IT has taken a few years but the ‘pueblo’ of Benalmadena is becoming something of a Mecca for food tourists.
Working hard to promote the concept of quality, it is great to see a handful of genuinely top restaurants opening up here.
One of the true gems is the fabulous Italian Pala d’Oro, which recently moved up after six years on the coast.
Set around a patio and with cool, stylish interior; expect a delicious mix of dishes care of your host Sandro and chef Mateo Manzzato, from Venice.
I particularly liked the gnocchi stuffed with courgette and with a natural goats cheese Asiago, specially imported from Italy, while the speck ham with rocket and walnuts and a balsamic vinegar had just the right balance.
A homemade panna cotta comes with a choice of sauces, the caramel a complete winner.
Best of all, there are over two dozen wines by the glass, a superb trawl around the best of Italy, with over 100 references in total.
Also recently opened is the fabulous Sollo, which at first glance looks like it might be someone’s house.
Now home to culinary genius Diego Gallegos, 30, who trained in two of the best restaurants in the world in South America, before landing in Granada, where he is also now the resident chef and public face of Riofrio caviar, an organic product raved about by chefs including Gordon Ramsay.
This is one of the real draws of his restaurant with a number of dishes in the fantastic degustation menu featuring caviar, one of the very best products of Andalucia.
Front of house is friendly girlfriend Suzanna, also 30, and you will enjoy the stylish ambience and accompanying cool jazz.
Also in the village look out for the highly-rated steakhouse Longhorn, run by the capable Claus, and with an excellent and varied menu (see opposite).
Down on the coast there are a number of other good places to eat.
The most romantic, by far, must be Blankko, sitting by one of the old defensive forts in Torremuelle.
Set up by a pair of capable Iranian businessmen, you sit overlooking the sea, with stylish white tables and an interesting changing menu; including dishes like duck mousse with red fruits and spicy langoustine croquettes.
There are regularl sushi nights and the wine list is interesting to boot.
Another excellent new addition to the coast’s dining scene is Embarcadero, which sits on a headland with one of the best views up the coast.
Professionally-run, there is an excellent mix of fish and sea food, as well as amazing paellas, including the fabulous ‘Marisco’.
I liked the range of soup starters, including ajoblanco with miel de cana and a starter of ‘raf’ tomatoes from Almeria was a bonus.
The lemon-marinated grilled octopus also came highly recommended.
Another place right down in the centre of town is the Sunset Beach Club hotel, which has its extremely popular restaurant Luna Beach club sitting right on the sand.
Up in Arroyo de la Miel there is a great range of British restaurants to try out, but you can do a lot worse than trying out The Peacock, run for well over a decade by dynamo Katrina, one of the longest-running expats in Benalmadena (see pullout box, left).
Over in Torremolinos, make sure to look out The Carvery, which has been running for an incredible 13 years.
Just five minutes from Benalmadena marina in the Montemar area it is the perfect antidote to every expat’s roast dinner withdrawal craving.
With a choice of five meats, locally-sourced vegetables and mountainous Yorkshire puddings, The Carvery has offered Brits a taste of home since opening in 2001.
Run by husband and wife Mark and Karen Cornwell, The Carvery’s crispy potatoes and rich gravy sees punters regularly queuing out the door for their roast fix.
Get there early as punters are often turned away.
Mark, originally a fruit and vegetable seller from Meopham, Kent said: “Brits love a roast dinner, and as there are so many expats living here, we decided to set a carvery up. I eat a roast every single day. I absolutely love it.”