Discover the gourmet side of Spain, explore the food and wine of Andalusia to enrich your travel experience when staying in our luxury villas
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas this winter? No? Then you’re in the right place.
While Costa del Sol temperatures during winter may not reach the heady levels of summer, they’re certainly a whole lot more agreeable than the freezing conditions felt in the UK or anywhere else north of the Iberian peninsular at this time of year. You can typically expect delightful December highs of 24°C and unspeakable lows of 12°C. Not too shabby at all, in other words.
What’s more, from traditional and expertly prepared roast dinners to more exciting and innovative takes on the notion of ‘Christmas lunch’, many of the area’s finest restaurants go all out with their Christmas menus to ensure that the most important part of the festive season remains intact.
To help you make your decision about where to eat on the Costa del Sol over the festive period, here’s our roundup of a few of the best restaurants offering mouth-watering Christmas and New Year’s Eve menus.
Christmas Eve / Christmas Day
Lively Vibe & Great Food at Bibo Marbella
Bibo’s long been one of our favourite restaurants in Marbella. The interiors are stylish but relaxed, the vibe’s lively and fun, and the food’s superb – as you’d expect from Dani Garcia – without being challenging or overly ‘haute’.
This Christmas there are two lunch menus and three dinner menus from which to choose. These include suitably high-end takes on the humble croqueta along with creamy rice dishes, choice Iberian pork cuts, salmorejo, oxtail brioche, grilled hake on a bed of risotto and slow-cooked beef with wild mushrooms – to name but a few things that had us salivating.
To see the full 2017 Christmas menus at Bibo Marbella, go here.
Details: +34 951 60 70 11; email@example.com; Grupodanigarcia.com.
Spectacular Seafood at Sea Grill – Marbella
Just across the road – well the plaza, technically – from Bibo is Sea Grill. Their 2017 set Christmas Eve menu is a thing of beauty: given the name of the place it’s hardly a surprise that seafood features, with oysters and corvina making up two of the courses. But there’s also something for meat-lovers in the shape of a rather tempting sounding char-grilled wagyu beef dish. (You can see the full menu here.)
Perhaps even more temptingly, though, they’ve got a Christmas brunch menu (from 1pm on Christmas Day) on this year. So you can sit back on their outdoor decking with a glass of Champagne and enjoy a range of traditional festive dishes, from turkey to lobster through to delicious desserts, while you soak up a bit of December sunshine.
Details: tel: +34 952 82 09 00; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Puenteromano.com.
Luxury Dining at Finca Cortesin – Casares
If you’re looking to push the boat out this Christmas then look no further than Finca Cortesin. This hotel, complete with its own golf course, is regarded as one of the most luxurious in Spain and often hosts celebrities and royal family members. There are three separate restaurants: El Jardin de Lutz (Spanish/traditional), Kabuki Raw (Japanese) and Don Giovanni (Italian). Each is run by a top, distinguished chef and offers cuisine of the highest standard.
Details: tel: + 34 952 93 78 00; email: email@example.com; Fincacortesin.com.
Socialites’ Favourite at El Grill, Marbella Club – Marbella
For a very special treat you could take advantage of El Grill’s exquisite Christmas menu options at the incredibly chic Marbella Club. Diners can choose between the restaurant’s beautiful terrace or the tastefully decorated dining room where the grill takes centre stage. Juan Gálvez is El Grill’s award-winning chef, who ensures that all ingredients used are seasonal and locally sourced and that only the very best cuts make the grade.
Details: tel: +34 952 822 211; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Marbellaclub.com.
Marbella Club’s full 2017 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus can be seen here.
Louche & Laidback at The Playwright – Elviria
Sleekly decorated and dimly lit, this popular bar and live music venue in Elviria looks, upon arrival, for all the world like a place to order a couple of dirty martinis and settle in for the night at one of the banquettes.
But it also does a very nice line in food, too – as their Christmas menu more than proves. There are quite a few dishes on offer this festive season that caught our fish-loving eye: Ceviche of tuna and seabass? Seafood chowder? Tempura of lemon sole? Salmon gravadlax rolls? Yep. That’ll do nicely.
Details: tel. +34 952 83 08 68; email: email@example.com; Theplaywrightmarbella.com.
To see The Playwright’s full Christmas menu, go here.
New Year’s Eve
Party the Night Away at La Sala – Puerto Banus
La Sala in Puerto Banus brings you the ultimate buzzy dining experience on the Costa whatever the time of year. Their rear terrace is the ideal place from which to kick off festive proceedings in style, before moving on to one of their Christmas or New Year’s Eve menus featuring a range of international and Spanish classics. This year two different live music acts will be performing to ring in 2018.
You can see this year’s full Christmas and NYE menus here.
Details: tel: +34 952 81 41 45; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Lasalabanus.com.
Friendly & Relaxed at Sloanes Bistro – Elviria
As well as their set Christmas Eve/Day menus, Sloanes have a very inviting New Year’s Eve gala dinner planned for this year. The five-course menu features the rather indulgent likes of cod au gratin, veal and foie gras with canapes to start, accompanied by the dulcet tones of owner-cum-resident singer, Alex, and a glass of Cava to toast the new year.
You can see their full Christmas and New Year’s Eve menus for 2017 here.
Details: tel: +34 952 835 560; email: email@example.com; Sloanesbistro.com.
Dinner & Dancing at El Gran Gatsby – Puerto Banus
El Gran Gatsby is one of those places that’s set up to cater for a proper ‘nose to tail’ night out. You start with cocktails and views of the boats bobbing in the harbour, before moving onto dinner, and a food offering that’s really strong without being too fussy or fancy; then, afterwards you can sidle through to the terrace-lounge bar for well-mixed cocktails and decent DJ sets.
And never more is that the case than during the festive season. This year they’ve really got things sorted for New Year. You’re welcomed with a glass of Champagne on arrival, before being treated to a luxurious set menu of caviar, black cod, prawns, crayfish and Wagyu beef, all of which is paired with wines from their very fine list, followed by entry to the bar and a long night of partying. All in all, it’s all set to make for a very happy New Year.
To see here El Gran Gatsby’s full NYE menu, click here.
Details: tel: +34 951 77 87 97; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Elgrangatsby.com.
To take the hassle out of making your festive restaurant reservations, our expert local concierge team will be happy to assist when you stay in one of our villas. Find out more about our concierge.
Private Chef & Christmas Menu 2017
Alternatively, if you just fancy a Christmas holed up in your luxury getaway, we would be thrilled to provide you and your family with a private chef. They will take care of the shopping, cooking and the clearing away, leaving you to enjoy family time together. Take a look at the excellent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and NYE menus that our chefs have created for this season, which can be downloaded here.
Can’t face another year of endless cooking and washing up for the whole family? Thinking of an indulgent Christmas 2017 in southern Spain instead? Have a look at a few of our available Christmas break villas.
While Ronda may not a big town, it’s certainly a town that’s big on flavours. From fine dining to neighbourhood tapas bars, some of the finest eating and drinking in Andalucia can be found in amongst our pick of the best restaurants in Ronda.
Bardal was awarded its first Michelin star in November 2017. And it merely rubber-stamped what everyone in foodie circles already knew: that Ronda had become one of the best places to eat in southern Spain. Headed up by Benito Gomez, the Catalan chef behind long-time LVC favourite, Tragata, the award hardly came as a surprise, either: since it opened its doors back in July 2016 it’s been wowing the critics.
There are two tasting menus to choose from: a shorter and a longer one. Dishes featuring hearty components like veal head, venison and black pudding, and delicate takes on local stews and soups like gazpachuelo, combine creative flair and technical ability while still being married to Rondeña roots. Combined with pairings from a wine cellar of nearly 200 bottles, it’s a spectacular dining experience from start to finish.
Address: Calle José Aparicio 1, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 951 48 98 28; Restaurantebardal.com.
One of the best fine dining options in town, Azahar is the Andalucian outpost of Eboca Restaurants, an extensive network of top-class eateries that stretches from Barcelona to Ibiza via the Dominican Republic. The restaurant of the Hotel Catalonia Reina Victoria, as you’d expect from such a serious set-up – and the fairly elevated price tag – the emphasis is on high-end ingredients beautifully put together into dishes that are as elegant as they are delicious.
Mouth-watering meat dishes include bull’s tail, kid slowly oven-cooked to crispy perfection and served with a cherry jus and vegetable tempura, and a suckling pig that can even (just about) vie with the jaw-dropping views as the most inviting part of the restaurant.
Address: Calle Jerez 25, Ronda 29400; Tel. 952 87 12 40; Restauranteazahar.com.
Restaurante Bodega San Francisco
No matter what your gastronomic ambitions are, you can’t spend more than a few days in Andalucia and not set foot in a typical spit and sawdust joint. While there are undoubtedly rougher round the edges places to eat where you’d still expect an excellent bite to eat, Bodega San Francisco more than fulfils this brief.
