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May 28, 2008 05:06 PM

4 nights in Marbella

I'd love to visit some wonderful restaurants with great food (we are foodies, after all) and no tourists. We are travelling in mid-June and want to experience the best Marbella has to offer. Lunch (preferably al fresco) and dinner recommendations, please.

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  1. Notables: 1. Calima (chef Dani Garcia) in the Melia Don Pepe hotel (but pricey).
    another gem (with one michelin star) in the area of Urbanization Elviria Hills along the autovia or highway towards Malaga and not so pricey: 2. El Lago (chef Celia Gimenez)
    Casual places with that laid-back and typical Andalucian buildings (with patios):
    3. la Hacienda (by Las Chapas exit along the A7 towards Malaga)
    4. La Tirana- in a typical 'villa' in Marbella town proper
    5. Casa de la Era- nice mountain views, typical 'chalet' about 2 miles north
    6. Santiago- considered one of the best seafood places in Marbella

    -There's so much more but they have no names because some eateries are only in existence during the summer. There's one I know of that grills excellent sardines on the spit in Rincon de la Victoria but it's only there along the mouth of the river (where it meets the ocean) when the bed's dry. They also make the best eggplant chips drizzled with molasses.
    You have to try the sardines on a spit grilled along the coast--there's lots of them.

    1. Bear in mind that it will be all but impossible to find tourist-free places. Marbella (as with most of the Costa del Sol) is a major tourist destination for us Brits (and other Europeans). Hundreds of thousands (probably millions) visit Andalucia each year (nearly one in three of us visit Spain for holidays). Thousands of us own property there and a significant number of us are residents (in some places I believe foreign residents outnumber Spaniards). You are most unlikely to "discover" the hidden gem of a restaurant - that was all done years ago.

      You'll probably find the most authentic food away from the coast (but even inland, there are significant visitor influences). Malaga is the nearest major city and is untouristy. Benahavis is a small village just inland and has a very good array of restaurants - most with rooftop dining.

      Along the coast, there are many casual, al fresco, opportunities. "Chiringuitos" (beach huts) are along most beaches. Some serve tourist crap. Many also serve fantastic fresh fried fish. It's what Andalucia does best. This site should help:

      Marbella' Feria runs from 9/6 to 15/6 and I'd thoroughly recommend it if you are there then. Lots of street food, street booze and locals having a great time. This link is in English but it takes you further on to the official listing page in Castilian.

      Also, from the same site, some of my photos from the 2006 Feria:

      As to dinner, look out for restaurants that are empty (except for tourists) until after 9.30pm and then fill up with locals. Andalucians are likely to be in the tapas bars until at least that time and then dine late. It is so much more fun than eating earlier.

      Apologies that I have no specific recent recommendations - we usually stay at Estepona further to the west. It's probably the most Spanish of the towns along the Costa and well worth a trip. The only place I can recall in Marbella itself from an earlier trip (2003?) was the Altamirano on Plaza Altamirano in the Old Town. Good seafood. Or at least it was then.

      I'd also just enjoy being a tourist by either having lunch or dinner at one of the several places on La Plaza de los Naranjos. It's the centre of the old town. Pick the best looking of the lot. Sit. Drink a chilled fino. Eat fish. And a salad. People watch.


      7 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        Harters puts it very well (Thank you for reminding me about the Ferrier BTW - I am down here for a couple of months and had forgotten that - two days I shall leave open:-)

        You are unlikely to find places that are devoid of tourists, The Costa is the European equivalent of Florida.

        But, that does not mean you wont find good food. Most visitors stay near the beach, so head in even a few streets in any of the coastal towns and you will find the local bars and restaurants. In Marbella, there are many around the central market and, as Harters said, the places around Plaza De los Naranjos can be fun

        On the seafront in Marbella, I strongly recommend Choclateria Ramon. IMHO the best on the Costa. Not cheap, but one order of Porras (thicker than churros) will easily serve two

        If you have a car, there is an excellent Asador, Navarra, on road from Fuengirolla to Mijas on the left hand side about ten mins out of the town centre. My first visit there was not so good, but subsequent meals have been excellent.


        1. re: Simon Majumdar

          That's one heck of holiday you're having, Simon. Lucky so-an-so. I thought you & HP were just there for a few days recovery after your Big Trip. Enjoy, mate, enjoy.


          1. re: Harters

            No holiday. I am using the peace and quiet here to finish writing the book of the trip.

