IF Michelin stars were the only measure, Marbella would be the definitive dining capital of Andalucia.
Aside from the trio of Michelin-honoured establishments – El Lago, Skina and Dani Garcia – there are at least half a dozen more that come close to deserving the plaudit.
As internationally celebrated chef Garcia, who has two stars alone, confirms: “Marbella just keeps getting better and better.
“The real tragedy is that it is not being properly rewarded for its great cooking and variety.”
Well it certainly is from the Olive Press.
Aside from the massive variety – there are over 100 different nationalities cooking in Marbella – there is amazing quality.
“You have just about every style you can think of,” explains Japanese restaurant owner Alvaro Arbeloa at Takumi.
“But most of all, whatever restaurant you open, if the quality is not good enough you will not survive.”
This boils down to the fact that Marbella locals – and tourist alike – expect quality and are not scared to pay for it.
“There is nowhere else around, where the clientele is so well off and so demanding for quality,” continues Arbeloa, who previously ran a restaurant in Mallorca with his Japanese partner Toshio, before opening in 2011 just off the Golden Mile.
One place that certainly epitomises quality and of an oriental touch is Ban Thai.
Set up just two years ago, owner Fendi has experience of running Thai restaurants in the UK and runs a tight ship.
His menu is fun and buzzy, and the best judgement of how good it is should be the number of Thai visitors who eat in night after night.
Without a doubt, one of the businessmen making the biggest waves in the food stakes these days is Ian Radford.
The former professional squash player has been constantly adding to his La Sala brand over the last six years.
With a series of famous backers, including footballers David Bentley, Stephen Carr and Shay Given, he has been able to create two of the town’s landmark restaurants; La Sala in Puerto Banus and Rincon de la Sala in San Pedro.
And now the group has a third La Sala by the Sea, a fantastic Thai restaurant in the old Buddha Beach site by the beach, near Puerto Banus.
The original La Sala on the way up to the Nueva Andalucia bull ring is probably the most talked about eatery in Marbella. Certainly abroad.
This is the place to find the ‘ladies who lunch’, the movers and shakers, celebrities, footballers and the wealthy empresarios who make Marbella what it is.
An emporium of glass and seductive lighting, its real strength though, lies in its wood-decked terrace, that serves as the ideal tourist sun-deck.
Oh, and the food, is surprisingly good too, with a superb range of classic dishes with a contemporary twist.
And then there is more, with one of Andalucia’s leading beach restaurants just up the road in Elviria.
Called appropriately Beach House, owners Guy and Lucy McCrow have built this place up over a decade to make it not just one of the most fun places to eat… but with great quality food guaranteed.
Attention to detail is paramount and the team of chefs, led by Jeff Mynott, is always hard working and constantly improving the quality of food.
Indeed, you will be hard pressed to find anywhere better for lunch or supper.
Back in central Marbella on the Golden Mile look out for the exciting new restaurant Cibo.
In the old location of the Polo House, it is beautifully decorated and has a great menu.
Owned by the capable Metro Group (Joys, Jacks, Mumtaz, Metro, etc), it is excellent value and a romantic spot for dining out.
Another great Italian is La Trattoria, in Nueva Andalucia. The brainchild of capable restaurateur Paolo, who spent ten years working in Tarifa before switching to Marbella.
Claiming to be the ‘best and most authentic’ Italian in Marbella, it is an elegant place, in a great location for parking.
There is no doubt his fresh pastas and salads are among the best on the coast.
A great place to drink wines with fine food is at the long-time rated Albert & Simon restaurant in San Pedro.
The brothers Albert and Simon, appropriately, took over the baton from their father, who had one of Marbella’s first Michelin-starred restaurants.
In terms of quality it is very hard to beat and the French culinary talent is all too obvious.
There is an excellent wine list to boot, with some chestnuts from all over France.
Also in San Pedro is the very elegant L’Impronta, an upmarket Italian joint, run by capable Francisco Vacas, who actually heralds from Cordoba.
A passionate chap, who left school and began cooking at the age of 13, he has created a seductive spot, with parquet wood floors, hydraulic tiles and evocative paintings.
Insisting on sourcing only the best line-caught wild fish, including sea bass and turbot, he also offers a great range of tasty and seasonal dishes.
Best of all, his €25 set lunch had a great mix of dishes including chopped veal liver in onions, gravy and mashed potato, and topped off with a lovely vanilla panna cotta.
Another exciting spot in San Pedro is Vaca Loca, also just around the corner by the stylish new bridge.
This terrace restaurant is the brainchild of local expat businessman Andrew Levene, who saw an opportunity with this excellent location.
Hiring one of the coast’s well-established chefs Darren, who trained at La Sala, the menu has a great mix of steaks, burgers and ribs, all cooked on the grill.
Friendly, efficient service, you will not be disappointed, particularly with the brand new summer menu, which has a good variety of tapas.
Finally, in the heart of the old town of Marbella you have a huge range of places to eat and the choice keeps getting better. The best include Cafe Flore, Casa Tua and Madre Sierra.