Comprising half the Michelin-starred restaurants in Andalucia, it is fair to say that Marbella is the region’s food capital.
Aside from the trio of Michelin-honoured establishments – El Lago, Skina and Dani Garcia’s new place at the Puente Romano Hotel– there are at least half a dozen more that come close to deserving the plaudits.
The town’s most famous chef Garcia, who has two Michelin stars, agrees.
“Marbella just keeps getting better and better and the real tragedy is that it is not being properly rewarded for its great cooking and variety,” explained Garcia, who grew up in the town, before studying at the top-rated cookery school La Consula in Malaga.
In terms of variety, Marbella certainly takes some beating with up to 50 different nationalities represented in the town from Greek to Vietnamese and Thai to Japanese.
“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 salike – 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.
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, near Puerto Banus. (See review left).
The original La Sala on the way up to the Nueva Andalucia bull ring is probably the most talked about eaterie 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.
Just around the corner is another fantastic offering if it is Italian food you are after.
Opening last year La Trattoria is 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.
I was particularly keen though on a plate of wafer thin brasaola, which came with delicious burrata mozzarella which is flown in especially every week by a friend of Paolo’s in Puglia.
A plate of maltagliati (rough cut pappadella pasta) with truffle shavings and parmesan was amazing… and so was the wine list by the way if you fancy a decent tipple.
On that front, you must try out the new wine emporium D Wine in Puerto Banus. Just on your left before you reach San Pedro this amazing spot not only has 3,500 different wines on offer, which you can drink at a great price with your meal, but it has 32 different wines to try by the glass.
An amazing investment, this really is one for the wine buffs and the food is also a decent range of top quality steaks and many other dishes all pulled together by a talented Japanese chef who previously trained at Kabuki at Finca Cortesin, in Casares.
Another 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.
Staying with the French flair, you must try Casa Mono just off the Golden Mile, where Guy Sirre, who is actually Belgium, has created a very stylish and delicious spot for lunch.
This is perhaps no surprise, Sirre coming to Marbella, via a career straddling Michelin-starred restaurants in France, London and San Francisco, not to mention a decade working as the Sultan of Brunei’s interior designer.
Changing the menu frequently, there is some distinct Gallic flair at play here, so expect to find vol au vents, parmesan souffles, bouillabaisse soup, as well as white veal sweetbreads and a great duck terrine, served with crisp biscuits and fresh bread.
There are always a number of specials on the board such as scallops with green chopped asparagus, beans, morel and trumpet mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, served in a lobster sauce with cod roe.
Literally next door and completely different in style is the extremely popular Cafe de Ronda, run by successful local businessman Douglas Goullet, who also owns Fideso accountancy and legal firm.
A long-time fixture on the Costa del Sol, you will find a decent mixed menu and now a special set lunch for under €10 thanks to a joint venture with Relais de Paris, serving its ‘sauce originale’ with a lovely entrecote steak and classic French fries.
It is usually full of businessmen for lunch and is also known for its amazing eggs Benedict, as well as its steaks and fresh salads with fresh buffalo mozzarella and fresh tomatoes.
For similarly tasty fare, head to Yanx in Centro Plaza in Nueva Andalucia, which is a superb American-style diner nearly 20 years old.
If burgers, ribs or chicken wings are what you are after, then you will find no better in town.
Fanatical about quality, its genial expat owner David Fisher is insistent on using as many cruelty-free ingredients as possible, including humanely raised chicken, without antibiotics or unnecesary chemicals.
He is also set to open a new section at the other side of the restaurant serving more delicatessen-style takeaway fare.
Finally if it is a great beach restaurant you are after then look no further than The Beach House, sitting on lovely Monteros beach, in Elviria.
It has become one of the key references of the Marbella scene over the last decade.
With an adventurous head chef Jeff Mynott and a boss Guy McCrow who works hard to constantly improve the quality of food and ambiance, you will be hard pressed to find anywhere better for lunch or supper.
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 Tempora, Cassanis, Casa Tua and The Orange Tree.
See Where to eat in Marbella for a comprehensive run-down of the best food on offer.
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