30 Jun, 2024 @ 12:31
3 mins read

GOLDEN TRIANGLE OF DINING: As well as the highest number of Michelin stars per capita in Andalucia, many of Marbella’s chefs trained in the world’s best restaurants

Gaia has the freshest seafood

WHERE in the world would you get to rub shoulders with the greats of global cuisine? The Godfathers of the culinary world like Joel Robuchon, Ferran Adria and Joan Roca, or the current wunderkinds in the kitchen like Daniel Humm, Quique Dacosta or Angel León? 

In Marbella, to be exact, where over the last two decades I have been lucky enough to grill all the above and a lot, lot more.

Now, pick any restaurant around the world and, chances are, you’ll find a former chef is now based here in Europe’s ritziest resort for the super rich.

Take Angelica Menin, 29, the head chef at new hotspot La Notaria in the heart of Marbs.

Angelica Menin at La Notaria

The Italian from Padova arrived here after a three year spell at the UK’s oldest three Michelin star restaurant, the Waterside Inn, in Bray.

Then there’s Jose Godoy, who landed the first Michelin star for a Spanish restaurant in England, or Michel Dhondt at Macaao, who previously held a star in Belgium.

There is no doubt Marbella has the best selection of restaurants in southern Spain.

And I should know, having researched a popular restaurant book on Andalucia a decade ago and continually written about Spain’s dining aristocracy ever since.

Gordon Ramsay Gaucin e
Gordon Ramsay filmed in Gaucin with Olive Press Editor Jon Clarke

That I got to hang out with Jamie Oliver in Ronda or was described by Gordon Ramsay as ‘Andalucia’s top English food critic’ is small beer compared to the joy of seeing my region’s rapid rise up the food charts.

It’s been a remarkable rollercoaster and I’ve seen Andalucia zoom up the rankings to become one of Europe’s best places to eat, easily, hands down.

And one of the key epicentres has been Marbella, a town of just 150,000 souls, but with the second highest number of Michelin stars per capita in Spain after San Sebastian.

Forget Sevilla or Malaga, Marbella has the best range and quality of restaurants I have come across. This is the most international food scene in Spain and it’s concentrated in an incredibly small, easy to navigate area.

One of the main hives is the area just south of the Casco Historico, where you will find Ta-Kumi, Messina, Back, Kava, Skina and Nintai, all garlanded in the latest Michelin guide.

But there is also a big string of great places to eat in Nueva Andalucia and San Pedro, while Elviria also has a decent pick too.

Most famous of all is on the Golden Mile with the focus very much around the Puente Romano hotel, where you will find the famous brands, including Nobu, Cipriani and Coya.

They mostly sit around the Plaza area with my favourite being the Thai Gallery, while the exciting new addition this year was Gaia, a Greek restaurant that first launched in Mayfair.

Gaia has the freshest seafood

One of the most elegant spots imaginable with wonderful lighting and planting outside, an army of staff buzz around offering a huge array of fish cooked in six different ways.

We were taken up to the incredible fish ‘market’ where I was guided towards a fish called Alfonsino, which was carved up, firstly as a carpaccio, with three dressings, and then perfectly cooked as a main.

An excellent starter is Melitzanosalata, a smoky dream of aubergine with yoghurt parsley tomato  served on toast. The beef Keftedakia (meatballs) with mint and tomato sauce were also a great starter.

The Cauliflower salad with avocado and goats cheese and caramelised walnuts and citrus dressing was packed full of goodness.

On the Golden Mile you can also find the excellent Italian, Cibo, a stylish place that serves the best pizzas on the coast.

There are always a great number of specials by the day and an excellent range of wines.

The grilled langoustines at Cibo

I loved the langoustines done on the open grill as well as the Aracini, fried risotto balls with crab Bruschetta of basil sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella.

A main course of spicy tuna belly spaghetti comes highly recommended while the beef tagliata cooked on the grill then cut into slices was perfectly delivered (rocket tomatoes and rocket alongside).

Another restaurant that is rapidly taking the coast by storm is Nomad, in Nueva Andalucia.

Launched by Alex Craciun of the UK’s leading Jason Atherton group, this is glamour personified.

For beach clubs Bono Beach is a surefire winner, in particular, for its amazing attention to detail and client care.

Another beach favourite, Macaao recently reopened with a stunning refit and remains one of the best coast restaurants around.

Macaao Beach

Meanwhile in the heart of the old town is Candela a great spot to soak in the atmosphere with fabulous food on offer.

In the tourist hive of Puerto Banus one might expect it to be rammed with great places to eat, but the truth is it can be very hit and miss.

Stick with the classic spots like Jacks, Leone and Mumtaz, probably the best Indian in Marbella, and you can’t go wrong.

Leone 6 1
Leone in Puerto Banus

You’d probably however, be better off walking out of the port up towards the unbelievably popular stalwart of La Sala… that is if you can get in.

This is the place to do your star spotting and just about everyone who’s anyone has been to eat here, even including Jamie Oliver, Harry Kane and Tyson Fury.

Cocktails on the terrace at La Sala

Most likely Marbella’s most successful restaurant of the last decade, it employs over 100 staff and includes a football team of investors, who have just launched their new Clubhouse sports bar and restaurant below..

The food is excellent for its location, but the menu changes regularly and there will always be some entertainment. In particular, with the fellow guests.

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

Do you have a story? Contact newsdesk@theolivepress.es

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