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Jun 16, 2013 09:53 AM

Itinerary for Marbella and surrounding areas in the south

Hi CH'ers, my husband and I are planning to spend about 10 days in spain. We want to stay in Marbella as our base and then drive around to different towns with good beaches and towns with good food. I absolutely love sardines, lobster, calamari, octopus, and generally any small fish.

We have previously travelled to Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, and around Roses (where we were lucky to eat at El Bulli before it closed as well as Rafas) and enjoy good food. I was hoping that someone could suggest excellent places for seafood along the coast of southern Spain, close to Marbella or even further inland. We will have a car so traveling is not an issue. The restaurants need not be fancy, just good. Again, seafood is the preference but if you have a suggestion for another type of food, please send me your recommendation!

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  1. Not sure how far you are willing to roam, but I would make the drive for a lunch at Caserio Ananda, near Gaucin, where I had some of the best lamb of my life (meat based cuisine,, not seafood, as this is in the hills above the coast)

    Here is a report on my trip to the region, with overnight bases in Malaga (3 nights) and Gaucin, a few nights, last fall:

    1 Reply
    1. re: erica

      Thank you for your recommendations! I just visited your link.

    2. Your research will have already told you that much of the costa is one long tourist resort for we north Europeans. That is not to say that there is not good food there. There most certainly is, although you may have to look closely to find it.

      Of the area from Marbella west towards Gibralter, you'll find that Estepona is the least touristy ton and will certainly be a good town for seafood. It's 5 or 6 years since we spent a fortnight there so I am reluctant to make specific recommendations,as places can change, but we generally had very good eating.

      Nearer to Marbella, the village of Benahavis has a good concentration of very decent restaurants. Again, no specific recommendations - however this website should help you identify places possibly worth trying along the Costa:

      1. My two tops in the area are

        Calima in Marbella

        Aponiente in Puerto Santa Maria near Cádiz

        1. just back from an Andalusian adventure. we stayed closer to Malaga and toured inland. here are a couple of highlights:

          Estepona: we tried the first chiringhito on the beach across from the town's central roundabout/parking. my heart sank when I saw tables of Brits eating burgers but there was an outdoor grill and we had an order of sardines and whitebait. they also offered whole grilled fish—the options that day were sea bass, dorade and one other. not sure I'd recommend a special trip here but if you're passing through....

          Torreguardiaro is a tiny blip next to Sotogrande. we had more sardines and paella one lunch at beach bar/chiringhito Carrero. for dinner head to Pura Tapa (we went twice and loved the modern twist on tapas). go around 8 pm when they open to snag the best seats.

          our friends also recommended La Verandah, which we didn't have time to try.

          6 Replies
          1. re: iOnLa

            Went to Calima yesterday, it was delicious! Saw Dani Garcia, who came out of the kitchen and went around the dining room greeting customers. My husband and I got the oximoron menu which I cannot recommend enough, 19 small courses plus some little bites to start the meal. Excellent value for the amount of food you get IMO. About 190 euro. There are other options on the menu but this menu was what I saw most people were getting. There was a dish called "my mom's empanadilla" that was made of some kind of seaweed crust plus tuna and bonito which was amazing. I am not a huge tuna fan but this dish was very well executed and had some Japanese influences. Also, there were several other memorable dishes: a "flower" scallop (folded bits of scallop) with citrus and ginger puree, a can of caviar with dates and creamy foam (my husband's favorite), and an iced "almond" made out of foie gras. The sommelier was very knowledgeable and helped us select a reasonable white wine at 35 euro (excellent deal). At the end of the meal, he brought us a specially aged sherry which we enjoyed by the sea. Really a special night.

            We also went to San Fernando restaurant in San Pedro de Alcántara, which had EXCELLENT seafood. Thank god we got there early (8:00pm) because it ended up getting crowded very quickly after that and only people who had reservations could get in. The waiter brought out freshly baked break which we scarfed down pretty quickly. We ordered salad, 2 bottles of water, about 4-5 fish dishes to share, two desserts, a nice bottle of verdejo during the meal and some sherry at the end of the meal. Total price was about 100 euro for everything. Sardines, shrimp, squid, anything you could want is on their menu. The price you pay is for a FULL order of the fish, and the order is huge. We managed to finish everything as we were starving by 8:00pm (yes, we eat early!). All in all, you get a lot of food for your money here. Service was quick and even with limited Spanish we managed to communicate well. Staff was very nice to us.

            Will go to Ronda tomorrow and report back.

            1. re: iOnLa

              Also went to Altamirano restaurant in Marbella. Lots of locals here who apparently call ahead and know the exact time to come without ever having to wait. Not sure how that works exactly... The hubby and I got there at around 8-8:30pm and snagged a seat. By 10:00pm it was totally full and there were people waiting to sit. Good seafood and good wine, but a bit more expensive that San Fernando restaurant (see my other post) and the size of the portions was slightly smaller. All in all, very good food.

