ESTEPONA is slowly finding its feet when it comes to good food.
Having gone through a major overhaul over the last few years, the town centre is now a great place to tapear and wander around.
There are new joints springing up almost monthly and the style of tapas has come on leaps and bounds, not to mention the quality of wines – and the number – that are available by the glass.
A couple of must-visit restaurants include Lola’s, a French-run joint right by the beach, while around the corner you will find the town’s best fish restaurant El Pescador.
Lola’s owners, who herald from Paris, have come up with a great range of tapas, including the fantastic spring rolls (nems) and snails.
They have even come up with their very own invention, known as ‘rajaos’, which means ‘something broken’ and is effectively a bread roll with a filling.
El Pescador is well established right on the beach and famous for its fantastic fresh fish served in a salt crust, or its classic fried fish starters.
One of the town’s most-highly recommended restaurants Sur is definitely the place to eat a steak.
Run by an Argentinian dynasty, this is a classic family affair where you will often find father, wife, son and daughter, not to mention son-in-law, helping out.
There is a lively, but not noisy, mix of Spanish, English and Irish and the subtle lighting and warm colours make for an atmospheric meal.
In summer you sit in the newly pedestrianised square with its fountains and views across the sea.
Juicy empanadas arrive followed by delicious spinach and pine nuts wrapped in filo pastry and a fresh tropical salad next.
There is a good mix of lamb tagines and fish dishes, but it being an Argentinian joint you really need to try the steaks, which are fabulous.
Just across the square is easily one of the best hang outs, or meeting points, in the town.
Tolone is now an institution and famous for its breakfasts, fresh juices, cakes and snacks. And it is always busy.
Finally if you fancy having a bite while watching the footie, then look out for Fergusson’s pub along the sea front.
A friendly place, particularly if you are a Chelsea fan, the food is good value and the beer too.
In the port, one of the most popular places to hang out during the day and sample great tapas over a glass of wine is Antonio’s. A real sun trap, it is often full and counts a group of friendly bar staff.
Nearby is the Irish Fiddler, opposite the sailing club, which serves up a good range of beers and tapas.
Heading out of Estepona towards Marbella you are spoilt for choice for good eateries.
All the way along the N340 are a string of good chiringuitos and well known establishments like Tikitano, Rory’s Irish Pub and Cocomo.
Some of the best are in Benavista, where you will find Indian restaurant Masala and Bar Los Arcos at the Benavista Bowls Club which is always busy and friendly.
Grumbles is one of the best established and popular restaurants here and is now open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch. There is a popular Sunday roast, served every day.
One block away is the excellent Neli G’s which serves fantastic, fresh and light meals all day.
Run by the talented Neville Gaffney and his wife who used to run a string of top restaurants in Oxfordshire and Derby, this great spot is really filling a gap in the market.
A superb place for a sandwich, soup or special of the day, the kids will be spoilt with nice cakes, puddings and milkshakes.
Nearby Rory’s Irish pub, you will of course find a fanastic pint of Guinness, as well as a wonderful Galway Fishmongers stew or Clonakilty Black Pudding, which are highly recommended.
Across the road in Benamara you should definitely check out Cocomo (see facing page) where Simon Taylor Lane has been cooking up a storm for four years.
A talented Yorkshireman, who trained under Marco Pierre White, he has a very sound reputation and Cocomo is rarely anything but full, particularly in summer, when the next door Plaza hotel is open.
The restaurant does an incredible €5 lunch, which is bringing in plenty of punters at night as well. Everything is cooked from fresh and it is well worth hunting down, behind the Robin Hood!
Another good place is Bistro Enrique, which has a good mix of Spanish and Meditteranean dishes.
For 23 years the boss was in charge of El Paraiso golf and now he has set up his own place, with great views and its own swimming pool.
There is a good menu del dia for €15 and children pay just €5.
Another fine restaurant in Benamara is Tanino, run by the capable Dutch lady Trudy Chinarro.
She and her husband have two other restaurants in Madrid and the attention to detail is quickly obvious when you see the décor.
The food thankfully matches and by cleverly having one chef from Spain and one from Pakistan there is a good mix of exotic flavours. A stand out dish is the prawn tartare in red curry with Sardinian bread.
Another place nearby is the Golden Wok, which is becoming increasingly popular and is a fine place for a quiet lunch in its relaxed garden by the pool.
You have an open buffet and there is plenty of noodles and other fine Asian food.
If you are looking for something more traditional, don’t miss out the popular Amara, in Man Friday, which has been serving the coast for nearly two decades and counts a very loyal regular following.