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7 Places You Need To Eat On The Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is not generally thought of as one of Spain's food destinations - it certainly doesn't get gourmet travellers hyped up in the same way that San Sebastien, Madrid and Barcelona might - but there's plenty of good stuff there, you just have to weed it out amongst the tedious tapas bars and full English breakfasts. We've been going there for years and have some favourites, both pre and post covid, so if you're one of the many people headed to the costa this summer, bookmark these seven places to eat and drink.




Los Marinos José, Carvajal


In the sleepy seaside village of Carvajal, two train stops from Fuengirola, Los Marinos José is somewhere seafood lovers (from Spain and abroad) go on pilgrimage to each year. You can end up with a hefty bill here - most seafood is charged by weight, and the grower Champagnes, about half the price on the wine list that they would be at home, are very hard to turn down - but it's a holiday blowout worth allocating budget to.



If being entrusted to pick your own fish, and having a price per 100g makes you anxious, there's enough on the menu at a set price to ensure you avoid bill anxiety at the end. Late spring/early summer is tuna season, and the tuna tartar and tuna 'rib-eye', fresh off the boat from Cadiz, will probably be the best versions of the oily fish you've ever tasted. The massive, bright red Carabineros (gambas rojas) are around €24 each, but you only live once. Bookings are essential but you can usually get them the same week.




Bodega Charolais, Fuengirola


We spent many years lamenting the lack of a go-to restaurant in tourist-thronged Fuengirola, until we found Bodega Charolais - the only restaurant in the town listed in the Michelin Guide. Everything about this place is pure joy - the large sun-trap terrace where everyone wants to sit, the cheerful staff (bring your baby along for free kisses), the modern take on Spanish food, the fact you can simply order red or white wine by the glass knowing what you get will be a world away from house wine everywhere else - it's somewhere you'll obsess about once you're home.



A lot of plates come in racions or half-racions, but you'll want a large plate of the Cantabrian anchovies with tomato, avocado and spicy olive oil, the Russian salad, and the aubergines with honey (more like treacle). We're also dedicated fans of the pluma iberico with potato 'risotto' and chestnut, and the whole stuffed Spider Crab, and sherry nuts will swoon at the by the glass selection here. Bookings are essential, and specify if you want outside. If you show up at 8pm don't be surprised to see the place empty with a "reservado" sign on every table. Things don't kick off in here until after 9pm, when the Spaniards come out to play. It's also a great place for a long, lazy lunch.




Café Costa del Sol, Fuengirola


Spanish breakfasts mean one of two things to us - churros con chocolate or pan con tomate y jamón, and we've finally found a go-to place for both. Café Costa del Sol does the best homemade churros, and the thickest, velvetiest chocolate for miles around, and it's packed with locals from first thing in the morning until late at night.



The bread roll with tomato, jamón, excellent olive oil and plenty of salt is another grade A start to the day, but a surprising recent discovery (thanks Google reviews) has been the 'Mechuga' sandwich (meatloaf), which is more like braised, marinated beef than some kind of congealed meat slice, with peppers and mayonnaise. Excellenté. Coffee is good and while staff aren't falling over to help they're very efficient. Your bill will be embarrassingly low.




La Encina, Fuengirola


Jamón comes in many forms and grades, and when in Spain you want the best. If you're self-catering, or more importantly stocking up for home, head for La Encina off Fuengirola's main square. The best stuff is the 100% Iberico Bellota and usually seems to come in black packaging wherever you go. The red packaged (50% Iberico) is still good, but the nutty, melting fat on the black labelled won't be beaten. La Encina is also brilliant for chorizo, salchichón, Manchego, crackers, and the lovely staff will give you tastes as you chat.




Distinto Vinos, Los Boliches


You might think in a country so famed for wine, that getting served killer bottles everywhere you go would be standard - not so much. Commercial, factory-made wines blight the majority of restaurant wine lists in this part of the country, which is why finding somewhere like Distinto Vinos is all the more sweeter. The owners' passion for the good stuff is clear from the second you walk in the door, and they'll open any bottle on the shelf if you want a glass of it - so the selection changes every night depending on who's in there.



It's all the good stuff and never boring - you want Brancellao from Valdeorras, old Albariño, Malaga Pinot Noir, they've got you covered - and the prices are so good you'll probably drink more than you planned, and buy more bottles to take away with you. Food is simple and for snacking alongside the wine, with cheeses and meats cut as they're ordered, and if you luck out and find yourself being served by one of the owners, expect to have stories of winemakers, growers and vineyards peppering your evening.




Martirio Limon, La Cala


Down the coast towards Marbella lies the beachside town of La Cala. There are lots of places to eat here, but there's never been much of note (unless you count Elliott Wright's Olivia's - we don't), but last year Martirio Limón opened on the main street, and chef Ángel Urzay had clear intentions to do something different. The patatas bravas are worth the trip on their own - cubes of deep fried potato with aioli in the centre, and a dropper on the side to add as much hot sauce as you dare, but we love the spankingly fresh tuna tostada too. The terrace outside is perfect for a post-beach lunch or a relaxing dinner as the sun goes down, and staff are lovely.




Malaga


Malaga needs a whole other article (and we promise we'll do it) - there are just too many fantastic places to eat, and it's forever a source of bemusement that so many people just use it as an airport and never wander into the city to fall in love with it's food, wine and charm oozing from every wooden doorway and winding street.


For drinks you've got to start at Antigua Casa de Guardia, the oldest wine bar in the city (there since 1840), with drinks served straight from the barrels, and gildas plucked from glass cases at a wave. El Pimpi is another prime drinking destination, with a cavernous inside and a terrace complete with views of Malaga's striking Alcazaba. The food and drink isn't ground-breaking but the cava, sangria and beers are all perfectly acceptable.


Antigua Casa de Guardia | El Pimpi | Mercado Atarazanas



Another great place to stand around with a sherry in your hand and fried fish at the end of your fork is Malaga's Mercado Atarazanas. We love the 'Café Bar Mercado Atarazanas' for a fino and some fritto mixto, but we doubt there are any duds in here. Some restaurants have outdoor seating with table service, and there's an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and cheese if you've got food shopping to do.


Mesón Ibérico is somewhere else we loathe to miss out on. Either jostling for space at the bar, standing outside with your plates perched on a ledge, or sitting in the more formal dining room, the food is simple, delicious and local, the drinks top notch, and the staff ever gracious. For something more casual and louder head for La Tranca, where staff and customers spontaneously burst into song (always Spanish, often rock), and tapas and vermouth are totted up with chalk on the bar.



If you're a cheese fiend like the best of us, make a beeline for Picnik, a covid-opening and the only place in the city to find the most vast array of Spanish and European cheeses - most places are Manchego or die. Think of it as the Sheridan's of Spain, and you'll uncover goat's, sheep and cow cheeses that have never travelled outside the country before.


When it comes to Malaga chefs, Dani Carnero is the darling of the city, and we can never pass up a meal at his original restaurant La Cosmopolita (the high end tasting menu focused Kaleja, and more modern tapas bar a La Cosmo have also been added to the fold). This is classic Malaga cooking, with dishes like Russian salad with jamón, baby squids from Fuengirola, and the most incredible panna cotta with olive oil and sea salt. They're big on sherry in here and staff love to offer an off the cuff pairing for each course.



Do you have a favourite place to eat on the Costa del Sol? Let us know by emailing info@allthefood.ie.

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