Marbella. There aren't many places offering year-round sunshine in Europe that, from beaches and golf to shopping and fine dining, tick as many of the luxury holiday boxes. Sounds tempting?…
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.
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.
Since opening in 2016 every self-respecting foodie in the area has made a pilgrimage to Ronda to try out Bardal. Headed up by Catalan chef, Benito Gomez Bardal, it offers two tasting menus: the first of 15 courses, and a second, larger one offering a dizzying 19 courses.
The food is modern, clean, fresh and accomplished. Local produce is championed with creative and technical ability. These menus are a story of Spanish food served by very attentive waiters. Their wine cellar and sommelier is excellent and there are nearly 200 bottles of wine to pair with your meal.
From start to finish, it’s a delight.
Address: Calle José Aparicio 1, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 951 48 98 28; Restaurantebardal.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. It earned a Michelin star upon opening but in 2019 it lost it star. The service and surroundings are still 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.
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.
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Where is Marbella?First things first, though. Where is it? Marbella is in southern Spain - in the province of Malaga in the Andalucia region, to be exact - on a stretch of coast called the Costa del Sol. Here's a map of Marbella to help you get your bearings:
Where Do You Fly to?It depends on from where you're flying in. The nearest international airport to Marbella is Malaga. Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (Aena.es) is 51km away and an easy 40-minute car/taxi ride. Virtually all the major airlines fly there direct from the UK and from across northern Europe. The next closest airport to Marbella is Gibraltar (Gibraltarairport.gi), which is just over an hour's drive away. British Airways, Easyjet and Monarch all fly direct from the UK to Gibraltar.
From the USIf you’re flying into Spain from the USA you'll probably have to travel to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (Aena.es). From there you'll have to either fly, take the fast speed AVE train (Renfe.com) or drive to Malaga and transfer from there to Marbella. The most convenient way to get to Marbella from Madrid is by the fast speed train taking just 2.5hrs or by flying taking only 1 hour and 15 mins.
how to get there from malaga airport
By CarThe best way to get from Malaga to Marbella is to drive. And if you're on holiday that probably means you're going to need to hire a car. As with almost all international airports, Malaga has a frankly baffling array of different car hire options to pick through. To avoid the scrum of the departures lounge, jump on the complimentary minibus to the offices of Niza, Helle Hollis or Enterprise situated a mere minute outside of the terminal. Inside the terminal you can find Sixt, Hertz and Europcar. If you're unsure of which company to use, click the following link. For a more luxury car hire service we'd recommend Sixt (Sixt.com). They're friendly, totally professional, trustworthy and have a range of high-end rental options, from BMWs, Audis and Porsches to Mercedes and Range Rovers - and even automatics. If you're travelling in a large group, they also have 8-12 seater self-drive minibuses available for hire. Of course if you're looking for ease, our Concierge can make the reservation for you to be dropped directly off at the villa. A car of your choice can be delivered to your villa. Once you've picked up your car/minibus hire, driving from Malaga airport to Marbella could hardly be easier. Directions from Malaga-Costa del Sol airport are as follows:
- Leave the airport and head southeast onto N-348
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on N-348
- Take the Torremolinos ramp to N-340/Cádiz
- Merge onto Avenida de Velázquez/N-340/MA-21
- Take the ramp to E-15/A-7/Benalmadena/Algeciras. Merge onto AP-7
- Pass Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola
- Take exit 184 towards Marbella/Casco Antiguo/Avenida del Trapiche
By TaxiFor sheer ease, you can’t beat jumping in a taxi. A taxi rank is situated outside the arrivals sidewalk of Terminal T3, level 0. It's best to ask the driver, beforehand, how much a taxi is from Malaga to Marbella to ensure they don’t overcharge you. There are two transfer prices, and these are dependent on both times of the day and the day of the week. Transfer Price Band 1 is weekdays from 06.00 to 22.00 hrs. Transfer Price Band 2 is weekdays from 22.00 to 06.00 hrs, all day Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, the August Feria and Holy Week. Band 2 transfer time is more expensive than Band 1. Alternatively, you can pre-order a taxi at Malaga Airport Taxi (Malagaairporttaxi.net) and get a price when booking. The transfer time from Malaga Airport to Marbella takes around an hour, in a taxi.
