(1. My office for the week, 2. & 3. Our room and window at Alanda Club Marbella, 4. The verdant conservatory at the resort bar 5. One of the many colourful flowers around the pool and bar area 6. Breaking bread together in the afternoons 7. The view of the resort and mountains at sundown 8. A walk along Nikki Beach 9., 10., 11., A beautiful art gallery and colourful accents discovered during an afternoon spent in Mijas Pueblo)
For more posts on Alanda Club Marbella and Mijas Pueblo, click here.
Hi! Okay, I know. Before you think I’m cracked even considering writing about somewhere in the Costa del Sol at this time of year when we’re all thinking of Christmas, hear me out! And believe me when I say I did spend some time hesitating whether I should publish anything at all, since I’ve written plenty of travel diaries on Elviria before. So why did this post come to light?
There are no direct flights between Granada and Dublin, so I travel via Málaga Airport. Yep, ol’ crusty AGP. My most detested airport of all time in the history of ever, but sure look…that story is for another day. Gaaah. So very crusty.
Anyhoo, the flight is always rammed full going both directions. Flying back from Dublin just over a week ago, I was expecting a quieter experience given the time of year. To my surprise, t’was no different. People. Everywhere.
There were only a small number of Spanish families, couples and solo travellers. The rest of the passengers were Irish, and a good chunk of them were wearing shorts. Mad as snakes are my people. And I love them for it! I also admire their optimism.
I then considered that people go to the south of Spain all year really; there’s the ever-growing list of those who have retired to the sunny south, so children and grandchildren will always be toing and froing. There’s a huge volume of expats (myself included, of course) and many Irish have opened businesses down there. Then there are those who favour an alternative Christmas with blue skies, sparkling seas and a crisp glass of rosé over damp, cold (but cosy!) nights in by the fire with a hot whiskey in paw. It was pretty naive of me to expect a quieter flight because really, it’s the coast that never sleeps.
I also can’t recall the last time I featured a post that focuses solely on food, so a little check in with what places are still in business and how they’re holding up these days isn’t the worst idea. This year’s trip to Elviria was toward the end of October, so this is a very up to date account.
Food and drinks are the most important things of all down on the coast anyway, right you guys? Sure, there’s the beach (given) and some tourist attractions (does anyone actually go to the butterfly farm?!) but everyone knows who the real stars are. Now that I think about it, I also remember many of the spots we frequent had signs up advertising their Christmas Day lunches (no slaving over a hot stove for you in sunny Spain – most apartments don’t have an oven anyway…) so I guess my subconscious knew this post was coming all along.
If Elviria seems very specific, there is a reason. It’s a very popular area and in my opinion, the best. It’s got a plethora of high-quality restaurants almost next door to each other, and 5 minutes down the road you’ve got Cabopino, so this general area is popular for dining (more than just restaurants for lunch and dinner, you’ll find tapas and brunch spots too) drinking (Irish people down here have told me they travel especially to go to Harmon’s for the craic) it’s right by Nikki Beach and some of the best resorts, it’s got two supermarkets, pharmacies out the wazoo (where doesn’t in Spain) and it’s walkable. It’s also close to all the major areas: Marbella, Estepona, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Mijas, Fuengirola and Puerto Banus. A no-brainer of a destination.
Right, it’s time I wrapped up my essay of an introduction now, let’s see some glorious food.
Dragón Del Mar II – The Life-Changing Chinese
“Chinese food? Come on, are you kidding me? I can have Chinese food at home!”
Quiet! Not like this, you can’t. This place is amazing. I could still be high from the residual MSG (just kidding! I think…) but it really is the best. If I may be so bold as to say it’s the best I’ve had. Beating an Irish Chinese (always feels weird writing such an oxymoron) isn’t easy but this one does it with flair. The duck? Holy quack. It’s not of this world. The noodles, amazing…the chicken, beef, prawns, rice, all of it. So good. If you’re there in a modest group, check out the menu for 4 (about €88.00 total) or use it for inspiration. Everything listed is a symphony of flavours, except for the sweet and sour pork. No one likes that. We switched that course for duck Cantonese, after having Peking duck. Double duck, I told you it can’t be missed. We also went twice, pretty standard on our trips. Apart from enjoying delightful food, you’ll get a pretty generous drink on the house, the drinks menu is well priced and you’ll get a nice hot towel to freshen yourself up.
Da Bruno – The Atmospheric Italian
Just down the road from Elviria (a few minutes by taxi/car) is the famous Da Bruno. You can’t miss it, it’s just off the roundabout on the way out of Cabopino so you don’t need to go as far as the port. You’ll probably recognise the branding straight away too, it tends to slip into one’s subconscious as their green signs with gold lettering are dotted all around the coast. Those pretty fairy lights will lure you in too. I enjoy Da Bruno for tradition’s sake – I had my first prawns pil-pil there at around 17 and I can still hear the sizzling pot approaching, the bold and slightly bitter flavours, the tingle on my tongue; a dish when executed properly can only be described as fireworks. And of course, the setting really is lovely. It makes me feel like I’m a guest at a chic garden party thrown by Gatsby.
