This is a tricky one for us on a number of levels. First up, one of our Editors has been visiting the chiringuito (beach restaurant), Los Espigones, near the flash and splash of Puerto Banús for decades. It’s her family’s regular Sunday haunt when the sun gets warm. A table of 15, sometimes more, gets booked, along with a handful of paellas mixtas – pre-ordering is a must. Towering ensaladas mixtas arrive, packed with tinned tuna, tinned asparagus, grated carrot, iceberg lettuce and onions – it’s something we’d never eat at home. Then along comes calamar scorched on the plancha, making them sweet and tender. Usually an enormous plate of squid fried in a thin and crispy batter, too, and lemon is squeezed in plenty. Jarras of poky sangria are also delivered, along with cold beers and glasses of Spanish rosé topped up with huge ice cubes. And then the paella: Valencians would shake their heads in horror at the clams mixed with the slow-cooked pork, huge prawns, squid, mussels and octopus. We’re not here for authentic.
The gathering digs in, fighting for each plateful – expertly scraping the bottom of the pan to snag the paella’s best bit, the socorrat, all the charred, chewy and not-quite-burnt bits, slightly sweet, slightly bitter and intensely flavoured.
So why is this tricky? Well, because we want to make sure we always get a table when we want one. And also, because, is it always good? No. Can it sometimes be great? Yes. On a busy Sunday in August does it feel like conveyor belt cooking? Ah-ha. Is the atmosphere wonderful? Always. We love it.
Playa Nueva Andalucia, s/n, 29660 Marbella, Málaga
Tel: +34 952 81 76 80