IN the bustling tourist hub that is Benalmadena you could be forgiven for failing to find anywhere genuinely decent to eat.
With mass tourism being the norm, hundreds of average Fish Alley-style establishments bash out bog-standard fodder, whether it be in the port, sea front or up in Arroyo de la Miel.
There are, of course, exceptions, but your best bet is to head up to the village, where there are a decent number of excellent places to eat.
One of the best is easily Italian Pala d’oro, which is set around a patio and with cool, stylish interior.
Hosts Sandro, Alessandro and chef Matteo Manzato, from Venice, have a great repertoire and you will love the gnocchi stuffed with courgette and a natural goats cheese Asiago, especially imported from Italy, while the speck ham with rocket and walnuts and a balsamic sauce had just the right balance.
A stunning dish of pappardelle with truffle comes highly recommended, while the wine list is appropriately angled towards top Italian vineyards, and appropriately the owners are soon to open a wine bar in Malaga city, not to mention a sister restaurant.
If modern tapas is more your thing, you should also make a beeline to superb La Tajea, an unbelievably hip new spot in a backstreet of the casco historico.
Set up by four local friends, it is aching with stylish touches, in particular its lighting and upside down garden on the ceiling.
But the food is also excellent – and superb value – with such chestnuts as blue fin tuna chops, which were delicious and tasty on the wallet at just 4.50 euros.
A beetroot ‘porra Antequerana’ soup was almost as good as the ajo blanco, with pine nuts, grapes and cherry tomatoes, while the artichokes with jamon iberico and foie was rich and delicious.
For steak lovers there is only really one place in the village… and indeed, one place in the whole of
Down on the coast, it is well worth seeking out the recently-opened Horizon, which is easily missed sitting in a line of restaurants, near the McDonalds.
Standing out like a sore thumb, this place counts on the very able pair of Olivier and Nicola Lewin, who have worked around the world for dignitaries including Lord Mcalpine, the Duke of Edinburgh and French legend Paul Bocuse.
The place was set up out of a friendship between another co-owner Nick, who met Olivier, while running a restaurant/bar a decade ago in the quaint Costa Brava village of Roses, most famous as the home of El Bulli.
You can tell the quality from the door, where a fridge shows off a fantastic array of produce, including the freshest fish and some delicious-looking meats.
The place is normally packed at night, so you need to book, and the wine list is equally alluring, with a decent choice.
Also on the coast, nearby is the amazing chiringuito Luna Beach, run by the nearby hotel Sunset Beach.
You literally couldn’t ask for a more romantic spot, right by the water with the waves lapping at your feet.
Subtly-lit, this natural spot – all thatched roofs, simple deckings and rope fences – also counts on an excellent menu, at extremely good value.
I particularly liked the grilled langoustines, which came with a choice of sauces and a very generous green salad, while the brochette of chicken and salmon looked great too.
A starter of veggie spring rolls were excellent in sweet chili relish, while a rack of lamb is available for the more hearty eaters.
A wine list includes the excellent Payoya Negra from Ronda, as well as the good value Habla de Silencio from Extremadura, at 22 euros.
Also on a romantic tip, you definitely cannot beat the incredible Blankko, which sits under an old defensive fort in Torremuelle with views up and down the coast.
Set up by a pair of capable Iranian businessmen, you sit overlooking the sea, with stylish white tables and an exciting menu.
There are plenty of creative flourishes, such as the caesar salad served in a crunchy case and a delicious squid salad with fennel.