All of the basic ingredients are in place, from the beams and polished terracotta floors to the legs of ham hanging above the lovely gleaming wooden bar. Fancy the food is not, but whether it’s green peppers ‘al padron’ (fried, salted and blistered to within an inch of their greasy lives) to fried fish, spicy prawns, or snails when they’re in season, it’s a quintessentially Andalucian experience.
In the evenings, the terrace area – out on a square dotted with noisy, bird-filled plane trees (pictured) – is one of the most inviting spots in town for a drink and a light bite.
Address: Plaza Ruedo Alameda 32, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 81 62; Bodegasanfrancisco.com.
Abades Ronda Restaurante
Another restaurant that falls firmly into the category marked ‘special’ is Abades Ronda. Standout dishes range from the sublime – think foie with local goat’s cheese and caramelised apple and delightfully delicate turbot on a bed of baby vegetables – to the frankly ridiculously delicious, a sirloin of Iberico pork that, in our opinion, would be worth trying to scale the gorge for.
And speaking of the gorge… it’s right there, like an extra dining companion, opening out on to views that stretch away across the sun-dappled fields and olive groves to the misty Serrania de Ronda in the distance. Mesmerising.
Address: Paseo Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 13 67; Abadesronda.com.
Tragata’s been one of Ronda’s top restaurants since it opened what seems like yonks ago. It’s hardly surprising given that owner/chef Benito Gomez (the man behind recently Michelin-starred restaurant, Bardal – see above) cut his teeth in Ferran Adria’s La Alqueria at Hacienda Benazuza, as well as the kitchens of Jean Luc Figueras and Dani Garcia.
And the food? Asia meets Andalucia in a nutshell, with squid sandwiches, Russian salad and eggs ‘a la flamenca’, all making an appearance alongside the likes of prawn tempura, beef tataki and noodles and Thai-style seabass. Not only is it high quality fare, but it also makes for a nice change from the more traditional dishes you tend to find on your average southern Spanish menu.
Address: Calle Nueva 4, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 72 09; Tragata.com.
First the downsides: Entre Vinos is on a rather humdrum residential street out to the far north of the old town. The positives more than outweigh its slightly uninspiring location, however: it’s an inviting little neighbourhood wine bar with a lively atmosphere and a cracking selection of local Ronda wines.
Elsewhere in the positives column, food-wise all the classics are here from jamon, morcilla, presa and garlicky mushrooms to some fine cheeses and pates. Our top tip, though, has to be the squid cooked in its own ink and served with noodles.
Address: Calle Pozo 2, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 658 58 29 76; Facebook page.
Tucked away at the southernmost end of Ronda’s historic centre, this charming little neighbourhood tapas bar and restaurant is very much one for all seasons. On chilly winter nights, great hearty plates of oven-cooked lamb and partridge stew are served up in the cosy interior.
In the summer, by contrast, the terrace is a great spot for sitting out in the square over a cool gazpacho or one of their fine salads and admiring the swooping swallows against a backdrop of the Moorish Puerta de Almocabar gate.
Address: Plaza Ruedo Alameda, 5, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 59 77; Facebook page.
There’s much more to Tropicana than meets the eye. A modern looking tapas joint on the corner of a typically Spanish block of flats way off the tourist trail to the north of the town, as seriously good dish after dish comes out of the kitchen you soon realise that you’ve stumbled into one of the best tapas bars in Ronda.
What’s good? On a fairly extensive and varied menu, it’s the meat that really stands out. The crisped oxtail tapas is a great way to kick things off, while the house speciality gourmet burgers are vast towers of juicy meat. It’s the barbecued entrecote and T-bone steaks that claim the prize, though – they’re things of rare beauty, crisscrossed with marbling, lightly charred on the outside and succulent and tender within.
Oh, and they serve a very mean gin and tonic, too.
Address: Avenida Malaga & Calle Acinipo, s/n, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 89 85; Tabernatropicana.com.
Appetite whetted by our pick of the best Ronda restaurants? For more things to do in this stunning town, check out our guide to Ronda in a day.
It wasn’t so long ago that eating out in Malaga consisted of little more than a plate of olives, a slice of Spanish tortilla and a skewer of grilled sardines. While a lot of bars did (and do) this very well, you would hardly describe it as gourmet or any different from the rest of Spain.
But roll in some major refurbs in the city centre and big-name arrivals on the art scene, and the Malaga foodie scene ups its game. And we’re talking several notches here – the city now competes with Barcelona and Madrid when it comes to gourmet experiences.
From the historic central market and traditional corner shops to high-end wineries and restaurants, Malaga offers fine local produce to try and buy. And of course, take home with you to savour long after your holiday (and tide you over until your next one). Read our definitive gourmet guide to Malaga to discover where to go to find your foodie heaven.
Everything under the Malaga sun
Feast your senses (and that’s all five) with a visit to Atarazanas Market in the centre of Malaga. The dozens of stalls literally groan with local produce, harvested from the fertile valleys and hills in the province or caught the night before in the Mediterranean. Expect sensory overload as you wander through the aisles taking in one of the best foodie sights in southern Spain.
Seasonal is key to the best foodie experiences and the choice at Atarazanas Market moves in time with nature’s calendar. Strawberries and asparagus come into their own in the spring, while the summer gives way to cherries and myriad varieties of tomatoes. Autumn welcomes a great selection of tropical fruit, grown in the Axarquía region of Malaga – custard apples, mangos and of course, grapes, that essential ingredient for Malaga wine. Winter’s just as colourful as it’s the season for Malaga carrots (don’t let the bright purple put you off for one second) and citrus fruits – in this case, just the colours you’d expect!
Year-round appearances include cold cuts and cheeses (try the Payayo goat’s cheese); olives galore – don’t miss the olives from Álora, fat, juicy bites laced with thyme, fennel and garlic, and the only olives in Spain with a guarantee of origin label; dried fruits and nuts to satisfy even the most discerning nibblers; plus several stalls selling Spanish store cupboard staples such as saffron for that Sunday paella and sugar cane honey for dribbling on slices of fried aubergine.
Yes, our mouths are watering too but the good news is that you can try before you buy at many stalls. Some do a plate of local cheeses and cold cuts with a glass of Malaga wine. If you fancy trying the fish and seafood, head for one of the bars at the entrances for a tapa or ten.
Address: Calle Atarazanas. Open: Mon to Sat 9am to 3pm.
Despite the huge changes in Malaga, the city still has a traditional feel and has kept several of small specialist shops. A trip to one of these grocer’s shops not only opens the door to the best quality at often competitive prices, but takes you back to the days when your mother used to ask you to pop out to the corner shop.
Established in 1943, this gourmet gem is one of the best shops in Malaga for local produce. They stock a particularly good selection of wine (Spanish as well as Malaga), cheeses, condiments and jams. The in-house bakery next door is a new addition and handy for the bread to accompany your cheeseboard. Buy in store to take home or online La-mallorquina.es (in Spanish only) for home delivery.
Address: Plaza Feliz Saenz 1. Open: Mon to Fri 9.15am to 2.15pm and 5.15 to 8.45pm. Weekends 9.15am to 2.30pm.
Ultramarinos Juan de Dios Barba
It’s the window that catches your eye here. Nowhere else in Malaga displays large rolls of air-dried cod (an essential ingredient in many typical local dishes such as ensalada malagueña) and baskets of dried herrings with quite the same panache. They’re had years of practice too because this gourmet corner has been selling cod to locals since 1932. Make this your go-to shop for Malaga raisins and dried figs.
Address: Calle Martínez 10. Open: Monday to Friday 9.30am to 2.30pm and 5 to 9pm. Saturday 9.30am to 2pm.
Tiny on size – blink and you could miss it – but big on taste, this foodie haven has been around since 1956. They sell all types of Malaga produce but specialise in jamón serrano and Iberian cold cuts. Wash them down with a bottle of Malaga wine – Zoido do a good line in wines from Ronda.
Address: Calle Granada 65. Open: Mon to Sat 9am to 2.30pm and 5pm to 9.30pm.
If you’re looking for gourmet shopping on a much bigger scale and fancy incorporating the rest of Spain to your foodie trip, head for the Gourmet Experience on the top floor of El Corte Inglés department store. The choice of Spanish food and wine plus a wide range of international fare on sale is second to none in Malaga. Quality with a capital Q does come at a premium price and you don’t get the local touch here, but your taste buds will be just as grateful.
Address: Avenida de Andalucía 4-6. Open: Mon to Sat 10am to midnight. Sunday noon to midnight.
