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Star-studded cuisine in Marbella’s finest restaurants

[caption id="attachment_903" align="alignright" width="300"] Dani García Restaurant: “El Fondo del Mar”[/caption] One of the star turns when Andalucía promoted the region’s diverse charms during this month’s ITB tourism fair in Berlin was José Carlos García. A star in every culinary sense of the word, as the Málaga chef owns one of four restaurants on the Costa del Sol honoured with Michelin’s top accolade. During the Berlin exhibition, Andalucía’s minister for tourism and commerce, Rafael Rodríguez noted that an estimated 650,000 people travel to the region every year specifically motivated by a desire to savour the cuisine. For Germans, it is one of most highly valued lures for visiting Andalucía. Charged with “seducing” 70 diners – including gastronomy critics and bloggers – at the fair, García, whose eponymous restaurant is located at Muelle Uno in Málaga Port – served a selection of typical dishes from the region’s eight provinces, as well as caviar from Riofrio. The other three restaurants in Málaga province with a Michelin star are all in Marbella. Located in a picturesque lake setting at Greenlife Golf (at the eastern end of Marbella municipality), El Lago’s kitchen is run by master chef Diego del Rio, with manager Paco García leading the front-of-house team. The restaurant received its first Michelin star in 2005, and has maintained it every year since. Opened in 2004, in one of the town centre’s quaint back streets, Skina received its Michelin star in 2008. Owner and guiding light Marcos Granda and head chef Jaume Puigdengolas share del Rio’s passion for the “Andalucian pantry”, sourcing as much natural produce as possible from the local area. [caption id="attachment_905" align="alignleft" width="192"] Michelin-star chef Dani García[/caption] The main shining star of Marbella’s gourmet world, however, is Dani García. Still only 38, he has gained international acclaim for combining traditional Andalucian products and recipes with contemporary creativity and innovation. A graduate of the celebrated La Cónsula hotel and restaurant school in Churriana, he went on to work under three-star chef Martín Berasategui, secured his first Michelin as head chef at Tragabuches in Ronda, then set up his own restaurant, Calima, in the Gran Melià Don Pepe hotel in Marbella. Calima was awarded its first Michelin star in 2007, and three years later García received a coveted second star for the restaurant. García’s latest culinary adventure – in New York, where he and a group of investors opened Manzanilla NYC – ended in February after just 12 months, apparently decided unilaterally by the restaurant operator (and business partner), in spite of glowing praise from critics and diners alike, including Rafael Nadal during last year’s US Open tennis championship. At least that means he will be able to focus more on the forthcoming opening (in April) of his new Dani García Restaurant in Hotel Puente Romano, following the decision to transfer his Marbella restaurant operations from Calima. The new establishment maintains its two Michelin stars, but there will be some key changes. While the main restaurant will offer a tasting menu and a la carte, to give clients “more freedom”, a second adjourning area is being set up as the Bibo brasserie, offering a diversity of cuisine from around the world. No doubt once again he will be welcoming distinguished visitors to the restaurant, perhaps even U2’s Bono who, during a surprise appearance at the European Popular Party’s congress in Dublin this month, declared in the presence of Prime Ministers Mariano Rajoy and Angela Merkel and other EU leaders, “Where’s the European campaign to encourage people to visit Spain, spend their holidays there, eat Spanish food…?” Even purchase a new home, he might have added. Perhaps on the Golden Mile near Dani García’s new restaurant or, for those seeking a little more tranquillity, in the mountain municipality of Benahavís. A true paradise for lovers of fine cuisine, Benahavís is popularly known as “the “Costa del Sol’s Dining Room”, due to its wide and varied range of restaurants and the Fundación Hispanoárabe de la Dieta Mediterránea catering school. [caption id="attachment_907" align="alignright" width="300"] Contemporary luxury in Benahavís[/caption] One of the stunning properties in the area is this four-bedroom, three-storey villa, part of a luxury complex of 16 individually designed homes featuring modern architecture and superb finishes. Click here to see more.