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.