While you can try before you buy at Atarazanas Market and local grocer’s shops, you won’t get more than a sliver of cheese or small slice of chorizo making it difficult to get a good overview or a real idea of what you like. Bring in a tasting, however, and we’re talking a whole new culinary experience. Here’s where to go:
El Almacén del Indiano
Based on a traditional grocer’s shop, this ‘Indian warehouse’ offers the perfect combination of tastings and the chance to try typical Spanish dishes. They specialise in jamón serrano – just watching them cut the ham makes the visit worthwhile – and organise tasting sessions for cold cuts, cheeses and wine. Book via their website Almacendelindiano.com or ask for a spontaneous tasting while you’re there.
Address: Calle Cisneros 7. Open: Mon to Fri 11am to 3pm and 6 to 9pm. Sat 11am to 4pm.
Los Patios de Beatas
When it comes to wine, it doesn’t get better than at Los Patios de Beatas Catasenmalaga.com, whose wine list runs to over 500 entries. And counting. Owner Julián Sanjuán knows his bottles inside out and offers customised wine tastings. He also runs olive oil tastings and pairing sessions where the delicious house tapas perfectly complement the wine. And while you’re treating your taste buds, feast your eyes on the historic interior complete with 17th century wine vats and stunning stain-glass cupola.
Address: Calle Beatas 43. Open: Monday to Saturday 1pm to 4pm and 8pm to midnight. Sun 1pm to 4pm.
A newbie on the Malaga restaurant scene, Maroleum Facebook Page Maroleum takes olive oil culture to a whole new level. You can’t actually buy EVOO here, but you can taste it in every single dish on the menu. You also live and breathe olive oil in the decoration, video installations and wall displays – where else can you watch the olive harvest as you savour the liquid gold at breakfast, lunch and dinner? As well as concocting unique EVOO creations, chef Dani Peinado offers olive oil tasting experiences.
Address: Calle Pacífico 49. Open: Daily 8am to midnight.
Like food? Have you been to the vineyards in Ronda?
Few things get tongues wagging at LVC HQ quite like food and drink. It’s hardly surprising – we’re lovers of a country where they’re never too far from being the main topic of discussion, after all.
When we eat out we want more than just delicious food and wine; we want to undergo a full sensory experience from mouth-watering dishes to stunning surroundings. Which is precisely what the below Michelin starred restaurants in Malaga have to offer.
Jose Carlos Garcia, Malaga City
Nothing symbolises Malaga’s rebirth into a fabulous, forward-facing, tourist-friendly destination more than the city’s port area, Muelle Uno. And nothing better encompasses Muelle Uno’s ambitious vision than the glittering Michelin starred dining at Jose Carlos Garcia. There are three dining spaces, each of which is spacious with stylish but comfortable design touches. The food is experimental with whimsical, exotic takes on local dishes, from suckling pig served with pineapple and sweet pumpkin jus, prawns with Korean kimchi, hand-poured gazpachuelo and red mullet served with curry gnocchi.
The famous chef himself tries to go out of his way to welcome you (or at the very least sends you on your way, after a dazzling gastronomic experience, with a cheery thank you). All in all, it’s a dining experience that’s equal parts surprising and delicious.
Opening times: 13.30–15.00hrs, 20.30–23.00hrs. Address: Puerto de Malaga, Plaza de la Capilla, 1, 29016 Malaga. Phone: 952 00 35 88. Restaurantejcg.com.
Kabuki Raw, Casares
Malaga’s finest five-star hotel, Finca Cortesin, needed a restaurant that truly did justice to the lovely, luxe-y surroundings. And in Kabuki Raw, the Japanese Michelin starred restaurant that opened in 2014, they got just that. Put simply, Kabuki Raw is the best place to eat Japanese food in southern Spain. The service and surroundings are impeccable, with each table having a view of the chef, and the food and perfectly paired wine are… well, an event.
The courses are themed around acts from the Japanese theatre, Kabuki, after which the restaurant is named. You start with a ‘Hanamichi’ curtain-raiser of light tempura and sashimi-style morsels and work through acts two and three before a dramatic ‘Shosagoto’ denouement of Wagyu beef ribs. From start to finish, it’s all utterly spectacular.
Opening times: Dinner only (smart casual dress code is insisted upon). Fincacortesin.com.
Restaurante Dani Garcia, Marbella
Slap-bang in the middle of the Golden Mile, in the heart of the Puente Romano complex, Dani Garcia’s dining room screams indulgence from the moment you cross the threshold – low ceilings channel the eye to vibrant green living walls that serve to offset a monochrome colour palette and gleaming black floors. This taste for the avant-garde and theatricals is carried over into the food where flamboyant twists on otherwise traditional, prosaic-sounding dishes are the order of the day. Gazpacho meets sea anemone and ceviche, ajoblanco comes with herring roe, a workaday ‘Gypsy stew’ is married with seafood and the likes of roast hare, spider crab and murex (rock snails) pop up on fantastically themed menus like the Little Prince, Alice in Wonderland and 2017’s technicolour offering, Caleidoscope. Fabulous.
Opening times: Dinner only. Address: Hotel Puente Romano, Av. Bulevar Principe Alfonso de Hohenlohe, s/n, 29602 Marbella, Malaga.
A little unusually for a, quite frankly, seafood-obsessed Malaga, chef Diego Gallegos favours fresh water fish – on our visit sturgeon seemed to be a favourite and there were no complaints from us. As you’d expect from a fine dining restaurant there’s a tasting menu available, but in Sollo’s case it extends to 19 (count them) courses. Each course is beautifully presented and dressed exquisitely with plates substituted for shells, leaves, dried seaweed or wooden boards, the sort of touch of drama which really adds to the overall experience.
Opening times: Dinner only. Address: Urbanizacion Reserva del Higueron, Av. del Higueron, 48, 29640 Fuengirola, Malaga. Phone: 951 38 56 22; Sollo.es.
Messina is that fairly rare thing: relaxed fine dining. Which isn’t to say that the food isn’t superb – if their steaks alone are worth travelling for, you’d camp out overnight on the pavement for their succulent baby goat. Set in Marbella’s old town, chef Mauricio Giovanini and his wife Pia Ninci earned their star in 2016 making them the newest place on the Malaga list.
Opening times: 13.30-15.30hrs, 20-23.00hrs. Address: Av. Severo Ochoa, 12, 29603 Marbella, Malaga.
One of the smallest Michelin star restaurants in the Malaga area, sitting down to dine at one of Skina’s five tables can’t fail to make you feel special. In the centre of Marbella on a pedestrian street this now very established restaurant has Jaume Puigdengolas as head chef offering the best ingredients with creative flair – think huge, fat prawns, red mullet and sea bass sourced daily from the market then transformed into dishes of rare delicacy and subtlety.
Opening times: 13.30–15.30hrs, 19–23.00hrs. Address: Calle Aduar, 12, 29601 Marbella, Malaga.
El Lago, Marbella
El Lago’s Michelin star dates all the way back to 2005 – for which you’ve got to take your hat off: serving up food of the highest quality, without letting standards drop off for a moment, for well over a decade is no mean feat.
The ethos of the chef Diego del Rio is ‘zero kilometre food’, something that ordinarily might be limiting but given El Lago’s sun-soaked southern Spanish setting in reality means very few ingredients are off-limits. Local goat’s cheese, Malaga goat, veal and a dazzling array of tropical fruits and vegetables picked from the neighbouring Guadalhorce Valley all make an appearance on the set menu, alongside fresh fish and seafood hauled by the boatload from the sparkling Mediterranean.
Opening times: Dinner only. Address: Urb. Elviria Hills, Avda. Las Cumbres, s/n, 29600 Marbella, Malaga.
Sollun may not have a Michelin star to its name (or not yet, anyway), but it’s still one very fine restaurant. Chef Juan Quintanilla eloped from Messina and opened this restaurant in Nerja a good few of years ago now. And it was about time, too. We needed a great eatery on our forays east of Malaga and Sollun has served us well on a few occasions.
Quintanilla is a chef who’s passionate about the food he serves up and will come out to discuss preferences with diners and explain what special dishes he recommends. Whether fish or meat we have never been disappointed. There are no gimmicks here, just a selection of, what on the surface appear to be, surprisingly simple dishes that are brought to life with sublime ingredients and the touch of a seriously skilled chef.
Opening times: 13.00–14.30hrs, 19.00–00.00hrs. Address: Calle Pintada, 9, 29780 Nerja, Malaga. Phone: 653 68 94 52. Sollunrestaurante.com.
Like our pick of Michelin starred restaurants in Malaga? Book a gastro getaway at one of our luxury Costa del Sol villas and our Concierge will assist with personal recommendations and reservations at these and many more mouthwatering restaurants in Spain.
Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Cava and Albariño are the big names in Spanish wine. It’s well known that to the north of Spain the land is ideal for vineyards. While in southern Spain with its hot climate and mountainous terrain it was left for fortified wines. However, not any more…
Up until 2000 Andalucia was famed only for its excellent fortified wines from Cadiz, Cordoba and Malaga provinces. However, in recent years small providers have been working hard in Granada, Malaga, Cadiz and Huelva producing dry whites, sparkling wines, rosés and reds that are starting to give the well-known wine regions of the North a run for their money.
Here at the Luxury Villa Collection we have discerning tastes when it comes to what ends up in our glass at the end of the day. And although there are a lot of new bodegas (wineries) in Andalucia, not all Andalucian wines are good. We’ve had great fun (hiccup) picking the best bodegas to visit.
This mountainous region to the east of Malaga is famed for its avocados, mangos and sweet wine. Its white villages are pretty, charming, authentic and home to many food-related fiestas throughout the spring and summer.
Address: Finca El Almendro, Pago Cuesta Robano, 29752, Sayalonga, Malaga
What: The bodega building itself is a handsome, modern, slate affair which is strikingly bold in its very rural setting. Wine tastings are paired with nibbles of food, but the set course lunches they offer are exceptional so don’t miss them. The chef (and owner) has been trained by one of the best chefs in the province.
Products: Aromatic red, rosé, white and sweet wines under the Ariyanas label.
We love: Their 100% Moscatel de Alejandría, sweet Terruño Pizarroso (a typical Malaga wine) and their rosé, Ariyanas Romé Rosado, is absolutely perfect on hot evenings.
Point of difference: They cork with reusable glass stoppers – very chic and a useful memento.
More information: Bodegasbentomiz.com
Ronda has a wine-making heritage which goes all the way back to Roman times, and has been recently revived. There are 18 wineries (on our last count) so more than enough to warrant a private chauffeur and a whistle stop tour of a few of them.
The town itself is in a magical setting and packs quite a punch in terms of sightseeing credentials, so coupling up a day wine tasting with cultural sights is ideal. Whether you choose to wine taste before or after visiting the town there’s plenty to enjoy from palaces and pretty squares, to a traditional bull ring and the famous old bridge.
Address: Finca Descalzos Viejos, Pdo. de los Molinos, Apartado de Correos 365, 29400, Ronda, Malaga
What: A restored convent building steeped in history. With its frescos, vaulted ceilings and atmospheric feel it’s not only one of our favourite bodegas in Spain, but anywhere else in the world, too.
Products: Red and white wine as well as a sweet wine called Dv Mínima – which is absolutely delicious. All wines have the D.O. Sierra de Malaga seal of approval.
We love: There are no set tours; each tour is specific upon request.
Point of difference: The vineyards are in the gorge of Ronda, making it a spectacular setting and within easy reach of the town for a spot of sightseeing.
More information: Descalzosviejos.com
Address: Finca los Frutales, Paraje Los Frontones, 29400, Ronda, Malaga
What: An organic winery created in a self-sustainable ecosystem.
Products: Red, rosé and a blush wine.
We love: The rural setting and the in-depth explanations provided in to mixing traditional methods with new technology and organic procedures.
Point of difference: You can go on a horse riding tour through the vineyard – that’s pretty special.
More information: Bodegajf.es
Cadiz province is very much the Andalucia wine heartlands. Home to the Sherry Triangle – Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria – in Cadiz province it’s all about sweet and dry Sherry. If you’re not familiar with Sherry, don’t let that put you off – it’s an incredibly versatile, rich and complex wine. Some of these wineries have been producing wines for hundreds of years, and with this heritage comes quality. On a tasting in Cadiz province you will be taken on a journey through history and will know your different Sherries at the end of it, from sun-drenched sweet Pedro Ximénez to the salty dryness of Manzanilla.
Puerto de Santa Maria
On the Atlantic coast the old town of Puerto de Santa Maria is filled with cobbled streets, traditional fish restaurants and an imposing Moorish fortress.
Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia
Address: Avda. Bajamar, 40, 11500 El Puerto de Santa María, Cšdiz
What: One of the area’s smaller wineries, Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía is family owned and a beautiful example of a typical southern Spanish bodega.
Products: Sherries – Fino, Amontillado, Pedro Ximénez, Oloroso, Palo Cortado – and Brandies.
We love: It’s very atmospheric and romantic; they offer great tapas and the family have a real understanding of flamenco (a show can be arranged).
Point of difference: Beside the Guadalete River in the charming El Puerto de Santa Maria it makes for a wonderful day out.
More information: Gutierrezcolosia.com
Sanlucar de Barrameda
Sitting alongside the Guadalquivir estuary, the town of Sanlucar old quarter (Barrio Alto) is delightful. The town is famed for its wide, golden beaches, seafood, beach horse racing and its salty Manzanilla wine.
Address: Luis de Eguilaz, 11, 11540, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz
What: Barbadillo is one of the oldest and largest family bodegas in Andalucia as well as being home to the Manzanilla Museum.
Products: White, red and sparkling as well as Sherries (Manzanilla, Oloroso, Amontilado, Palo Cortado, Creams, Pedro Ximénez) and Brandies.
We love: The Cathedral of Manzanilla, where the barrels are kept – it truly is enormous. The beginner’s wine tasting course gives a good understanding of Sherry and gets you prepared to sound like you know what you’re talking about even if this is your first foray into Sherry.
Point of difference: Barbadillo has 17 wine cellars covering 75,000 m2!
More information: Barbadillo.com
Jerez de la Frontera
A visit to Andalucia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Jerez – the home of the Spanish Riding School, the Buleria (a type of flamenco) and Sherry. It’s a beautiful city with great restaurants, a wonderful food market and many, many wineries.
Las Bodegas Marqués del Real Tesoro y Valdespino
Address: Ctra. Nacional IV, Km. 640, 11408 Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz
What: Many famous Sherry household names (La Guita and Real Tesoro for instance) sit under the Estévez Group who own the cellars of Marques del Real Tesoro y Valdespino.
Products: Cava, Brandy and Sherries (Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Cream, Pedro Ximenez).
We love: The modern art gallery which is part of the cellar – look out for the Picasso prints as well as works from Dali, Botero and Miro.
Point of difference: Three very unique experiences in one: a vineyard and winery, art gallery and stud to the rare, black cloaked, pure breed Spanish horses (pure Andalucian horses are usually grey and these are black).
More information: Grupoestevez.es
More Details – When Should You Visit?
The vineyards and wineries are open all year round. However, the harvest is carried out mainly in August and September (sometimes stretching to October depending on the weather). So to see the fields and hills full of harvesters and the grapes being selected and crushed September is the time to book. If you want to visit some of the boutique bodegas around the Malaga or Ronda area then do contact our Concierge who can organise an excellent guided tour in small private groups with a door to door service.
Enjoy exploring the wines here in Andalucia – and don’t worry: all the bodegas ship abroad.
It’s said that, once upon a time, Malaga boasted more bars per capita than anywhere else in Europe. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s certainly true that scruffy, spit ‘n’ sawdust neighbourhood joints out-numbered decent restaurants and tapas bars in the city until relatively recently.
How things have changed. From newly opened gastro markets in the Old Town centre to sophisticated beach-side terraces and full to bursting gourmet tapas bars down narrow alleyways, there are more great places to eat in Malaga than a city of its size has any reasonable right to.
If you want to get a taste of what it’s like to live like a local in a city where the people are very serious about their food and drink, then hit Malaga, basically. And while it’s been tricky to narrow them down, here are a few of the Luxury Villa Collection’s pick of best Malaga restaurants…
Best for Gourmet
Jose Carlos Garcia
The only Michelin-starred restaurant in Malaga is at the port, just next to the lighthouse at Muelle Uno. It’s the culinary base of Jose Carlos Garcia who is one of the most famous names in food in the city. The chef himself will be in the kitchen while you dine in this pleasant, spacious dining room which extends onto the terrace outside when the sun shines. The dining room is one of our favourites in the city: its hard-edged industrial chic is offset by a comfy softness – think a sharp glass box with classic Eames chairs in grey, and thick pile rugs to soften the pressed concrete. (LOVE it.) Food-wise, it’s the finest of fine dining with plate after delightfully crafted plate descending on your table over the course of a meal.
Address: Puerto de Malaga, Plaza de la Capilla, 1, 29016 Malaga. Telephone: 952 00 35 88. Restaurantejcg.com.
Best for Fusion
One of the latest additions to the hip and happening Soho district, this restaurant takes you literally on a journey round the world. Latin America, especially Brazil and Mexico, provide the roots but Europe and Asia pop up all over the menu too. It’s casual dining with one of those kitchens you can peep into – recommended if only to see what it takes to put the dishes together – and unusually for Malaga, not much of an outside terrace.
