YOU only need to take a look at the most recent Michelin guide to realise quite how important dining is to Marbella.
No less than half of the Michelin starred restaurants in Andalucia can be found in the town, with its wunderkind Dani Garcia garnering two with his eponymous own name joint on the Golden Mile.
El Lago, Messina and Skina make the list with each offering their own unique blend of cooking.
“We keep getting better and better here and pushing the boundaries,” Garcia himself explained to me. “And I expect it to continue.”
And that is very much the story, as the town has one of the largest variety of top eateries in Spain.
There are over 100 different nationalities cooking in Marbella, from leading Japanese places like Takumi to excellent Ban Thai.
And then you have some excellent beach restaurants, such as Bono Beach, La Sala by the Sea, Boardwalk and Casanis Plage.
Another restaurateur who shows no signs of slowing down is Ian Radford, boss of the La Sala group, who opened his fantastic Oak restaurant last year, and has just opened his hip Mahiki beach this week.
The original La Sala on the way up to the Nueva Andalucia bull ring is, without a doubt, the most famous Marbella restaurant abroad.
This is a must-visit for any holiday to Marbs and a huge hit for ‘ladies who lunch’, not to mention 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 is serves as the ideal tourist sun-deck.
But, let’s not forget the food, which has so far never let me down. Whether you are after meaty fare (ribs, burgers, etc) or fish dishes and seafood, you are always well catered for and there is always a contemporary twist.
But if you are looking for some romance, you need to head into the heart of Marbella old town, where you are literally spoilt for choice for excellent places to eat.
One of the most celebrated is Belgian-run Casanis (www.casanis.es), where boss Guy Sirre has been constantly evolving for the last decade and now runs no less than FOUR restaurants in Marbella (see article on page?).
Its head chef Fabian Cangas has been at the helm since day one, but frequently takes time out to train at different restaurants around the world.
Now in charge of around 20 chefs at Casanis and nearby sister Italian restaurant Cafe Flore, he has brought in plenty of new ideas, picked up on his travels.
His attention to detail and passion for food is immediately obvious, with a broad and inspiring menu, always including specials of the day.
Using as much local produce as possible from his daily trips to the local markets, Fabian knocks up fabulously fresh dishes.
Even better, the restaurant now has its own nearby organic huerta from where, in season, they can get 25 to 30% of their fresh produce.
Another continually improving restaurant is Cibo, on the Golden Mile, which is beautifully decorated and has a great menu.
Owned by the capable Metro Group (Joys, Jacks, Mumtaz, Metro, etc), it is excellent value and a romantic spot for dining out.
On the beach near Marbella old town you will find Boardwalk (www.theboardwalkmarbella.com), which offers casual beachside dining in contemporary surroundings.
Run by British businesswoman Kara Caradas the place gets more popular by the year and is busy from breakfast to dinner with a range of great fresh dishes.
They organised plenty of charity events, including Ascot Day, this week, raising money for Amusuvig, a charity for victims of domestic violence.
Meanwhile the long-standing Cafe de Ronda (www.cafederonda.es) in Marbella town centre is the place to have a great coffee with a homemade pastry, then later fresh tapas or a fuller lunch or supper. Open from 8am, it has delicious Eggs Benedict and superb fresh fruit salads.
Up in San Pedro you will be spoilt for choice, but really look out for Macaao, which really stands out as a special place to visit.
Set up by Belgian Michel Dhondt, who heralds from a long line of restaurant owners and trained with Alain Ducasse on the Cote d’Azur.
Open all year, it concentrates on fresh, seasonal ingredients and there are always loads of specials, including, no surprises, mussels, as well as oysters, shrimp croquettes and ceviche.
Also in San Pedro is the very elegant L’Impronta, an upmarket Italian joint, run by capable Francisco Vacas, who actually heralds from Cordoba.
Finally 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 (www.passioncafe.eu) for the last 16 years and now heads up one of the coast’s best hamburger joints, Mr Gourmet Burger (www.mrgourmetburger.com) 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’.
IT describes itself as an ‘urban-style’ cafe with a cool country feel.
Tomate, which now has four locations in Marbella, bases its success on ‘fresh fun food’, made with the all-important ingredient of love.
Tomate is great for a healthy breakfast – think wholesome natural juices, pretty poached eggs, oat pancakes and toast.
For lunch and dinner, choose from fresh in-house burgers made with the best quality meat, or mouthwatering chicken and lamb, incredible baguettes, home-made soups and more.
There are ever-changing dishes of the day, and for those with a sweet tooth, there’s a whole world of homemade desserts to discover.
Between their two Puerto Banus locations, they are open for 24 hours, so if it’s a quick stop to get the party going or to aid recovery from a late night, Tomate is the place to go.