IT has taken a number of years to sniff out the true dining secrets of Manilva.
Starting in emblematic Duquesa Port, you need to get away from the waterfront and head up into the warren of squares to find the best places to eat.
Here you will find two of the longest-serving Italians on the entire Costa del Sol, El Capitano and Parapiro.
El Capitano has been here since 1983, when there were only three restaurants in the entire port.
Run by talented Pino, from Basilicata, it is charm personified with sumptuous deep red decor, talented paintings and, even a ceiling not a million miles away from the Sistine chapel.
In total, there are over 200 dishes and more than 30 pizzas alone to keep punters satisfied.
Pick of the bunch was easily an amazing panzerotti with spinach, cheese, mushroom and cream, while pasta stuffed with pear, with ham and balsamic vinegar was also impressive.
Nearby at Parapiros, which opened just two years later in 1985, you are also spoilt for choice with quality Italian food.
Usually packed at weekends, this institution has a slightly more traditional menu, also with a nice range of pastas and pizzas.
I particularly liked the veal chop, stuffed with ham and parmesano, while a beef carpaccio starter was delicious loaded with fresh mushrooms and celery.
Also in the port, make sure to look out for the well established El Bistro, a steakhouse which serves the best steaks in Manilva, unsurprising given that its ‘sister’ business is the English Butcher next door.
Sitting in a great location, there is a good kids menu and the Panko breaded prawns and the Duck parcels, with shredded duck in filo pastry, come highly rated.
A true dining secret is Floria, which has been dubbed a cross between a ‘Spaghetti Western and the Flintstones’, but to me feels more like Robinson Crusoe.
Out on its own, by the deep blue sea crashing onto the nearby shore, this spot is run by amiable Dutch-South African Peter and his missus Karen, from Antwerp.
The menu is simple and is all about good fresh fish and barbecued meats, while the pil pil prawns are easily some of the best on the coast.
Nearby on the main road look out for Marlows, probably the finest British fish and chip shop on the entire coast.
Well established, having first opened in Gibraltar in the 1960s, punters drive for often over an hour – from Ronda, for example – to sample the amazing cod and chips.
A true institution, owner Steve Marlow, has run restaurants around the world and is a classically trained chef, with a good knowledge of the business, having learnt everything from his father before him.
Across the road, down by the sea look out for the area known as ‘el Castillo’, where you will find the ancient 18th fortress.
This is a real hive of decent restaurants, many having plied their trade for decades, and well known along the coast.
One recently opened spot though is Freiduria Anka Juanito, where Juan and wife Noelia, serve up a great range of seafood in a charming spot.
Having worked as a chef nearby for 27 years, Juan is a talented chap and his three Ps, the prawn pil pil, pulpo and paella come highly rated.
Up in central Sabinillas, the beach is lined with restaurants, but one of the best is Miel, run by friendly Dutch boss Kaat. An institution with high standards for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With excellent coffee and a great snacks and tapas menu, it is hardly surprising it is usually full.
Another fine place to eat is Marengo, just one year old, but with a distinctly different feel to its nearby rivals. Run by Isabel, from Madrid, it has a great range of tapas, pinchos and racions to share.
Just inland on the main square be sure to look out Lo de Andres, run by Andres, of course, who grew up working in his dad’s tapas bars in Ronda.
A friendly chap, the mixed tapas plate is fabulous, while the ribs and other fresh dishes are extremely popular with expats.
On Friday night, this is the place to come for live entertainment and now a Spotify set up, where you choose your own songs.
Nearby hunt out Cruz Blanca, a typical Madrid-style bar/restaurant, which serves up ice cold beers and some excellent fresh seafood.
There are specials by the day and always some good value tapas at the bar.
Owner Juan is a local businessman, who takes a real pride in the place running like clockwork and being the sort of place that he would like to eat. He has recently opened an ice cream parlour next door and is soon to open, yet another, restaurant alongside this Spring.
Another institution and a fabulous surprise walking in is El Molino, which is beautifully built and created in a basement, just off the main N-340 highway.
Deceptively big, it has been lovingly created with old wooden decor in the style of a windmill, hence the name. Best of all, it has a great mix of tapas and raciones, in particular the bacalao and the foie with jamon.
Another emblematic place is Café Nenit, where Jose and his team serve breakfasts and pastries from early morning, tapas for lunch and bar snacks into the evening. And don’t forget to ask for Ana’s special, which changes by the day.
In the heart of the town meanwhile, look out for O Callaghan’s pub if that is more your bag.
A great range of beers and snacks, you would be advised to looks out for Karaoke and quiz nights each week.
While not open till July it would be impossible to write about food in Manilva without mentioning the amazing Roman Oasis, just inland on the road to the Roman Oasis, of course.
Over three decades old, it was here that legendary UK chef Keith Floyd came to spend some of the last few weeks of his life.
A massive fan of the eclectic, original spot, he and owner Paul were close buddies and this is obvious by the amount of photos of Floyd on the walls.