Other Ways to Get to Marbella
- By bus: It is possible to take a bus (Alsa.com) from Malaga airport to Marbella. But it's a whole lot less convenient than driving via hire car or private transfer.
- By train: There isn’t a train connection from Malaga airport to Marbella.
Distances - how far is marbella from...
- Malaga (city): 61km away and 46 minutes' drive.
- Granada: 187km and just over 2 hours' drive.
- Seville: 258km and 2 hours 45 minutes' drive.
- Gibraltar: 78km and 1 hour 2 minutes' drive.
- Madrid: 584 km and 5 hours 45 minutes' drive.
A Bit of HistoryThe land previously belonged to the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi, who it is said, used the estate as his party house and hunting grounds. The property and land went up for sale and a group of Spanish property developers bought it and put plans together to create a playground for the rich and famous in Marbella. Each villa is unique, with their own styles depending on the specifications of the owner.
Location & Getting There
So where is La Zagaleta?The large estate sits in Malaga province in the south of Andalucia. It’s in the foothills of the Ronda Mountains just 25 minutes from Marbella, 18 minutes from Nuevo Andalucia and the nearest beach. It's 20 minutes from the village of Benahavis, 40 minutes from Sotogrande port, 50 minutes from Ronda, 55 minutes from Malaga airport and just over an hour from Gibraltar airport. La Zagaleta is very easily accessed by car or helicopter. There's heavy security surrounding the estate and entrance is on prior permission only.
What Else is in La Zagaleta?It’s worth noting that all the facilities in La Zagaleta are for exclusive use to villa owners only; they pay an enormous service charge to be allowed to use the facilities.
Golf CourseLa Zagaleta golf club is only open to villa owners and their guests. They have exclusive access to two of the Costa del Sol's best private golf courses, La Zagaleta and Los Barrancos. La Zagaleta golf course - known as the Old Course - is to championship standard with 18 holes, Par 72 over a distance of 4800 - 6000 yards. Designed by renowned golf architect Brad Benz in 1991 and redesigned by Marc Westenborg in 2016, it’s a rewarding course with fantastic views to the coast and flanked by mountains. The New Course, Los Barrancos, is very different to the Old Course. It’s a challenging 18-hole, Par 70 with lots of obstacles over a distance of 4356 – 5381 yards.
The ClubhousesThe hub of the estate is the spectacular Old Clubhouse, or La Zagaleta country club. Measuring 5,100m² it has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, billiards, bowling alley, tennis courts, gourmet food supermarket, pro-golf shop and restaurants (see below). There's also a nightclub, bars and events space where there’s a full schedule of experiences and parties planned. The New Clubhouse is a thatched lakeside venue. A lot smaller than the Old Clubhouse, it's still just as popular with La Zagaleta residents for events or having a quick drink in the bar.
Horse RidingLa Zagaleta is home to some beautiful stables with indoor and outdoor schooling arenas. Horses can either be kept on a full livery basis, or horses and ponies can be hired for lessons or hacks. ‘The Riding Club’ equestrian centre has a team of instructors and well-schooled horses for all levels of rider including Arab, PRE and, for the children, Farabella horses and Welsh ponies.
RestaurantsWhy leave the comfort of a beautiful villa when you can enjoy a top-quality meal at home? At La Zagaleta there are Michelin starred chefs available for in-house dining throughout the estate. However, for owners the clubhouse has two restaurants: the formal dining Old Course Restaurant; and a terrace bar restaurant that's ideal for light bites and brunches.
Famous ResidentsThere is private security throughout the whole of La Zagaleta - so know one really know who lives or owns houses there. It’s a place where the super-rich and famous go to be away from the limelight. However, it is said that Hugh Grant, Rod Stewart and Vladimir Putin all have house in La Zagaleta.
What to Do NearbyWhen staying in La Zagaleta, the houses are so special that it’s sometimes difficult to tear yourself away from the estate. However, if you do want to see more of the area, here's our pick of easily accessible and great day trips:
- Ronda: historic, boutique wineries and ab-so-lutely beautiful.
- Benahavis village: a great option for restaurants; have a lunch or dinner in this pretty village.
- Granada: a romantic inland city and home to the Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Malaga: the birthplace of Picasso with a fort, palace and Roman amphitheatre.
- Cordoba: historic city with a stunning mosque-church at its centre.
- Sevilla: one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
- Sotogrande: a lovely port, wake boarding lake and polo hub.