Having heard good things about the culinary skills of Lawrence from friends, it was infuriating to discover that his restaurant was undergoing a three-month refit, that turned into four months, then five.
But, it was well worth the wait, for this beautiful restaurant high in the hills above San Pedro (on the Ronda road) is a true dining secret to impress your friends or a lover.
Now double the size, its elegant decor has been carefully planned, with seductive lighting, black slate floors and warm, but earthy colours.
I sat on the candlelit terrace under a pergola bedecked with wisteria, roses and ivy. The settings were simple and there were fresh flowers on every table.
The wine list was fabulously varied with some classic new world chestnuts and a brilliant merlot from ground-breaking vineyard Newton’s in the Napa Valley.
And then there is the food. While not wildly adventurous, the menu was pleasantly seasonal and had a mix of interesting dishes, including a ‘pie of the day’, perhaps betraying Spurs fan Lawrence’s northern roots.
I liked the sound of the ‘potted salt beef’ with mustard jelly, pickles and soda bread, but instead went for the mixed dim sum starter, which had a superb crisp pork belly and great cod and prawn gyozas cooked with a hint of orange.
For mains the roast suckling pig, with Swiss chard, bacon and potato and black pudding dumpling didn’t sound like the ideal late evening fare, nor was the beef and gorgonzola pie, with mushrooms, cabbage and mash.
Luckily though, I plumped for what is – without a doubt – the best dish I have eaten on the Costa del Sol this year.
The seared scallops, with yellow Thai curry and a lobster crepe with tempura asparagus is an absolute winner with an explosion of rich flavours.
It even looked good, with the lobster already cracked open and garnished and the crepe an exciting add-on that is discovered only half way through.
An ‘upside down’ cheesecake with air dried strawberries and elderflower left me heading home replete.
This is a place to dress up, but is not for the ‘bling’ crowd you’ll find in Puerto Banus. This is much more understated elegance, and the sort of place you will bump into find Hugh Grant, Mark Thatcher or England manager Fabio Capello.
With prices in the mid-range – starters from nine euros and mains from 17 euros – this will surely be top of the league soon.
La Casita Restaurante
Tel: 952 788 033