You’re not here to sit al fresco, though; this one’s about the food. A first glance at the menu can leave you a little puzzled, but owner Andrés does a great job explaining just what to expect on your plate. From the carrot croquettes and the ‘steaming’ clam ceviche to the duck with cassava and passion fruit and ubiquitous pork loin that gets a total revamp with a chili-coconut and chimichurri sauce, this is a whole new culinary experience. Top it off with one of the finger-licking desserts served in Kilner jars. All dishes are shareable but you’ll probably want them all to yourself. And if you’re in town in the week, don’t miss the lunchtime menu – 3 courses plus a drink for €11.90.
Address: Calle Casas de Campo 4, 29001 Malaga. Telephone: 951 33 08 06.
Best for Art Lovers
All that talented creativity going on at the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) next door flows right on through to the menu at Óleo Restaurante where taste buds go into overtime. A sleek, but informal venue with a great riverside terrace – an oh-so-perfect spot for a sundowner G&T – this restaurant never fails to provide a great dining experience.
At the helm is Sergio del Rio whose culinary creations combine Mediterranean dishes with a touch of nouvelle cuisine, but not so much that you don’t recognise what’s on your plate. So, good-old patatas bravas get an extra shot of heat via a spicy foam, traditional red tuna is joined by half-dried tomatoes from nearby Alora and the up-and-coming Malaga kid goat becomes the main ingredient in the Vietnamese rolls. You get the idea.
Taking the oriental connection that bit further is Rui Junior whose sushi ranks as the best in town. Prepare to be spoilt for choice. This is casual dining and all plates are suitable for sharing. And the best of all? The bill at the end – mains range from €7 to €22.
Address: Edificio CAC Malaga, Calle Alemania s/n, 29001 Malaga. Telephone: 952 21 90 62. Oleorestaurante.es.
Best for a Post-shopping Lunch
Restaurante La Deriva
On a corner in Soho, just before you reach the river, is the stylish La Deriva. Ticking all the boxes for a relaxed vibe, good service and good food – and within easy strolling distance from Calle Larios – it’s ideal for a refuelling stop after a morning’s shopping with friends. The food is excellent overall, but there are standout dishes like the mouth-wateringly tender grilled octopus, oysters and saffron risotto served with jamón and sundried tomatoes. Other things not to miss include a superior cheese board and a wide selection of Vermouths.
Address: Alameda Colon, 7, 29001 Malaga. Telephone: 951 28 69 21.
Best for Traditional Tapas
Tapeo de Cervantes & Meson de Cervantes
Casa de Cervantes was one of the first tapas bars in Malaga to open with the emphasis on quality – great wine and top-class produce were always a given. It dared to offer small but perfectly formed tapas at pretty hefty prices (for this corner of Andalucia, anyway) and they were full to bursting practically every night of the week, albeit in a tiny joint near the Teatro Cervantes. So, other tapas bars around Malaga stood up and took notice – cue a collective city-wide game-raising. Since then their sister restaurant opened around the corner to allow people to have full dishes in a slightly more formal, sit-down set-up. Food-wise expect artichokes with Jamon Serrano, bull’s tail in Malaga wine and clams in Sherry. It’s casual dining (with an emphasis on sharing) in a noisy, bustling dining space, the service is good, and it has a very strong wine list of local and international wines, too. A big LVC favourite.
Tapeo de Cervantes – address: Calle de Carcer, 8, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 952 60 94 58. Eltapeodecervantes.com.
Meson de Cervantes – address: Calle Alamos, 11, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 952 21 62 74. Elmesondecervantes.com.
Best for Kids
As for family-focused, child-friendly eateries in Malaga there… really aren’t any. However, the southern Spanish are very accommodating when it comes to children, so smaller plates for smaller people will be produced if requested.
The situation of this restaurant is great for parents with especially energetic broods: right on a square next to the Teatro Cervantes, they can run themselves ragged within eyeshot while you sit back with a chilled glass of wine. On the food front, we’re talking international, so the menu is varied and more likely to be familiar to smaller, non-Spanish mouths. The portions are incredibly generous, so it’s important to remember to leave room for their delectable double chocolate Guinness cake. If you’re a fan of flamenco, they hold a show at 8pm every evening. Check the website below for more information.
Address: Plaza de Jeronimo Cuervo, 2, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 952 60 90 93. Restaurantevinomio.es.
Best for Sharing & Pairing
Slightly off the beaten track but still just a few steps from the centre, Alexso has quickly established a name for itself on the Malaga foodie scene. The venue comes small on space but huge on taste, with Chef José Antonio Moyano taking local recipes, giving them a whole new look and then throwing in some surprises for good measure. So that invisible fried egg really does taste like the real thing. And who’d have thought of putting Malaga salchichón (cold sausage) into an éclair? But it works and works well.
Dishes make ideal sharing plates – an option we’re always keen on because you get to work your way through lots of different items on the menu. Pairing is something else Alexso excels at, and the waiters are more than happy to step in and recommend the perfect wine for a dish. The restaurant also has two set tasting menus: Alexso Route (allow an hour and a half for the seven dishes) and Cooking Up Sensations (just over two hours for ten dishes).
Children are made to feel very welcome at Alexso, with friendly waiters, colouring books and pens.
Address: Calle Mariblanca 10, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 951 91 35 85. Restaurantealexso.es.
Best for an Informal Bite
La Luz de Candela
La Luz de Candela is very much a family affair: French chef Charlie heads things up in the kitchen, while his daughter Candela runs front of house with great energy and charm. The food ethos of the restaurant is simple but appealing, revolving around slow cooked local, seasonal ingredients – Mediterranean cuisine as it should always be cooked and presented, basically.
The dining room has a home from home feel with little more than 10 tables, and where possible dishes are served in half plates as well as full plates, making it ideal for a relaxed evening with friends. It doesn’t have much curb appeal – but there are no seats outside so, frankly, who cares? It’s really all about the quality of food and relaxed atmosphere. On LVC’s last visit we were particularly taken by the scallops and the desserts (yes, plural – we did try all the desserts on the menu).
Address: Calle Dos Aceras, 18-20, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 648 85 32 53. La-luz-de-candela.com.
Best for Vegetarians & Vegans
Vegans, on the whole, don’t fare too well when it comes to dining options in Spain, but in Malaga, Siete Semillas comes to the rescue. Not only do vegan dishes always feature on the menu, other dietary restrictions and food intolerances are simply no problem at all. How’s that for a breath of fresh air?
The funky venue – we love the industrial loft-look with super high ceilings and upside-down spider plants – sits on Atarazanas Market’s doorstep so you know you’re in good company. But it gets even better because everything, and that’s absolutely everything, is organic. And your non-vegan fellow diners get a look in too because the daily menu (€14) includes vegetable as well as meat options. The taboulehs and soups (hot and cold) are particularly good as are the organic juices and smoothies. And if it isn’t time for lunch, grab a coffee and a slice of one of the homemade, organic cakes. Delicious and virtuous. Not a bad combo.
Address: Plaza Arriola 1, 29005 Malaga. Telephone: 645 93 57 96.
Vegetariano El Calafate
Always full to bursting, El Calafate is the best vegetarian restaurant in Malaga. They have a €9.50 set lunchtime menu which changes daily (it’s slightly more expensive on the weekends). It offers the usual things you’d expect from any self-respecting veggie restaurant with thick soups, curries, stir-fries, Moroccan-inspired dishes and one or two vegan options. The candlelit dining room can accommodate a largish group (of up to around 14 people) but you have to book it in advance.
Address: Calle Andres Perez, 6, 29008 Malaga. Telephone: 952 22 93 44.
Best for Living like a Local
Ordinarily we would never recommend eating in the same square – or even the same vicinity – of a city’s cathedral. However, the Refectorium is a rare exception to the rule. There’s great service (some of the best in the city) in this busy, modern, light and airy restaurant, while the food is a mix of time-honoured classics cooked to perfection and the sort of wonderfully simple, let-the-produce-speak-for-itself dishes that are what Spanish cooking is all about. Everyone raves about its Russian salad – and with good reason, too: this pretty bland and basic Spanish staple is transformed into a mouth-watering morsel.
Although the restaurant welcomes children, the well-heeled clientele are less welcoming to small children. It’s an adult’s establishment, in other words; a place to enjoy the food, service and atmosphere.
Address: C/ Postigo De Los Abades, 4, 29015 Malaga. Telephone: 952 60 23 89.
Best for a Smart Pre-Night Out Dinner
Housed within a small palace to the far north of the old town, Restaurante Montana is definitely something of a looker. Opening out from a plant-filled central courtyard, the grand 19th-century premises dovetail beautifully with stylish, modern interiors, and the lighting inside and out is just right.
It’s far from a case of style over content, though, as it offers fine dining without the foodie fashion whims. We love to sit in the sunny courtyard and order a plate of melt-in-the-mouth Jamón Iberico as an after-shopping treat. In the evenings, its excellent international wine list, cocktails and comfortable seating area make it the perfect place to kick back after dinner and plan out the next steps of a night out. It’s convenient, too: highly unusually for a restaurant in Malaga city centre, it also has its own parking.
