.