There are babbling streams, soft music, lots of lights strategically illuminating the greenest of trees…a nice open airy spot. There’s a cover overhead in case of rain and you can sit toward the back indoors if you prefer. There’s also a little bar just in the doorway as you enter; perfect for an aperitif. Most of the tables are round (I love when restaurants have round tables. It’s the first thing I look for!) which is just the best when you’re in a large group. The food is good, there’s plenty of choice but I will admit it has lost a little something throughout the years. The waiters have become a little aloof; service and presentation could do with a little more care. Regardless, it’s still a special place. I’m not a pasta lover but Iñaki says their homemade pasta (especially ravioli) is delicious, you can’t go wrong with pizza and they have a good selection of meat, fish and salad dishes and the nicest desserts.
Pinzimonio – The Faithful Italian Fusion
This place has an odd but really good menu. I’ve only had enjoyable experiences there and I find it super relaxing. Apologies for the image quality here and in another few spots, restaurants sure do love their romantic lighting – my phone doesn’t. We tend to go to Pinzimonio the first night of our trip each year, as we can walk there. So handy.
The food never lets us down, the staff are always really pleasant and it’s one of the best value spots in Elviria. The deep fried camembert or the mussels a la parisiene are my favourite starters and they have the most amazing seafood dish on the menu that I order year after year; sole and king prawns in champagne sauce which is pictured above, alongside Iñaki’s frutti di mare pasta which he adored (spaghetti with clams, prawns, mussels and squid.)
It’s another place with an extensive menu – meat dishes, pasta, fish, very generous salads and of course pizza. Try not to fill up on the whipped garlic butter and warm crispy rolls before your food arrives. It’s easier said than done. They’re also right next door to the famous Harmon’s bar if you’re looking for somewhere to start/end your night.
Pepe, El Lido – The Beach Bum Bar for Burgers, Beers and Bants
I ran out of breath when I said that alliteration aloud three times. Lolz.
I love this little bar, we found it last year on a walk along Nikki Beach. It’s only a 20-minute walk from the door of the Alanda Club. We had passed a couple of okay looking spots and just when we thought we were out of options and would have to turn back, jackpot. When it’s sunny, all the doors and windows are open and it’s the best place to be. Good things come to those who wait.
The staff are very chilled out and seem to really enjoy working there. It doesn’t even look like work most of the time.
The views are wonderfully relaxing (I saw that little pupper pictured above while sitting on the veranda) and they always play the best music. You could honestly sit there all day and forget there’s a world outside the bar and beach. Your own little universe. We often bring Yahtzee and order cocktails and eventually some food – all typical beach bar fare, burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs…all the not-so-good-for-you but delicious stuff you order because feck it, you’re on holiday. They also do salads if you’re weird. When there’s a storm or it’s raining (I’ve been there in various shades of weather) everything is closed up, so it’s pretty cosy with much the same vibe which makes it a good option all year round. There’s also a road that leads to it, so if it’s a nasty day and you can’t see yourself walking along the shore, you can mosey on down by car and enjoy the El Lido vibes without being blown away to Gibraltar. Because nobody wants that.
Their club sandwich is the ultimate indulgence and they whip up a nice cocktail.
The Playwright – Chic European Eatery with Evening Entertainment
…and Irish Playwrights plastered on the walls without a single Irish dish on offer. Well, it’s true! I think one dish has Clonakilty black pudding? This isn’t a criticism though, I have a lot of grá for The Playwright. Their menu is a pleasing one. I generally experience a touch of anxiety deciding on what I want but thankfully they don’t change the menu often, so over the years I’ve tried almost all the dishes that my heart has desired. I know. First world problems.
The decór is nice, the lighting is relaxing. Again, awful for mobile photography so I also included pictures from an enjoyable lunch there in February. More on that in a moment. We usually start our evening at the bar at the back; I always order an espresso martini. Then sometimes one after. You know, for digestion. Starter-wise I can recommend the Thai style mussels (why you so fragrant, little dudes) the seafood chowder with a hint of Pernod or the teriyaki beef salad.
For the main course, their steak is always excellent as is the lemon sole. This year I tried the strips of Argentinian beef with sautéed mushrooms and onions, served in a puff pastry case in a brandy & Dijon mustard sauce. It was enjoyable and a newbie to the menu but the price was quite steep given the portion. The Playwright is another favourite of mine but it too has lost a little something, it used to have a little bit more style. If you’re going in the evening and paying those prices (I have no problem paying for quality once it’s delivered) my tip would be to research in advance and see if there’s live music. When they have live music (especially the Sinatra impersonator) you get the value of dinner and a show, as their entertainment is always impressive. Otherwise, I would recommend going for lunch – their menu is 2 courses for only €16 between 1pm and 4pm. Either way, you don’t want to miss the food. Or your espresso martini at the bar first.
Their Christmas Day Lunch menu is now online.