Address: Calle Compas de la Victoria, 5, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 952 65 12 44. Restaurantemontana.com.
Best for a Big Group
Bodega El Pimpi
This place has seemingly been around since time began. What started as a traditional tapas bar where everyone from the ages of 19 to 90 went to have Jamon Serrano washed down with Malaga wine (made from sweet Moscatel grapes – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) is now a Malaga institution and must-visit. The setting is outstanding and typically southern Spanish: inside, it’s all tinkling fountains, tumbling plants, huge wine barrels from floor to ceiling and photos of famous people who had visited over the years. It’s cavernous, too, with two floors and several different sized rooms that can be easily taken over by large groups. Taking the décor and atmosphere out of the equation, the food is only so-so to be completely honest. But it’s well worth a visit, even if it’s just for a pre- or post-dinner drink inside or out on the terrace looking over the Roman amphitheatre.
Address: Calle Granada, 62, 29015 Malaga. Telephone: 952 22 54 03. Elpimpi.com.
Best for Views
Restaurante Especia Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro
If you like a vista with your vino, it doesn’t get much better than at the Parador up next to the Gibralfaro Castle. Treat your taste buds to some delicious local cuisine while you feast your eyes on the bright lights of Malaga and the Mediterranean below your feet. Views are pretty good from inside the restaurant, but nothing short of exceptional on the outside terrace and certainly the best at any table in Malaga. With chef Bartolomé Rodrigo at the helm, the menu puts the accent on local produce harvested from the nearby Axarquía mountains, Guadalhorce Valley and of course, the Med (all part of your table view). Dishes change with the seasons; on the menu this summer are refreshingly cool soups – try the almond and garlic with fig bread or the thick tomato porra malagueña with Iberian ham – and fresh salads as well as fish and meat dishes. Plus some Malaga classics such as fried fish and battered aubergines with honey. The dessert menu falls a little short, but you’ll be too sweet on the views to notice. And if you want to make that vino with a vista that bit extra special, time your dinner to coincide with sunset.
Address: Castillo de Gibralfaro s/n, 29016 Malaga. Telephone: 952 221 902 Parador-de-malaga-gibralfaro/gastronomy
Best for Beachside
Malaga excels at chiringuitos, beach bars that specialise in locally-caught fish and seafood, and it’s difficult to go wrong for a lunchtime bite. One of the best sits on the western side of Malaga Bay near the Russian and Car Museums. Gutiérrez Playa has been around for a while and this experience plus the fact that the family runs one of the busiest fishmongers in the nearby Huelin market means they know what they’re cooking. Staples on the menu include deep-fried fish – think anchovies, baby sole and whitebait – delicately flavoured salt-baked fish and that Malaga classic, chargrilled sardines on an espeto cane. If you like your fish cooked gently over an olive wood fire, try the other espeto specials – langoustine, bream, squid or octopus. Book your table on the sand where you’ll dine just yards from the Mediterranean and stunning views of the Bay.
Address: Paseo Marítimo Antonio Banderas 2, 29004 Malaga. Telephone: 952 118 908
If you have a bit of a group (or even just the two of you!) and fancy having a local expert show you around Malaga, then why not book a Malaga tapas tour with our partners Toma & Coe?
Like the sound of our pick of best restaurants in Malaga, but staying a little further up the coast? Check out our selection of top places to eat in Marbella.
Spain is a country where history and gastronomy merge, and nowhere is this truer than in the southern region of Andalucia. Many threads of influence and tradition run through Andalucian cuisine – from the Phoenicians, who first arrived on these shores almost 3,000 years ago, and the Romans who introduced wheat, olives and vines to the area, to the Moors who imported their expertise of almond growing, saffron and rice.
In years gone by, food often defined where we were from, but now food-lovers’ travel choices are influenced because of a region’s gastronomy. We no longer just eat to live – many of us live to eat. So here we’ll share with you a local’s guide to many of the authentic foods of the Axarquia, a mountainous coastal region in the eastern corner of Malaga province. That way, you can really experience the local culture via its cuisine.
We’ll start our journey in Malaga, a city whose history can be traced back more than 2,800 years, making it one of the oldest in the world. Malaga has undergone a cultural renaissance over the past few years, and rather than being just ‘the place where the airport is’, the city is now one of Spain’s unmissable destinations. You’ll discover ancient architecture, a well-established international art scene, important cultural and religious festivals, tapas bars and elegant fine-dining as well as the warm, clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea lapping at Malaga’s long, sandy beaches.
Why not give your senses a treat and head to the Atarazanas market? Here, the Moorish arched entrance and the huge, colourful stained-glass window tell the history of the origins of this bustling marketplace. As you wander around, take in the dazzling displays of freshly-caught fish with their scarlet gills and scales glistening under the spotlights. You can marvel at the kaleidoscope of colours of the artistically displayed fresh fruit and vegetables and savour the counters of aromatic cheeses, spices, artisan bread, marinated olives, dried fruits, nuts, chorizos and ham – all perfect for a gourmet picnic. Or you could try a skewer of fresh tuna or salmon at one of the tapas bars inside the market, where the fish is so fresh it almost melts in your mouth.
From Malaga, consider heading east along the sub-tropical coast of the Axarquia, past orchards of mango and avocado trees, where you’ll be spoilt for choice with an array of chiringuitos (beach bars) stretching for miles. It’s hard to resist the smell of espetos de sardinas (sardines) being cooked on skewers over a wood fire on the beach; so simple yet totally delicious. Alternatively, you could choose one of Malaga’s favourite dishes, boquerones (anchovies), either deep-fried in olive oil, or marinated in vinegar, salt, garlic and olive oil. Boquerones en vinagre are a favourite in many places serving tapas.
Most of the white villages of the Axarquia have an association with a particular fruit or traditional product and host an annual gastronomic festival to celebrate. Periana, for instance, is known for juicy peaches, and Canillas de Aceituno is renowned for the best oven-roasted kid for miles around. Elsewhere in the region, Torrox hosts the Migas festival each December (you can read more about this on Eastofmalaga.net), when more than 40,000 people feast on the traditional Andalucian peasant dish (fried breadcrumbs liberally laced with garlic, small pieces of chorizo, ham or peppers).
The mountain village of Frigiliana, once voted the prettiest village in Andalucia, boasts the last remaining factory in Europe producing miel de caña (literal translation: sugar-cane honey, but in reality this is molasses). Production began at the Ingenio Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Mieldelatorre.com) almost three centuries ago, and the same traditional recipe without additives is still used today. Miel de caña is delicious when drizzled over berenjenas (deep-fried egg-plant) or cod fritters.
A product that is 100% ‘made in Malaga’ is the crumbly Algarrobo cake, a perfect accompaniment with your morning coffee. The ingredients are all sourced within the province, and this gastronomic delight consisting of olive oil, almond flour, aniseed, sugar and cinnamon is put together with love at the Carmen Lupišñez factory, within the village of Algarrobo. You can buy a packet of these cakes at any of the local street markets and little grocery stores for just a couple of euros. Perfect to pop in your suitcase to take back home!
If you’re lucky enough to be travelling to the Axarquia during January, you will see the delicate pink almond blossom on trees throughout the region. First introduced by the Moors many centuries ago, the almond is an important ingredient in local cuisine, from sauces, stews or simply roasted and salted. As you’re wandering around Malaga city you’ll be sure to see a small table at the side of the street where a vendor is selling roasted almonds in a paper cone. You might also like to try ajoblanco (Malaga’s answer to gazpacho) – a refreshingly cold, garlic and almond soup.
As you travel around this region you will see the dry, steep terraced land that is perfect for cultivating vines and, in particular, the sweet moscatel grapes which enjoy the sun and the influence of the sea. No mechanical devices are used for picking – these grapes are all hand-picked to make the local sweet (high-proofed) aromatic wine. Served cold, these wines pair well with blue cheeses, many desserts, chocolate, and are the perfect choice for your sobremesa (the time after a meal when you sit around the table and enjoy a drink with friends).
The mountain village of Competa, which lies in the foothills of the impressive Sierra Almijara and Tejeda mountains, hosts the annual Noche del Vino (not only a night of wine, but a whole day of it!) Every year, thousands of people descend on the village to witness the ritual treading of the grapes and share in the fun and festivities to herald the start of the grape harvest.
Whilst you’re in the area, you might also like to take a tour of one of the excellent wineries nearby. Bodegas Bentomiz (Bodegasbentomiz.com) near Sayalonga supply their Ariyanas wines to many of the finest restaurants in the world, and you can enjoy a tasting or a delicious winemaker’s lunch at their contemporary headquarters.
Welcome to La Axarquia – the authentic Costa del Sol.
