IT is slowly becoming a rival to the multi-cultural mix of quality restaurants in Marbella.
And while Marbella’s got the stars, San Pedro’s definitely got the talent and you can certainly eat well in the town.
Best of all, there are loads of new places opening and the type of clientele is quickly going upmarket.
“It is great to see how much San Pedro has changed over the last few years,” explains Ross Duggan, manager at restaurant the Hogan Stand.
“It has a completely different atmosphere and all the scruffy builders and fraudsters have moved on, meaning we can concentrate on quality.”
The leading purveyors of this drive for haute cuisine must certainly be Albert & Simon, which has been serving up fine French food for three decades.
Counting on a splendid wine list, with hundreds of references from around the world, brothers Albert and Simon are more deserving of a Michelin star that most.
A good friend of Spain’s top chefs, chef Albert is constantly upping his game, using local ingredients and genuine Gallic panache.
Just across the road he now has a rival in the very elegant L’Impronta, an upmarket Italian joint, run by capable Francisco Vacas, who actually heralds from Cordoba.
A passionate chap, who left school and began cooking at the age of 13, he has created a seductive spot, with parquet wood floors, hydraulic tiles and evocative paintings.
Insisting on sourcing only the best line-caught wild fish, including sea bass and turbot, he also offers a great range of tasty and seasonal dishes.
Best of all, his €25 set lunch, had a decent mix of dishes including chopped veal liver in onions, gravy and mashed potato, and topped off with a lovely vanilla panna cotta.
Another exciting spot, is the recently opened Vaca Loca, by the stylish new bridge.
This terrace restaurant is the brainchild of local expat businessman Andrew Levene, who saw an opportunity with this excellent location.
Hiring one of the coast’s well established chefs Darren Stevens, who trained at La Sala, the menu has a great mix of steaks, burgers and ribs, all cooked on the grill.
Just around the corner you will also find Nomo, set up by popular local restaurateur Oscar, who also owns Flankers Bar.
This stylish spot is exciting in the extreme, counting on two Catalan chefs and aiming to use only the best of Spain’s produce and a lot of local vegetables from around Andalucia.
I tried a superb cured beef with parmesan and an original take on the Peruvian cerviche.
Another man on a mission continuing to help change the face of San Pedro is Malcolm Spendlove, who has been at the helm of the ever popular Passion Cafe for the last 15 years (see opposite page).
Not content to run, arguably San Pedro’s busiest restaurant, his excellent burger bar Mr Gourmet Burger goes from strength to strength and has some of the best quality burgers on the coast.
Loosely modelled on the UK’s GBK chain, it counts on 100% beef burgers, while kids are encouraged to make their own ‘Junior G’ burgers in ‘four easy steps’. By far the most exciting place to open in recent years has to be Rincon de la Sala however. In pole position in the heart of the town with a great pavement location, it is this restaurant more than any other that embodies the revitalisation of San Pedro.
Part of the popular La Sala group, in my opinion the food here is excellent and service is fast and professional.
There is a busy menu that changes regularly and there is a daily ‘menu del dia’… and if you are lucky you might just bump into a range of footballers, who part own the restaurant including David Bentley, Paul Robinson and David Pleat.
Last but not least is the rapidly going upmarket Hogan Stand, an Irish pub named after the famous Gaelic football stand at Croke Park.
Run by capable Ross, a father-of-three, whose wife also runs a restaurant in Elviria, the place has evolved a lot over the last few years.
As well as having its typical bar snacks in the pub, the other side of the place is a decent restaurant, with a good mix of quality dishes and you dine on a nice terrace at the front.
“We have everything from burgers to a fabulous rack of lamb and €50 bottles of wines,” explains Ross, who helped out in his parents pubs in Cork from the age of 12.
He then moved across the pond and worked in Miami at the age of 20.
The burger master
ONE of the true dynamos of the rapidly improving San Pedro restaurant scene is most definitely Malcolm Spendlove.
The owner of both Passion Cafe and Mr Gourmet Burger, both businesses have grown well over the last few years.
“We are not running event restaurants, but just good solid, quality diners,” he explains. “And things have gone well.”
Passion Cafe continues to be the main meeting point in the town, thanks to its excellent . Open all day, you can eat pancakes, bacon sandwiches, or steak and chips at any time, or just sit and drink a cup of coffee and use its excellent wifi. It also offers an excellent Sunday roast.
Up the road at Mr Gourmet Burger has been open for just over two years, but is ‘growing week on week’, explains Malcolm.
Using the best quality halal beef, which keeps the growing number of Arabic customers happy, the place is also incredibly popular with kids.
Forget traditional fast food, this is the modern alternative. All burgers are made of excellent quality ingredients; succulent lamb, juicy steak, caramelized onions, smoked mozzarella, pickled ginger and avocado.