FEW places in Andalucia have it all when it comes to food.

The Serrania de Ronda however has the lot, whether you are after tasty tapas, simple local ingredients or Michelin-starred mastery.

There are hundreds of exciting places to choose from, now including the excellent Michelin-starred Bardel, where Benito Gomez goes from strength to strength.

Other long-standing winners include historic Pedro Romero, soulful Almocabar, and the rural delights of Molino del Santo and El Muelle, while exciting new arrivals include El Almacen and Sarmiento, in Casares.

For those up in the heart of Ronda authentic Porton – an institution run by Javier for the last 40 years – has wonderful old photos on the wall and a guaranteed feel good factor. Here, you will find my favourite Ronda tapa, the wonderful quails egg with ham on toast.

Just around the corner, the town’s grandest restaurant Pedro Romero sits slap bang opposite the bullring, with wonderful bullfighting photos and posters, as you might expect.

Run by brothers Carlos and Tomas, a top sommelier, you should try the fantastic rabo de toro and let him select the wine.

A total contrast is El Almacen, run by talented Javier Pimentel, a local Ronda lad, who went around the world and back before opening his restaurant last year.

It’s a stylish spot, with a great selection of music, including a huge pile of records… but you are here for the food and Javier doesn’t disappoint, having trained for a year at San Sebastian’s three-Michelin star cathedral of cuisine Akelarre, before a stint in Ireland and two years in London.

For wine lovers check out Entre Vinos, which has over 100 wines from Ronda, and always has a dozen wines available by the glass. There are some excellent tapas and it is a charming place to while away a few hours.

Just up the hill a little is Siempre Igual, which is exactly that ‘Always the same’, and a bloody excellent place to enjoy tapas and some excellent wine with friends.

Run by a friendly family team, they always have some experimental new dishes, worth a try and you are in a great location, just up from the bullring.

Across the bridge in the heart of the old town look out for Meson El Sacristan run by friendly Antonio. It has Roman ruins in the basement and easily the best steaks in the town.

It also has a fantastic dining terrace where in good weather you can truly watch the world go by in one of Ronda’s loveliest squares.

Few places have the splendour of Restaurante Azahar in the historic hotel Reina Victoria.

Its dining terrace offers up the best views in Ronda, even Andalucia, across the celebrated Ronda tajo and miles beyond.

And luckily the food matches up to it, being both creative and with well sourced ingredients.

Inspired by its location, it doffs its hat to local dishes, such as roast suckling pig and kid.

But plaudits go to the creative starters, such as secreto iberico carpaccio with foie, redcurrants and parmesan ice cream, as well as the scallops on yolks of pickled asparagus with sea urchin caviar.

Venturing out of Ronda there are so many amazing country escapes for lunch or supper.

The two best are easily Molino del Santo, in charming Benaojan, now shut for the winter, as well as El Muelle, in Arriate, which boasts hundreds of regulars who drive all the way from the coast – and even Sevilla – for lunch.

It’s no surprise, this old railway storeroom being atmospheric to the n’th degree and boasting excellent local authentic fare to boot.

Run by friendly Dutchman Frank Rottgering, alongside talented local chef Isa, there are plenty of new dishes each month and the menu is full of their colourful creations.

The wine list is simple but inspired and the food is always amazing fresh and beautifully served… Even better are the prices.

Another amazing new country addition is Sarmiento at the extreme western end of the Serrania de Ronda in Casares.

This is the creation of three well-travelled, creative friends, who have all lived and worked abroad during the heart of Spain’s worst ever recession.

Coming back to Casares full circle are Miguel and Juan Sarmiento, whose father set up this very restaurant in the classic Andalucian town three decades ago, before leasing it out to another local family.

The pair have both worked in many restaurants abroad and more recently landed plum jobs working at the Hotel Don Pepe in Marbella and at Sotogrande SA.

Their head chef is Victor Carracedo, who has also worked around the world for leading chains, including Ritz-Carlton and Hilton, and is currently head chef at Marbella’s five-star Don Pepe hotel.

Their new restaurant is ‘based on the essential pillars of the Andalucian lifestyle: authenticity, spontaneity and the enjoyment of friends and family’.

And up at this wonderful space, with the best views in Christendom, it is hard to disagree.

It would be unfair not to mention chef Ian Love at La Cascada, at hotel Molino del Puente.

He and his wife have been pleasing the punters with their tasty creations for well over a decade now and its amazing riverside terrace cannot be beaten in good weather.

www.diningsecretsofandalucia.com

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