IT has been two decades since Juan Gomez opened Ole restaurant in La Cala de Mijas.
A true local on the road to the hipodromo, his clients are a massive mix of Spanish and just about every other nationality on the planet.
It is hardly surprising that this is one of the area’s most popular joints to eat: Juan is a charming host – speaking perfect English – and puts a great emphasis on fresh ingredients.
Much of it comes from his finca near Ronda, where he decamps at the weekend when he ‘has a moment to spare’.
Otherwise he changes the menu regularly and insists on having at least five or six different tapas every day depending on the season.
Expect to eat fantastic stuffed red peppers, delicious lettuce hearts with anchovies, and great salmon cooked in a spicy dill sauce.
Also in La Cala you must check out the recently opened Howies restaurant that used to be Mijas Playa.
Named after its new co-owner Howard Conder – who was in the Barron Knights and has produced records by the likes of the Pretty Things – it is THE place to visit in the evenings if you are looking for live entertainment.
“There will always be live music,” explains co-owner Luigi Sabbatuccy, from Rome. But food is also important, with the restaurant recently taking on Michelin-trained chef Cristobal Aragones, from Malaga.
“It is an international cuisine with charcoal-grilled meat and the finest seafood on the coast. Scallops, oysters and lobster are very popular,” continues Sabbatuccy, who previously ran Mijas Costa.
Up the main road a little towards Calahonda look out for Snack Attack, one of the busiest restaurants/cafes on the coast.
Its capable owners Mark and Robert run a tight ship and are busy throughout much of the day.
Start the day with an amazing Eggs Benedict or Florentine or go for the great value €3.95 breakfast deal with all the trimmings. They also own the popular cocktail bar and lounge venue Bar Tuta next door.
Up in the pueblo itself, the pick of the bunch must be Alcazaba with its breathtaking views up and down the coast.
It has an amazing dining terrace and at nighttime, if windy, it is still a great place to eat.
Its owner Andres Ruiz Quero also owns three other restaurants in the village and opened his first, Virgin de la Pena, 33 years ago.
“I was working in restaurants, cleaning plates at the age of 11,” he explains. “I didn’t like school and so it seemed like a good option at the time even though I only got 100 pesetas a day.”
His hard work and guile has led to a menu, with a great range of international dishes, but you certainly can’t go wrong with his fresh fish in salt or the amazing gambas pil pil starter.
Another great place to eat in the village is Aroma, also known as the Secret Garden, which is a little paradise hidden behind a more typical white walled restaurant.
This amazing garden is a delight to eat in any season and the menu at Aroma is a nice mix of authentic Iberian dishes alongside Argentinean fare – particularly big steaks – thanks to its co-owner Hugo German.
Next door make sure to look out for Taberna Meguinez (which means ‘Are you winking at me?’) which has recently been bought and renovated by the owners of Aroma, Hugo and Thomas Weller, a Canadian who also owns a number of shops in the town.
“It was one of the famous restaurants from the 1970s, known for its jamon,” explains Weller. “We wanted to help bring it back to life.”
They have certainly done that and while serving up a much more modern menu it retains its charms from days gone by.
Another good place to try in the village is Oscar’s Tapas Bar, set up a decade ago by a group of friends who met while working in India.
The trio, Rocio, from Spain, Tony, from Croatia, and Stefano, from Italy, had been working for NGOs but decided they wanted to try something different and, as Rocio was from Malaga, that is where they headed first.
“We found this little place 11 years ago and initially planned to do a B&B but ended up doing the restaurant,” explains Stefano.
A great place to eat the views are superb and the ambience pleasant.
“We have a lot of regulars who keep coming back and tourists from just about every country feel at home as we speak so many languages,” he adds.
If you are looking for cakes and a great cup of tea make sure to look out for TLC, the cream teas are legendary.
Finally, a Mijas supplement wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Valparaiso.
This institution just off the Mijas road has been visited by just about every celebrity to hit the coast over the last 30 years.
Aside from David Beckham, whose in-laws are good friends with the owner Raffaele, you will find photos of hundreds of celebrities on the wall, including Cliff Richard, Piers Morgan, Bruce Forsyth and even Liam Gallagher from Oasis.
The food isn’t bad either and the entertainment by a range of local musical stars, including opera on Monday nights is superb.