THERE has been a quiet revolution in the heart of the old town of Marbella.
Not just in its appearance and shops, but in its incredible range of good places to eat.
As well as its very own Michelin-starred restaurant Skina, the centre has one of the finest concentrations of good restaurants in Andalucia.
Charming, candle-lit and offering increasing quality, the days when you could get away with serving any old muck are well and truly over.
Indeed, there are easily half a dozen fabulous places to eat in the old town, each offering its own style and flavour.
Without a doubt though, the godfather of the centre has to be Cassanis, now over a decade old and consistently reinventing itself.
Set up by your perfect host Guy Sirre, who formerly worked for the Sultan of Brunei, it is constantly refining its cuisine and coming up with new recipes.
Set in a typical Andalucian townhouse – based around an evocative patio – there is a very distinct ambience at work.
Its head chef Fabian Cangas has been at the helm since day one, but frequently takes time out to train at different restaurants around the world.
And equally rated (consistently ranking well on Trip Advisor and with a certificate of excellence award) is the Orange Tree.
Owned by former hedge fund manager Irene Maher and her husband Tunisian Faik Ammar, their chefs herald from around the world and certainly know how to cook.
Between them, they have put together a solid mix of dishes that weigh heavily towards quality ingredients and value.
Menu’s change every couple of months, but there is always home-cooked bread, such as walnut and five spice foccacia, and a good mix of starters, including pan fried lamb’s liver with puy lentils and bacon, or chicken liver and pistachio pate with ciabatta toasts.
Mains include the signature dish of Irish beef in a fricassee of wild mushrooms and set on a bed of spinach and champ mash. The knob of black truffle butter was the perfect final flourish.
During the day you might want to try its sister restaurant La Muralla, which sits in picturesque Plaza de la Iglesia.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the Summer, it is ideal for post or pre-wedding drinks, canapés and tapas… or just to watch the world go by.
Another fantastic new arrival, which has recently opened just beside the historic centre is Yamas, possibly the only – and certainly the best – Greek restaurant on the coast.
Set up by Kulis and Hayley, who previously ran a restaurant in Rosario, the couple have invested heavily in making this a true secret in Marbella.
Set around a stunning courtyard, the menu is a trawl through all the Greek classics you can name.
But you would be highly recommended to try the plate of mixed starters, which at €11 is incredible value and includes a wonderful display of dishes, including stuffed vine leaves.
I also enjoyed the traditional beef steak of mincemeat stuffed with feta cheese and red pepper and served with tomato, rice and Greek yoghurt and vegetables.
The wine list was surprisingly good, with some chestnuts from around the world, including a bottle of Italian Prosecco at €21, a half bottle of French rose Minuty at €26 and even a Greek red Rapsani, which was a pleasant surprise.
Another fantastic new addition to the Marbella dining scene is Italian Casa Tua in a charming cobbled street with pretty candle-lit tables.
Opened by Adriano and his wife Catherine last year, the Irish-Italian couple, who have two kids Viviana and Massimo, have travelled the world running restaurants in Italy, Ireland and the US.
They certainly have a lovely eye for detail and the restaurant is stylish in the extreme, using some clever ideas, such as the recycled pallet-wood planting boxes.
The menu is a nice mix of Italian classics with some original twists like the buffalo mozarella, deep fried and in tomato sauce. A lemon-scented ricotta cheese ‘fagottino’ was creamy and delicious, while the fresh scallops with chorizo went down a treat. And, as you would expect, the tiramisu pudding was the icing on the cake.
Last, but anything but least, is the splendid restaurant Tempora, which just gets better and better, all thanks to its very capable Peruvian chef Aldo Espinosa, a Cordon Bleu trained whizkid, who understands freshness and spices more than most.
In one of the most delicious meals tasted in Marbella, I started with a wonderful carpaccio of grouper in a ‘tigers milk’ sauce, which is cress, rocket, ginger, lime and garlic.
Next up, was the highly original ‘crunchy apple’, which was two slices of dried apple cooked in the oven with a dollop of parmesan in the middle and caramelized with ginger and a king prawn.
The presa Iberica with mushrooms and a lick of truffle in a red pepper sauce was one of the most delicious main courses imaginable.
A fresh, passion fruit compote to finish was original, tangy and a surefire winner.
There was a great wine list and owner Andres, from Madrid, has catering in his veins, having worked his way up from being a waiter at the age of 14 to running restaurants in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
It was no surprise to find the place busy from arrival at 8pm to 10.30pm when new diners continued to arrive. Make sure you book.