            To keep on topic, even some of the tourist places can have some good food. In Fuengirola, there is a place called Portofino which has been here as long as I have been coming here (nearly 25yrs) and it does one of the best paella on the coast ( you have to pre-order)

            There is also a street off the main square (NW corner) filled with local bars including my favourite, Meson Galan, opened by a retired Matador. They do great ham and excellent Sangre De Toro

            On the main st, there is a good sherry bar which also does fresh seafood.

            Worth a visit

            1. re: Simon Majumdar

              Well worth a visit. Fuengirola used to be a regular haunt until we discovered Estepona a couple of years back. The Portofino, IIRC, is excellent as Simon suggests.

              The Los Boliches district (at the Malaga end of town) had on our last trip the best of the chiringuitos. It also had some good tapas bars in buildings that are those of the original fishing village. Touristy, yes. But go back from the sea a couple of streets and you are where real folk live. We were fortunate to be there when it was the festival of the Virgen del Carmen ( the patron saint of the local fishermen) when her statue is paraded through the streets of the "village" and into the sea. Then everyone goes and eats tapas and drinks far too much alcohol.

              It's nights such as those that remind me why I love Spain so much. Can't be long till September, can it?

              1. re: Harters

                We're here in Marbella and can attest to the recommendation by trvlcrzy for Santiago and La Hacienda. At La Hacienda I had a scallop appetizer and the large scallops still had the roe sacks attached. Yesterday we went to Restaurante Santiago where we indulged on percebes (sea barnacles), grilled sea bass and enormous grilled prawns. We have experienced the freshest and best seafood of our lives here, and that's coming from 2 New Englanders.
                Also of note was a trip to Red Pepper in Puerto Banus. I didn't love the touristy "lives of the rich and famous" vibe of that area so much, but this restaurant was amazing and the service was wonderful. My better half had an amazing plate of vinegar cured anchovies and the best suckling pig of his life. I had the grilled Haloumi cheese and these enormous grilled red prawns. They brought us a roasted spare rib appetizer and some turkish delight gratis. There was a bowl of delicious olives and a bowl of pickled cauliflower and hot peppers, carrot and radish sticks on the table in addition to the bread basket. The menu is seafood heavy with Greek and Spanish influences.

                We ate at Antonio's in Puerto Banus also but Red Pepper was much more impressive.

                Today we will set off in search of tapas, the one thing we didn't
                yet indulge ourselves with.

                One thing to note - there is no smoking ban in Marbella. In most of the more high end places (such as Santiago) you get the option to sit in a no smoking section or it is banned altogether as in La Hacienda.
                But for some of the more casual eateries you have to sit outside to get any assurance of clean air when you eat, as people like to indulge in smoky treats here throughout their meals.

                I love how in Europe in general they allow you to linger over your meals. Never is a main course brought out until the appetizers are cleared, and never is a check thrown in your face before you request it. Things are so rushed in the States, and I dislike it very much.

                Anyway, have fun! I wish I had another 2 months here. It's a beautiful place.

                1. re: sashimi73

                  we were in marbella in april for a week and had tapas a couple of times in the old town section.the iberico ham is the most amazing thing ever,as is the cheeses,wines,sangrias etc.we did a day trip up to Ronda for bull tail that was pretty tasty wife accidently ordered the pigs feet,which was really just a pile of skin and fat,um gross!pretty beautiful drive up there too,keep your eyes on the road,eat,eat.

                  1. re: sashimi73

                    Glad you're enjoying Spain right now. Wish I were there too. Do try tapas hopping. On Saturday evenings, some streets are closed to car traffic to allow you to just walk around and try out the different tapas bars until the wee hours...It's a way of life. And yes, they do not rush you out a restaurant. Take note that some restaurants once "complete" won't even allow you to wait around for a table. This is a courtesy knowing how Spaniards are, they can stay at the table until closing time. Have fun!

          1. re: Harters

            I am already dusting off my best bib and tucker to go on Saturday.

            Another suggestion, last Saturday, some neighbours here took me to a locals place in Fuengirola called El Chiperon (right behind the police station as you enter the town from Marbella

            packed to the rafters with families and served some of the best fried fish I have tried in a long time. Also, excellent little cuttlefish in their own ink.

            Definitely worth a try


            1. re: Simon Majumdar


              One recc for you for Feria:

              As you cross the main road from the old town towards the sea, there's a small park. A lot of action there. However, walk straight through it for now and keep going down the wide pedestrianised pathway. In 2006, the last stall (set up right across the pathway) was booze only. Mrs H declared their mojitos to be near perfect.