TASTY: Buena Vista dish
TASTY: Buena Vida dish

WHILE Marbella’s got the stars, San Pedro de Alcantara’s definitely got the talent… and best of all, there are plenty of new restaurants opening up every year.

With a focus on quality and style, the sheer variety of places to eat is what most impresses these days.

“San Pedro has completely changed over the last few years,” explains Ross Duggan, manager at 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.”

Fellow businessman Pascal van der Broek, of Happy Days, who once cooked for President Clinton, agrees: “Before the tunnel, everybody avoided San Pedro but now there are a lot of good restaurants opening. It’s definitely the new coming area for the whole costa.”

The leading purveyors of this drive for haute cuisine include L’Impronta, Macaao and la Buena Vida recently opened alongside the boulevard, while the town’s most famous chef Albert Benisty of Albert & Simon sadly passed away last month.

Francisco Vacas at elegant L’Impronta
Francisco Vacas at elegant L’Impronta

His legacy has now fallen to Francisco Vacas at elegant L’Impronta, an upmarket joint, that is constantly upping its game.

Highly seasonal in his use of ingredients the Cordoba chef left school and began cooking at the age of 13, and always insists on fresh pasta and the best line-caught fresh fish.

Best of all, when in season he is also a massive fan of mushrooms and truffle and you will not be disappointed with quality.

Around the corner, just below the fabulous new footbridge look out for La Buena Vida, recently opened under the watchful eye of Chilean chef Gaston Aigueuren and Irish owners, well established foodies, Des and Roisin.

Attractively designed by Roisin, alongside local designer Jonty Lewis, the place has a bright, exotic feel and feels warm and welcoming.

“We’ve been in the restaurant trade back home for generations so we know what we are doing,” explains Roisin, 29, who is in and out all day. “We are trying to do something different, change the menu regularly and create a bit of excitement here.”

Chef Gaston, on the coast for a decade with five years under his belt at nearby La Sala, certainly has it in him, having won prizes around Spain, including at Madrid Fusion.

His tuna salad with generous portions of marinated tuna in seeds showed some skills, while simpler fare, such as potato skins with cream cheese and bacon, plus a pulled pork burger were tasty and well executed.

Mr Gourmet Burger on the boulevard
Mr Gourmet Burger on the boulevard

Another man helping to 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 and now heads up one of the coast’s best hamburger joints, Mr Gourmet Burger on the boulevard.

It counts on 100% beef burgers, halal too, while Kids are encouraged to make their own ‘Junior G’ burgers in ‘four easy steps’.

Next door and rarely quiet look out for popular Irish pub and restaurant Hogan Stand, an Irish pub named after the famous Gaelic football stand at Croke Park.

As well as having its typical bar snacks it also has a good mix of quality dishes, including rack of lamb and fish, and you dine on a nice terrace at the front.

And then there is the new Gym Junkie Cafe, Spain’s first protein eatery, serving up vitamin-stacked meals – ideal before or after a workout.

The cafe’s mouthwatering menu includes grass-fed beef, protein pancakes and an omelette bar – complete with seaweed, broccoli and tuna omelettes.

Tartaki of bluefin tuna, with a wakame salad, egg roe ‘tobiko’ and mayonnaise wasabi
Tartaki of bluefin tuna, with a wakame salad, egg roe ‘tobiko’ and mayonnaise wasabi

Last, but not least, if you are looking for something between traditional and modern Spanish, look out for La Bodega de Cantinero, run by amazing host Alberto, who has been working in restaurants since he was 14.

His place is THE place on the coast for lovers of sherry and he has hundreds of them and many going into the hundreds of euros, including a 1946 Pedro Ximenez and a 40-year-old Amontillado from Azuleta.

But aside from the wine list the food is excellent and varied and there are always plenty of specials, including one of the best ajo blancos I have tried on the coast.

Best of all though – in fact maybe the winning dish in San Pedro – was the amazing tartaki of bluefin tuna, with a wakame salad, egg roe ‘tobiko’ and mayonnaise wasabi. In a word; perfect!

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