A small British overseas territory in the Mediterranean, with its northern border touching Andalusia and two coastlines dipping into the Alboran Sea, Gibraltar is easily one of the most culturally varied spots in the world.
The population is almost entirely made up migrants who have settled here over the last two to three hundred years. Today, roughly half the population is British or Spanish, while the other half is mostly Italian, Portuguese, and Maltese, with small numbers of people from France, Morocco, and parts of Asia.As a British territory, the British influence is probably the strongest, but there’s a substantial Spanish and Moroccan influence too – for example, most people speak both English and Spanish, and you’ll also hear plenty of Arabic across Gibraltar, as well as Hindi, Portuguese, and other languages.
Naturally, this exciting mix of cultures can be seen in the food of Gibraltar too, which is great for anyone living here, but particularly for expats, who get a chance to explore a great variety of cuisines within an area of less than seven square kilometers.
We asked Bob Kumar from My Gibraltar about his favourite local delicacies.
“The local food is fairly British in essence with a twist of Spanish thrown into the mix. However, the restaurants down ocean village such as Charlie’s Tavern offer a wide variety of cuisine including Indian. Charlie’s do a very good prawn au gratin and the Ship bar does a very good Sunday roast.”
If you’re thinking of moving to Gibraltar, here are five great restaurants you should visit while you’re there.
La Mamela: It’s difficult to find anyone who’ll say anything negative about La Mamela. This lovely little restaurant overlooking the bay has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, warm and welcoming service, and, most importantly of course, amazing food. It also comes highly recommended by the locals, which is always a good sign. The best advice we can give you is to try the seafood (which is usually fresh off the boat), especially the John Dory and the calamari. You might also want to book a table in advance – the popularity of the place means that if you turn up unannounced, you may have quite a wait.
Bistro Madeleine: [Update, January 2016: This bistro has closed down and is currently being refurbished into a Costa Coffee]. This charming bistro does mainly French and continental food, often with a slight Gibraltarian edge. Their meats are excellent, but they also have great vegetarian options, and you can finish your meal with some of their delicious desserts. The dessert options include some fantastic cakes, and a particularly amazing banoffee pie, which is probably the most popular dish on the menu. Madeleine’s menu is a reminder of how multilingual Gibraltar is – it comes in four languages – English, German, Italian, and Spanish. The restaurant is one of the few places open on a Sunday, which is great, but which also means that it tends to get crowded and the service can get rather slow.
Gatsby’s: This is one of Gibraltar’s oldest restaurants, around since 1988. You’ll probably need multiple trips to Gatsby’s in order to properly explore their menu, but no one we know has seen this as a chore yet. With English, Spanish, French, and Italian food on the menu, it can get pretty difficult to decide what to order. The best thing to do is to stick to one kind of cuisine, and save the rest for subsequent visits. Portions are quite substantial too, so keep this in mind when ordering your starters and main course – it would be a pity to find yourself too stuffed to explore the dessert section of the menu, which is also quite large.
Amin Office: It’s easy to walk past this little restaurant and not even notice it’s there. However, if you want to try out the Moroccan side of Gibraltar, you should definitely try Amin Office. It’s a humble little place tucked away at the end of a lane, so don’t expect fancy cutlery or great décor. It does still have its own charm, and although some are put off by the lack of luxury, the owner Amin and his staff are warm and friendly. The tagine in particular is excellent, but there are plenty of delicious options on the menu.
Lord Nelson: If you’re looking for a British pub experience in Gibraltar, Lord Nelson’s is probably the best place to go. With its nautical décor to go with the name, well-made classic pub food, a very decent selection of beer on tap and more in bottles, a pretty impressive wine list, and live music a couple of times a week, Nelson’s is a regular haunt for many native Gibraltarians and plenty of expats too.
Those are our recommendations for places to eat in Gibraltar. If you’re thinking of moving there, here are some final words of advice from Bob:
“Moving is an option for those who actually want to remain in Gibraltar. You get more bang for your buck in Soto Grande (Spain) and just 25 mins from GIB. Visiting is great, you can fill 3 days with ease…so much to see and do in and around the Rock.”
Are you moving to Gibraltar? What would you like to know before you arrive? Have you been to any of the restaurants mentioned here? Share your thoughts in the comments.