Portside Pub Grub
…is all I could think of for Albert’s, sorry! I really like the menu here, it’s contemporary and a crowd pleaser. Their salt and pepper crispy squid is delicious, next time it’ll be a toss-up as to whether I order their soft cajun chicken tacos or seared scallops to start. The men like to go there for a no-frills beer and burger (usually the double cheese and bacon Angus) and I tend to go for fish like above (pan roasted sea bass with olive potato cake and roast tomato fondue. That’s a spicy margarita up there in case you’re wondering!) or one of their impressive salads. Another spot that isn’t the cheapest* but the portions are decent and I’m sure it’s an expensive spot to rent. Their breakfast/brunch menu looks incredible, their Christmas lunch menu 2018 is up and they do serve a roast every Sunday if you’re missing comfort food.
*I make these comments because sometimes I’m in shock, given Granada is just over an hour away and the difference in pricing is huge. However, these are tourist prices, and as mentioned in the introduction the food quality, presentation and service are usually of a very high standard, which isn’t always a factor in Granada. So you do get what you pay for in most cases.
Truffles – Recently Opened and Refined, Fresh Option to Dine
Truffles is the new kid on the block, open since March February 2018 and a great addition to Elviria. It’s an elegant boutique style restaurant with beautiful food and a really friendly team with a good sense of humour. You’re guaranteed a pleasant evening here and the menu delivers a global culinary experience; there are influences from all over.
Starters around the table were peri peri prawns with portobello mushrooms, green olives and ciabatta, heirloom tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella, salsa verde and savoury granola, tuna tacos with avocado cream, jalapeños and black sesame seeds and I ordered the tandoori scallops. A bit ambitious I thought but it worked well, much better than I expected. I’m always excited to try new combinations of flavours. Everyone was very happy with their starter choice. So far so good.
For the main courses, pan-fried salmon with dill, tomato butter sauce and blanched asparagus, Amarena duck; slow-cooked duck breast, potato rosti braised red cabbage and Amarena cherry reduction – my Dad and Iñaki both ordered this and they were very happy with their choice. Our server did mention it’s the most popular dish on the menu.
I had the New Zealand rack of lamb (just look at the beautiful presentation!) with basil potato purée, tomato jam, baby carrots and olive crumb. A dish I would certainly recommend.
Internal monologue which I’m now typing for no apparent reason – I’ve been very lucky with lamb dishes in restaurants! I hope it lasts. Me too, brain.
I hadn’t planned on dessert but I’m always weak for panna cotta, especially when there’s coconut involved. This was fancy pants lemongrass panna cotta with fresh mango, orange caramel and coconut ice cream. The ice cream was to die for. Heaven is a creamy spherical wonder. Everything on the cute blue plate was so fresh and fruity and punchy – the panna cotta was light and creamy, the aftertaste of lemongrass, genius. The texture was far thicker than I’m used to, so in turn, it took a little getting used to but I would order it again without a doubt. An impressive first impression and they’ll see me again next year.
Truffles also serve a roast every Sunday and their Christmas menu is now available.
Restaurante Elviria – Ethereal Elegance Each Year in Elviria
On to the next one! Actually, you’re probably gone by now. *tumbleweed* These alliterations are getting ridiculous, I’ll admit.
So, Restaurante Elviria. I’m cheating a little. This picture is from last year, as Elviria was much colder this time around (that’s global warming for you) so we ended up sitting under a heat lamp. That glowed red. Garish red. It RUINED any possibility of photography! At least I was toasty though. Anyway, to start we all had the most incredible salad – slivers of roast crispy duck, all warm and tender and delightful tossed in a salad of mixed leaves, cashews and roasted onions with a mango and chilli dressing. So many flavours. Too many flavours. Mind blown, 10/10, would eat every day if possible.
My main course was Rossini and it looked just like the steak above, so you didn’t miss out too much. Their presentation is still on point. Other restaurants do Rossini in Elviria but don’t order it! It’s a beautiful dish in most places for sure, but at Restaurante Elviria it is truly the best.
For dessert this year I tried the edible garden, a very clever idea. Sadly I have no pictures so you’ll have to use your imagination. The presentation was cute – a little pot with ‘soil’ with shoots and mushrooms on top. There was raspberry mousse underneath and the chocolate soil was ganache and cacao crumble.
Another glittering meal at Restaurante Elviria! Service was a little slow this year compared to previous visits but we were in no hurry. They served the best olive oils as usual for dipping the freshest of bread, still warm from the oven. We shared a bottle of Monasterio and all was good in the world.
Other places worth noting – For a really good breakfast, brunch and lunch options (or simply lighter bites) you can’t go wrong with Volare, and right around the corner you’ll find Casi Casi, a little bar full of character and great tapas if you’re looking for something traditionally Spanish. Their patatas bravas are particularly good.
So there you have it. Ten of what I believe to be the very best spots for dining out in the area.
Elviri-I’m hungry now. Get it??
I know, the worst.
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