IT was once a brassic backwater where the local form of transport was by donkey and the main reason to come was to collect wood and esparto grass, used to weave baskets and even shoes.
Today, the road from the coast to Casares is a true foodies’ paradise, full of veritable dining secrets, where those-in-the-know come for a cheeky lunch or a gourmet weekend as often as they can.
Take it from me. As editor of the website Dining Secrets of Andalucia (www.diningsecretsofandalucia.com) I have often taken forays up this charming road into the beautiful hills.
Snuffling out its chestnuts and marvelling at its picture postcard scenery, the site now has five places warranting their inclusion on the website… and, quite frankly, there should be more.
“Anyone in the know now talks about the Casares road as being the place to come and eat,” explains Michael Forge, an English expat, who opened his restaurant The Forge with his wife Athene two decades ago.
An atmospheric place that typifies the local dining experience, he adds: “It sort of happened out of the blue and in summer you often need to book a week in advance if you want a table.”
Fellow chef at Arroyo Honda Christian Robson-Burrell believes that it is the healthy mix of styles and ‘bags of ideas’ that has helped to turn the road into a true ‘ruta gastronomica’.
“There are none of the usual boring ventas and each place has its own USP with everything from modern Spanish to traditional mother’s cooking and the Asian influence,” he estimates. “And above all, we all work hard.”
Local estate agent Oscar Ernstsen, of Villas and Fincas, agrees.
“The healthy amount of competition only helps to improve things. And a good shopping street only attracts more and more people.
“In fact when Venta Garcia reopened a few years ago after a huge refit we thought, poor guy, he can never succeed with so many good restaurants around him… but the truth is he, like all the others, stays busy.”
The Dutch father-of-three adds: “Quite frankly, we don’t need to go to Marbella as we are spoilt for choice here. It is a real luxury for those who live here.”
In clearly a case of the more the merrier, the road now also counts two excellent restaurants at arguably the Costa del Sol’s most exclusive hotel Finca Cortesin.
This amazing place to stay, built with impeccable taste and design in mind, has held the Volvo World Match Play tournament and recent guests include Peter Andre and Guns ‘N Roses stars Axl Rose.
But it is the unpretencious ventas like Venta Victoria, Venta Cozar and Mi Cortijo that really take the biscuit.