              As for the beaches: we managed to visit the Cristo beach in Estepona. Beautiful beach but the first mistake we made was to go on a Saturday at 12:00pm, and it was PACKED. I mean seriously PACKED. Between the Germans, the English, and the locals, there was no chair availability by the Havana chiringuito side. Absolutely zero. We ended up walking to the other side of the beach where there was a second beach bar and paid 10 euros for 2 seats and an umbrella. It was perfectly ok until about 2:00pm the guy inside the cafe decided he would start singing karaoke. It was terrible. Right in the middle of lunch hour. I couldn't wait for him to shut up and just turn the radio on. He kept singing 80s love songs and segwayed into 70s pop....Also, most of the locals who were there were with their children. Screaming children. Most of the time, I don't even pay attention to this factor at a beach and just read my book, but on a Saturday afternoon it was like a goddamn zoo. Kids running around left and right, screaming and crying.

              Finally when I couldn't stand the karaoke or the kids anymore, we got up and decided to go to the Havana chiringuito for lunch. I should mention that there are only 2 places to eat and drink on this beach. Otherwise you basically have to get back in the car again and drive somewhere else. We decided we were too lazy and didn't want to give up our parking space, so we grabbed seats at Havana. That was mistake number two. I thought this place was decent enough from the tripadvidor posts I had read previously. However, when we got there it took 20 minutes to just order the drinks, another 20 minutes to order the food, and then 30 minutes to get the food. Out of 6 waiters, only one "boss" had the power to take orders and payment. Biggest idiot on the planet and couldn't keep orders straight. I had in mind to just get up and curse/punch him in the face and then walk away and get in the car to go somewhere else, but my husband managed to calm me down and so we waited. Food was so-so. For 5 fried sardines, 4 beers, a bland salad, fried baby squid the bill came out to 46 euro. Total joke. Tomatoes in the tomatoes and mozz salad tasted like they had been frozen for months. Never again. Lovely beach in terms of the water, but between the crowds, this restaurant, and the screaming children, I don't think I'll want to go back any time soon.

              1. re: citykid426

                Happy to report that the trip to Ronda was perfect in every way, the hubby and I spent the day touring the old city and finally ended the day at De Locos Tapas, recommended by fellow chowhounders. Perfect, perfect, perfect! Traditional tapas plus some more experimental items, like tuna tataki with homemade wasabi ice cream and foie gras with jam. Extremely fresh ingredients, apparently the tuna was in season and also we found out that they smoke their own duck. They also had in house black pudding. Very small restaurant with only 6 tables. For about 4 drinks, waters, and approx. 10 tapas we paid 34 euros, which I thought was extremely generous given the portions and the fresh ingredients. Will definitely go there again (and also try Tragabuches, for which we were underdressed yesterday).

                1. re: citykid426

                  Hi citykid426 - I really enjoyed reading your posts. My boyfriend and I are heading to Marbella in a few weeks and I'm loving the research...we obviously will not be hitting up beaches as it's a bit cooler now but we are looking to visit as many towns as we can. I can't wait to get to Ronda! Are there any other places/restaurants that are absolute must-sees? We have the same taste in food and the more authentic the better (keeping in mind we speak extremely limited Spanish).

                  1. re: smsiegel

                    Sorry for the late response smsiegel. I'm glad you like my posts! I hope you have a great time during your trip and I'm sure the food will be fabulous. As far as additional towns to visit besides Marbella, I'm sad to say that most of them my husband and I went to were near Marbella (Estepona etc) and most of the restaurants were on the beach or right near it/next to it. I'm assuming that the experience will not be the same in the winter/spring and that the restaurants may not even be open this time of the year, so I won't go on and start giving you a list b/c it'll be useless...

                    If you go to Ronda, definitely go to de locos tapas (mentioned above; and also just so you know the head waiter speaks English), and Tragabuches. Tragabuches is definitely fancier (and is Michellin rated), so probably don't show up in jeans :-) ...

                    I have a few friends who also love Spain and may know places to go near Marbella around winter/spring time. I'll post back in a couple of days.

                    1. re: citykid426

                      Hi! I too am enjoying reading your Spanish food (and non-food) adventures. Were you able to make it to Tragabuches? We will be spending about 3 weeks along the Costa Del Sol and am already trying to drum up how to maximize our mealtimes…hopefully avoid mediocre places. Yes, I have seen the numerous restaurants catering to tourists along the coast…I would hate to end up at a pizza joint in Puerto Banus or Marbella.
                      Anything that you'd like to add will be most appreciated.