It’s probably fair to say that Spain’s foodie credentials need little introduction. However, we know what it’s like to try and distinguish the good from the, well, not so good on holiday.
So to help you sort the wheat from the chaff, here’s a Luxury Villa Collection edit of the very best Marbella restaurants that our Concierge would be happy to book for you. Whether you love the informal sharing of a plate of Jamon Iberico or some El Buli-esque molecular gastronomy, there should be something here that gets your taste buds tingling…
Best for Special Occasions
This small restaurant is dripping with authentic Andaluz atmosphere. Although the address is Plaza de los Naranjos – the historic main square slap-bang in the middle of Marbella’s old town – the dining room is romantic, traditional and unassuming. If you want bling and glitz then this isn’t the place for you. However, if it’s an intimate meal you’re after then it certainly hits the spot. The food is uncomplicated but delicious with sensible portions and a good wine menu. The restaurant is on the second floor of an old central patio-ed style Andalucian building. (There’s a rather good art gallery below, actually.) Be warned, though – there’s only a brace of tables for two on the balcony overlooking the square, so book early if you’re planning a special meal a deux surrounded by the intoxicating smell of orange blossom.
Address: Plaza de los Naranjos, 10, 29601 Marbella, Malaga. Pacojimenezmarbella.com.
Best Traditional Tapas
Taberna la Niña del Pisto
This tapas bar serves up a wide range of deliciously simple, home-spun classics from the province of Cordoba. Expect all the traditional dishes that Spanish food fans have come to know and love – salmorejo (a thick, cold soup served with jamon and boiled egg), berenjenas con miel (lightly fried aubergine drizzled with honey), snails in a spicy sauce, local cured cheese and bull’s tail stew. A must for anyone looking to adhere to a strict ‘carbs in Marbs’ policy.
Address: Calle de San Lazaro, 2, 29601 Marbella, Malaga.
Bar El Estrecho
This Marbella dining stalwart was founded in 1954 and is still family run to this day. It lives up to its name – ‘estrecho’ meaning narrow – and the space on offer can be at something of a premium on weekends, particularly. You can stand at the bar, or if you prefer a table for your assortment of mouth-watering tapas and a seat for you, too, then there’s a very informal dining area. This is more towards the spit and sawdust end of the Marbella restaurant spectrum than the gourmet, but it makes for an authentic and fun pit-stop in the historic old town. There are no surprises on the food front but a good selection of the likes of croquettes, seafood (think fresh clams, prawns, and octopus) and pork dishes.
Address: Calle de San Lazaro, 12, 29601 Marbella, Malaga. Barelestrecho.es.
Local boy Dani Garcia has three eateries in Marbella – the eponymous Dani Garcia and BiBo. The restaurants sit next to each other, and offer cuisine to delight the eye and tackle even the most discerning of taste buds, serving up Michelin-starred food which is innovative and intense at times but most definitely Spanish.
Dani Garcia – Cocina Contradicion
The food is theatrical, the service is first-class and the prices are to match. The restaurant offers a 19 course (we kid you not) tasting menu at €168, a short version at €75 and a full a la carte selection (where you can select half-portions). Molecular gastronomy is the name of the game here, for the most part, created before your eyes in the open kitchen. This allows Garcia to go wild with both the flavours and the presentation, and every plate on our last visit was met with a ‘Wow’ and a ‘Oooh’. Simply sensational.
Address: Hotel Puente Romano, Bulevar Principe Alfonso von Hohenlohe, s/n, 29602 Marbella, Malaga. Grupodanigarcia.com.
For a quicker or lighter bite, BiBo is ideal. It’s a buzzy and bustling but relaxed bistro with four different areas: the terrace, Grandma’s table, the Raw and Oyster Bar and the Cocktail bar. While the food’s invariably delicious, the haute-ness has been dialled down a notch or two compared to sister joint Dani Garcia. There’s a choice of stone-baked pizzas, burgers (Garcia’s bull burger is a signature dish that has been copied all over Spain), stuffed whole chickens and slow-cooked lamb legs to share and sushi, along with tapas, steak and fried fish dishes. To cap it all off, the cocktails are quite simply the best in Marbella.
Address: Hotel Puente Romano, 29602 Marbella, Malaga. Bibodanigarcia.com.
The Spanish eat late. There’s no getting around it. If you haven’t been able to quite slip into the rhythm of Spanish dining times then here’s the best place to get some early dinner…
Beckett’s Bar & Restaurant
Earlier seatings aside, if you’re also longing for something home-from-home then Beckitt’s is almost certainly the best restaurant in Marbella. Situated on a corner with terrace tables it offers an early bird menu (before 8pm) at €25 per head. It’s famed for its steaks and its rib-eye, Angus fillets of beef are consistently top quality. It gets lively at the weekends with live music so if you’re wanting a quiet, romantic meal perhaps try one of our others. It’s great for a boisterous family meal, though, and can accommodate large groups.
Address: C/ Camilo José Cela, 4, 29602 Marbella, Malaga. Beckettsmarbella.com.
Paella y Mas
Located in the centre of Marbella, this is your go-to place for a real, authentic paella or fideua. These delicious Spanish staples – which are satisfying, soulful and quite simply the best comfort food – are prepared by Chef Javier Ponte. The fideua, which is similar to paella but made with thin pasta noodles rather than rice, is always cooked to perfection – moist but slightly crispy at the bottom. There are a good range of starters to like salmon tartare. If paella or fideua doesn’t appeal to everyone in your party then there’s a good selection of choice Iberian pork cuts which will satisfy any meat lover. It’s open for 12.30 for lunch and 19.30hrs for dinner.
Address: Calle Hermanos Salom, 3, 29601 Marbella, Málaga. Restaurantepaellasymas.com
Best Small Restaurants
Despite its generally low-key vibe and unpretentious dining room Skina is an excellent restaurant. No bravado, no tricks, just the best produce cooked perfectly plate after plate. Barcelona born chef Jaume Puigdengolas keeps the menu enticing with new creations, so even regulars will never get bored. Booking is essential as the dining room is limited. The sommelier has selected local wines that are from small bodegas as well as the larger, better known winemakers. One of our favourites, Bodegas Bentomiz, is among their chosen wines.
Closed Sunday & Monday
Address: C/Aduar 12, Casco Antiguo, Marbella. Phone: +34 952 765 277, Restauranteskina.com
The modern and contemporary dining room is comfortable and doesn’t interfere with the food. It might lack a bit of atmosphere if it’s quiet but more often than not it’s full with happy diners. We loved that the sommelier, who is truly passionate about Spanish wine, would recommend local wines when appropriate too. The food is excellent and easily Michelin Star-worthy. The kid with creamy Payoyo cheese is melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
Address: Av. Severo Ochoa, 12, 29603, Marbella. Phone: +34 952 86 48 95. Restaurantemessina.com
All breathe a sigh of relief – your favourite Japanese restaurant can be indulged on holiday, too. Nobu has finally come to Spain. The international restaurateur and chef needs little introduction: Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, the master of Japanese food.
Sitting in La Plaza alongside the equally glamorous likes of Bibo, with its buzzing atmosphere and plant-filled terraces Nobu Marbella has pretty much the perfect setting. The dining room is contemporary with clean lines, wooden cladding and simple table settings – no fuss, just elegant design.
The team are working hard to reach the standards of the infamous Nobu Park Lane (the first European Nobu, and one of our favourite restaurants). If you’re new to the Nobu experience, start with a saké and go for their set menu, which is usually seasonal. This will give you the chance to try some of their household name dishes as well as others specific to Nobu Marbella. If we absolutely had to mention a negative it might be that the tables are booked in sittings so on busier nights you can’t while the night away after the meal with leisurely drinks.
Address: Boulevard Alfonzo H, s/n, 05200 Marbella, Malaga. Noburestaurants.com/marbella
Lobito de Mar
The pavilion-style building of Dani Garcia’s most recent restaurant Lobito de Mar is chic and stylish. This is Dani’s take on a chiringuito – without the beach. The would-be rough and ready seaside shack however is replaced by white and black interiors warmed up by natural tones and green leafy plants, this makes for a relaxed and informal eating environment.
There are two menus: affordable tapas and light bites as well as a full menu. Both feature plenty of fish and seafood cooked according to simple, traditional methods from ‘espeto’ (skewered on a BBQ) to paellas. A favourite on our last visit was the dry noodle fideua paella, cooked to absolute perfection.
And you couldn’t mention Lobito without at least a passing mention to the wine cellar, a dizzyingly extensive collection chosen by Carlos García Mayoralas which caters to all palettes and plates. Also, the sangria menu – no, we hadn’t seen a sangria menu before either – has five different fusions of the traditional sangria to try, which certainly makes for a conversation stopper (or starter).
