Discover the gourmet side of Spain, explore the food and wine of Andalusia to enrich your travel experience when staying in our luxury villas

Mouth-watering Michelin Star Restaurants in Malaga

various dishes Kabuki Raw

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

appetizer jose carlos garcia

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

table setting Kabuki Raw

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

hare dish dani garcia

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.

Sollo, Fuengirola

view from sollo restaurant

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, Marbella

dining room messina, marbella

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.

Skina, Marbella

meat dish skina

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

Exterior El Lago

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.

And finally…

Sollun, Nerja

dish sollun nerja

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. See also My Destination Marbella’s guide to fine dining on the Costa del Sol.

Exploring the Wines of Andalucia – More Than Just a Sweet Affair

Wines in La Axarquia

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.

Malaga Province

Axarquia Region

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.

Bodegas Bentomiz

bodegas bentomiz with mountains

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 

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.

Descalzos Viejos

descalzos viejos wine barrels

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

Joaquín Fernández

Horse Riding Through A Vineyard in Spain

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 

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

wine barrels 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.

Barbadillo

wine barrels in barbadillo bodega

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

Manzanillla La Guita bottle & barrels

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.

Like our guide to exploring Andalucia’s wine? Try out some of the wines mentioned at one of our pick of the best restaurants in Malaga and Marbella.

jose carlos garcia restaurant interior

The Definitive Guide to the Best Restaurants in Malaga

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

Terrace at 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

Mixtúrate Gastrobar

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

Óleo Restaurante

oleo terrace

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

Dining room at 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. 

Vino Mio

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 an Informal Bite

La Luz de Candela

spinach salad la luz de candela1

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

Siete Semillas

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 Sharing & Pairing

Alexso

facade of alexso

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).

Address: Calle Mariblanca 10, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 951 91 35 85. Restaurantealexso.es.

Best for Living like a Local 

Refectorium Catedral

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

Restaurante Montana

patio at restaurante montana

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

Traditional Tiles at 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.

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?

Address: Calle Granada, 62, 29015 Malaga. Telephone: 952 22 54 03. Elpimpi.com.

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.

A Gourmet Travel Guide to the Axarquia

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.

atarazanas market, fruit, vegetables

Atarazanas Market in the Axarquia

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.

espetos de sardinas, sardines, skewers, andalucia, spain

Espetos de Sardinas (Skewered Sardines)

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.

grape picking, andalucia, Axarquia

Grape-picking in the Axarquia region of Andalucia

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.

Tempted? Check out our hot off the press new edit of luxury Axarquia villas.

Nine of the Best Restaurants in Marbella

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

Paco Jimenez

View of Plaza de los Naranjos from Paco Jimenez

View of Plaza de los Naranjos from Paco Jimenez

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

taberna nina del pisto, marbella

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.

Best Gourmet

Local boy Dani Garcia has two 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

meat dish dani garcia marbella

Fine Dining at Dani Garcia

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.

BiBo

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 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.

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

funky forest, marbella

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.

Early Bites 

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… 

Beckitt’s Bar & Restaurant

beckitts marbella

Table for Two at Beckitt’s 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.

Best of the Rest

Skina

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

Restaurante Messina

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

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!

Appetite whetted? Try them all out from the comfort of one of our nearby luxury Marbella villas.

For more of the best dining on the Costa del Sol, check out our pick of top places to eat in Malaga.

Gourmet Treats for an Andalucia Holiday

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:

Sherry

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.

Olive oil

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!