WITH some of the best ingredients in Spain there is literally no excuse to serve up bad food in the Axarquia. And thankfully there is a nice range of restaurants serving the best.
One of the most exciting recent openings is that of Swedish eaterie Fusion, in Nerja.
Set up by Kim and Fredrik Kullberg, a well travelled couple, with five children no less, attention to detail is spot on with fresh flowers, candles and dishes to match.
It is exactly what it says on the tin, a fusion eaterie that takes in Fredrik’s influences from around the world, in particular three years living in Thailand.
Formerly the head chef at footballer Tomas Brolin’s restaurant Undici, in Stockholm, he produces some top dishes, including a lovely plate of fresh foie on toast with rocket salad and a blackberry reduction.
There is a lot of experimental stuff here too including the tuna in poppyseeds with soba noodles and ‘Irish moss’, a dish you really want to jump on, both spicy and succulent at the same time, as well as the wild boar hot pot with shitake mushrooms, exciting, original and tender.
Another fabulous Nerja restaurant Sollun has been producing consistently some of the best food in Nerja for years.
Recently moved to a new spot on Calle Pintada it is named after owner Juan’s two children Sol and Luna.
Originally from Albacete, he famously set up a Michelin starred restaurant in Marbella (which he asks not to mention) before falling out with its owner and setting up alone in Nerja.
The food is light and original, including a beetroot and strawberry ‘porra’ in a vinaigrette with mackerel.
Other highlights are his pork cheeks, with sweet potato and honey, parsnips and wild mushrooms, his splendid scallops with pork belly and cauliflower and the amazing white chocolate desert, with yogurt, cheese and passion fruit.
Another highly-rated eaterie is Carabeo, whose setting could not be improved sitting on desirable Calle Carabeo overlooking the sea.
Well established as a hotel as well as a tapas bar and restaurant, it is run by the very talented, hard-working English businessman Lucan and his sidekick Belen.
They are big on style and there are some amazing paintings and a very seductive fin-de-siecle atmosphere with wood panels and leather chairs.
Lighter bites can be enjoyed at tapas bar 34, where you will eat some amazing prawns in beetroot jus or the apple and mincemeat tarts.
Another new Nerja restaurant is Belgium-owned Frietkot (soon to be renamed), which is run by the friendly Aline and Nick de Wilde in the heart of the old town.
This capable couple produce some Belgium classics including fantastic prawns with red peppers and garlic, superb mussels with pesto and gratin, and best of all Belgium stew in beer.
Heading out of Nerja to the nearby village of Frigiliana you would be mad to miss the amazing Garden Restaurant, run by the incredibly capable Rob Grimmond.
A regular visitor to the village for 30 years he has turned this lovely leafy spot at the top of the town into an oasis of calm and style.
The food is incredibly fresh too, with everything made on the premises ‘no tricks, just good fresh local produce,’ he explains.
I could eat his Bunelos of mushrooms and onion with an aubergine chutney and mint and lime yogurt sauce every day for lunch they were that delicious.
Over in Velez Malaga you must look out for the stunning recently converted El Convento.
Installed in an old convent, surprise surprise, with high ceilings and beautifully preserved features, local businessman Jose Manuel Garrido has pulled a real rabbit out of a hat here.
It has a lovely outdoor terrace and sits on a street twice voted the ‘most picturesque’ in Spain.
There is a nice range of tapas and a decent range of wines by the glass.
In Competa try the highly rated Alberdini, where Inez and Enmanuel have created a wonderful retreat, both warm in winter and breathtaking with its views and terrace in summer.
A cultured pair, vegetables are locally sourced and the kitchen is certainly adventurous.
In Puente don Manuel meanwhile, you will find the Town Fryer serving up the best fish and chips for miles and the recently opened Bar Rendezvous, great for all day breakfast and fresh food by the day.
Here, friends of 25 years Sue and Jackie, who previously ran the catering at Castle Combe race circuit, put on a splendid range of dishes, including the classic Rendezvous Royale, basically bubble and squeak topped with a poached egg and crispy bacon.
Finally make sure not to miss the nearby Morenos, which is an upmarket spot now with its own pool table.
Extremely popular with locals it has a great selection of food and bar snacks. It is also popular for its nightlife and various live acts.