Address: Av. Bulevar Príncipe Alfonso de Hohenlohe, 178, 29602 Marbella, Malaga. Grupodanigarcia.com
Best for Post-Dining Atmosphere
Oak Garden & Grill
In Nueva Andalucia, away from the Puerto Banus port – but not so far away you can’t saunter from one to the other on foot – with its perfectly lit dining room and lively decking area outside, Oak Garden & Grill has a great atmosphere. A part of the locally well-known La Sala group, this new-ish venture falls squarely into the reasonable price bracket, while also being great for families or groups.
As the name suggests, meat and seafood dishes are the order of the day here, coming perfectly grilled and often served up to cook at the table to your desired taste. You’re here to eat their signature grilled meat so don’t fight it: order the ribeye or Galician fillet, and be done with it.
Next door to Oak is La Sala, which is a great place to end your evening with cocktails, some live music and people watching.
Address: Calle Belmonte, 29600 Nueva Andalucia, Marbella, Malaga. Oakgardenandgrill.com
Best for Wine Lovers
This concept restaurant to the west of Puerto Banus has an accompanying wine shop and a bodega of 5500 wines. Although quite a large restaurant, it doesn’t feel echo-y or cavernous and you don’t rattle around in the place when there are only a few other diners. The dining room is comfortable and relaxed with unassuming décor, while there’s also a terrace which is heated during the winter evenings. Service is attentive, and the menu is a real crowd-pleaser with something for everyone. The Galician scallops on our visit were excellent and the quarter of lamb was a great sharing dish cooked perfectly in their Josper. Make the most of their Sommelier as they can create pairing menus, thematic tastings and horizontal or vertical tastings for you.
They also offer intermediate and advanced wine courses – please contact our concierge to arrange. There’s parking outside the restaurant, but on some nights this can be busy and with such a fantastic bodega it would be a shame to not partake in some tasting.
Address: Centro Comercial Azalea, Calle Ana de Austria, 2, 29670 Marbella, Málaga. D-winecollection.com/
Best Frontline Golf Course Location
Opened in 2005, Magna Café offers a traditional restaurant and dining experience on the Magna Marbella Golf Course in Nueva Andalucia. Décor-wise it’s perhaps a little lost but the views out onto the golf course are more than enough to distract you.
This relatively stately restaurant is a long-established stalwart on the Marbella food scene so you must forgive it for the odd dish that you thought never saw this side of 1990. We love their lobster soup and roast lamb leg. It’s a good all-round crowd-pleaser and can accommodate groups with ease.
Address: Avenida Calderón de la Barca, 29660 Marbella, Málaga. Magnacafe.com
Best for Kids
It’s worth pointing out at this point that the Spanish love children and in the vast majority of establishments won’t even blink at the sight (and sound) of a large, unruly brood crossing the threshold. However, a restaurant being supremely relaxed about it is one thing; offering high-chairs, children’s menus and changing facilities is something completely different.
The Funky Forest
This has made the LVC cut of best Marbella restaurants because the concept is one of the most family-friendly in Andalucia- namely, ‘A place to play, create, stimulate, share and enjoy.’ The Funky Forest is based outside the centre of Estepona (just up the road from Marbella) and offers everything a parent would ever want in a restaurant. It offers cooking, music, recycling, language, theatre and dance classes for children. As well as being situated in a pine forest it has a great faux grass area for safe, playful tumbles with a swing and even a bouncy castle. The food is child-led so it’s more of a lunch spot for the adults to take a breather while the kids have fun playing with the resident rabbits and all the other children.
Address: Avenida de Bel-Air, 29688, Malaga. Funkyforest.es.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of great places to eat – there are so many other mouth-watering options for you to discover in and around the town, just ask our Concierge for ideas and assistance with reserving the best tables. Aproveche!
For more of the best dining on the Costa del Sol, check out our pick of top places to eat in Malaga.
Who doesn’t love to try out new flavours and foods while travelling? indulging in the local cuisine is a huge part of the holiday experience, and never more so than in Spain where you can have the whole foodie world on a plate.
Here is our pick of some of the best local gourmet delights you can try while on holiday in Andalucia:
The world famous pre-dinner drink originates from Jerez de la Frontera (the city is European Wine Capital 2014), home to household names such as Domecq and Harveys, and from a few other places inside the “Sherry Triangle” in Andalucia.
Sherry comes in several different varieties that pair beautifully with different kinds of food and is enjoying a real renaissance among wine circles lately. Here is a quick guide on what to try:
Fino: light-coloured and very dry, this sherry comes from Jerez itself. Served cold and drunk as you would a good white wine, it goes perfectly with shellfish, jamí³n ibérico (see below) and mild cheeses.
Manzanilla: similar in colour and taste to fino, it too is served cold and best accompanies fish and shellfish. Fino and manzanilla are the least alcoholic of the sherry types and should not be kept once opened.
Amontillado: amber-coloured and smooth and rich in taste, amontillado goes well with white meats, oily fish and cured cheese.
Oloroso: dark and with a strong scent, this is also a dry sherry but with a more intense taste than fino. The intensity suits red meats and strong cheeses.
Palo seco: also dark, palo seco is strongly scented and flavoured. Good with game, foie gras and strong cheeses.
Pedro Ximenez: dark and sweet with a rich syrupy texture, Pedro Ximenez has a strong and intense flavour that pairs well with strong cheeses and desserts
Goats’ cheese from Ronda
The mountains that surround Ronda are some of the most beautiful in Andalusia. They’re also home to numerous goat herds who live at high attitude in wet conditions (the village of Grazalema near Ronda has the country’s highest rainfall) meaning excellent pasture and by extension, delicious cheese.
Most goats’ cheese from Ronda is made using traditional methods and brands to look out for are Flor de Ronda and Queso Payoyo.
Queso fresco: This ‘fresh cheese’ is a lowest-fat version, pure white and has a creamy, texture. It’s ideal in salads and on canapés with quince jelly or anchovies.
Rulo de cabra: You buy a slice of this from a roll with a thick white rind. This version combines superbly with apple and caramel in a green salad or an accompaniment to foie gras.
Queso semi-curado o curado: A harder type of cheese, semi-cured and cured goats’ cheese has a stronger taste than the fresh and usually has a dark yellow rind. This is best cut into small slices and eaten as a tapa, perhaps with cured ham (see below).
Queso Payoyo: Unique to this part of Andalusia, this strong cheese is fast gaining popularity in gourmet bars where it’s often served as a tapa.
Jamí³n ibérico de bellota
Andalusian cured ham is a highly prized gourmet treat especially when it comes to jamí³n ibérico de bellota. This creamier version than the regular cured ham comes from black pigs bred in the western area of Andalusia around Huelva. The pigs roam free around large oak-filled pastures all year and in the autumn, their diet consists almost entirely of acorns – look for the “Pata Negra” black label around the hoof.
The legs of ham are cured for 24-48 months and the end result is an intensely-flavoured meat that’s dark red in colour. Served in wafer-thin slices as a tapa, it’s a great accompaniment to a glass of fino sherry or intense red wine.
You can buy a whole leg (if kept in dry conditions, it will last for as long as it takes you to eat it!), although cutting ham is a fine art and probably best left to those in the know; pre-packed slices – open the packet a while before you plan to eat it to allow the ham to breathe; and off the leg in all good food stores – they slice off the amount you need.
As a general guide, the more expensive per kilo, the better quality the ham.
The backbone of all Mediterranean cooking, olive oil is one of Andalusia’s main exports and olive groves cover hectares of the region, particularly in the provinces of Cordoba and Jaen. Olive oil features at every meal in Andalusia – from the breakfast drizzle of toast to the evening salad dressing via biscuits and pastries.
Not only does olive oil taste good, its monounsaturated fat content make it a healthier substitute for butter and margarine. The best olive oil is unrefined and known as ‘virgin’ or ‘extra virgin’, and almost green in colour with an intense flavour. Indeed, the strongest extra virgin brands taste so strong they’re almost bitter.
When buying olive oil, go for the very best. Perhaps a good virgin oil for general use and a more expensive extra virgin for salad dressings and an occasional drop on pasta and rice dishes. You’ll find the best brands in good supermarkets and specialist shops such as D’Oliva in Marbella
Convent cakes and pastries
In many convents in Andalusia, the nuns who live there are famed for their cake and pastry-making skills. They offer a range of homemade wares, known as dulces de convento, from simple magdalenas (plain sponge cupcakes) and almond biscuits to elaborate marzipan sweets and traditional Christmas delicacies.
At the entrance to the convent, there’s usually a list of produce, prices and opening times, a bell and a small sliding or revolving tray. You place your money on the tray, ring the bell and your purchases are delivered back on the tray. But don’t expect to see or hear the nun behind the convent walls!
We would love to hear about your own gourmet tips for Spain, so leave us a comment and let us know what you’ve tried and what you loved!