Gastronomy has long been a key ingredient of the Costa del Sol’s enduring appeal for visitors and residents. Even foreigners occasionally nostalgic for a full English breakfast (especially after an over-indulgent night of red wine) or gravlaks will invariably have tried, and thoroughly enjoyed, Spain’s traditional dishes… gazpacho (cold vegetable soup), paella (cooked in dozens of different combinations), tortilla (potato omelette), jamón serrano (cured ham) and, a Málaga speciality, boquerones (anchovies) marinated in vinegar.
In March, having noted that around 10 per cent of international tourists visiting Spain indulge in “gastronomic activities”, the Andalucian government announced plans to promote tourist routes showcasing four of the region’s key culinary attractions: wine, Mediterranean diet, mountain landscapes, and product combinations from the sea and inland.
The campaign highlights the diversity of Andalucía’s gastronomy, no better illustrated than on the Costa del Sol, where diners can savour traditional and wholesome Mediterranean cuisine as well as an ample array of “international” gastronomy: skewers (“espetos”) of charcoal-cooked sardines on the terrace of a beach chiringuito for lunch and sushi at an Asian fusion restaurant in the evening.
From Michelin-star restaurants experimenting with “molecular gastronomy” to mountain ventas (inns) offering more robust dishes including local game, the Coast’s dining establishments offer a veritable smorgasbord of delicacies.
During the warmer months, most people head to the chiringuitos for light refreshments or a more substantial meal (often extending into the late afternoon over liqueurs), or one of the Coast’s fashionable beach clubs for a sumptuous platter of seafood.
Popular throughout the year are the mesons offering excellent-priced “menus del día” (usually three-course daily menus, including a beer or glass of wine) and, increasingly in recent years, more informal café-style establishments with an extensive selection of tapas and pintxos.
In fact, many town halls have been capitalising on the growing preference for light meals by organising thematic promotions during the year – for example, Fuengirola’s entertaining “Erotic Tapa Route”.
For those planning a dinner party at home, the area’s supermarkets (and specialist delicatessens) are stocked with gourmet products from throughout the world (Nordic, Arabic, Chinese, South American, et al)… and just the right Spanish wine to ensure a superb gastronomic experience.