Peña Bética de Carlos

Peña Betica de Carlos was the top find of our last visit to Sanlúcar, which we only found thanks to a tip from bodega owner José Caireles. Out in the working class neighbourhood in the northeast of town it’s one of those honest, basic fried fish bars with simple, excellent no nonsense food. Stars of the show are the whole fried cuttlefish, but also acedias, pijotas, boquerones and other staples of the genre. And as you might expect in Sanlúcar there’s Manzanilla – served by the glass or in half bottles fresh from the cask.

It’s also a place for fans of the Real Bétis football team, which helps fuel the friendly neighbourhood atmosphere fostered by owner & chef Carlos Juez and his team of two, brothers Manuel and Carmelo (Carlos was impressed when I gave him a big MANQUEPIERDA! 😉 ). All the tables were reserved when we arrived shortly after 1.00 pm, and it seems like these are standing reservations for regulars. But we found a spot at the bar and that turned out to be the best place to be as there is no table service.

Peña Bética was great fun as well as having great food – some of the photos here are of dishes ordered by the couple next to us at the bar, which they insisted on sharing with us. I’m already looking forward to going back.

Callejon de Guia 24
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
Tel +34 645 020 929
€ €

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Food 9 | Wine 9 | Bar Service 9 | Ambiance 9

fresh tomato salad

whole fried cuttlefish – the house speciality



acedias (small sole)

owner & chef Carlos Juez

Manuel with a big plate of fritos variados


crispy hake

big prawns


brothers Carmelo & Manuel

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Mini Bar

Mini Bar is one of those little hole in the wall tapas bars with a limited menu (basically fried fish) that nevertheless succeeds in exuding atmosphere and being very popular. It has a convenient location between the market and the Plaza Candelaría, so it’s great for a snack and beer stop between other activities. Owner Paco has been running the show for over thirty years and makes you feel at home as soon as you walk in the door.

Doctor Dacarrete 3
Tel  856 174 303
€ €

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Food 8 | Wine 6 | Service 8 | Ambiance 7

affable owner Paco

fritura variada

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Bright, modern, and yes, just a little bit “trendy”, Mixtúrate is another new Gastrobar in the up and coming Soho neighbourhood in Málaga. It bills itself as offering a Spanish-Brazilian fusion cuisine, and the food is indeed interesting and very good quality. It’s clear that young owners, Ana and chef Andrés, are working hard to bring their dream and vision to full fruit, and I wish them all the best. The staff is well-trained and the general ambiance is very pleasant and welcoming. During two visits we pretty much loved everything we tried (though I am not a fan of bao, anywhere) and I will definitely be back on my next visit to Málaga to see how they are getting on.

Casas de Campo 2
Tel 951 330 806
€ € € €

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Food 9 | Wine 8 | Service 9 | Ambiance 8

fabulous bread basket

conchas finas with mojito foam

marinated red tuna taco with ras el hanout mayo and shichi-mi tōgarashi

buñuelos de bacalao with cilantro & lime dust

aubergine in panko, bonito flakes

Res (braised beef) bao with shiitake and spring onion

Ibérico roll with red pepper mayo and rocoto mesco

prawns in coconut sauce with dendé oil, purple yucca “cristal”

Pachamanca Guarrito Pelón, white miso parmentier, bbq sriracha sauce

grilled secreto Ibérico with grilled sweet potatoes and chimi de aji coco


co-owner Andrés Gómez

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Taberna El Gallo

This is basically a “bookmark” post until I can do a proper tapas stop next time I’m in Córdoba. We stumbled on El Gallo quite by accident while heading back to the hotel one night, and I knew as soon as I saw it that it was My Kind Of Bar. But it was late and we had an early morning, so I had to make do with a brief “between bars” visit the next day, stopping in for a quick midday fino.

El Gallo is the only one remaining of three that were originally opened in the 1930s, with their own small bodega (still existing) supplying finos and olorosos from the DO Montilla Moriles. The atmosphere and style of that time has been preserved in the bar, which seems very much one for the locals. Normally I’d hang out at the bar, but our feet were tired from a long morning spent at the Madinat al-Zahra so we opted to sit at a table in the back section. There I became intrigued by the little “call buttons” above each table, which I presumed were no longer in service. But when I made this comment to one of the waiters he gave me a demonstration – they still work loud and clear! Though the fellow at the next table, clearly a regular, said that the waiters hate them and prefer you to just shout PEPE!!!!! in the direction of the bar. Heh.

The tapas coming out of the kitchen looked great (traditional gambas, bacalao frito, flamenquín, etc) and I am looking forward to going back.

Maria Cristina 6
Tel 957 471 780
€ €

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Food ? | Wine 8 | Service 8 | Ambiance 9

call buttons

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La Cuchara de San Lorenzo

If you are looking for a great place to eat who better to ask than a great local chef? So on a recent visit to Córdoba I asked chef Adrian at La Regadera for his top recommendation, and this was it. Turned out to be something of a twofer, since the San Lorenzo neighbourhood is outside the main tourist area, and getting there involved a walk through a new (for me), and very pleasant, part of town to a picturesque square by the San Lorenzo church.

The restaurant itself is quite small, with about ten tables inside, but also a terrace outside in the square, which looked a nice spot for when the weather gets a little warmer (I was there in January). The décor is in mostly neutral and wood tones that are easy on the eye. Co-owner Narciso (brother Paco is the chef) helped us with recommendations, and the service was excellent throughout.

Most importantly, the food was really good. The beef croquettes were among the best I’ve ever tasted, and were followed by an excellent fried dorada and grilled presa with a pastel of bacon and potato. We finished with a fresh créme brulée.

This is certainly worth making the extra effort to go to, and I’m sure I’ll be back next time I’m in Cordoba.

Arroyo de San Lorenzo, 2
Tel 957 477 850
€ € € €

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Food 9 | Wine 9 | Service 9 | Ambiance 8

amuse and fresh house-made bread

beef croquetas, microgreens salad, alioli

whole fried dorada (gilt-head bream)

grilled presa Ibérica with bacon & potato pastel, grilled veg

creme brûlée with hazelnut dust and peta zeta

brothers and co-owners Narciso & chef Paco

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Mesón Mariano

Mesón Mariano is an unpretentious, friendly, family-run place, nicely kept up by Mariano and his family and staff, with efficient and helpful service. And the food is excellent, too. “La Reina de la Casa” (queen of the house) is the artichoke, which is expertly prepared several ways. We tried them fried and braised and loved both.

The other house specialty here is chivo (baby goat), which we tried “al ajillo”, a big plateful of tender stewed garlicky meat served with chips, that left us wanting more (but not wanting more, if you know what I mean). Bring your appetite, and perhaps a couple of friends, to share a few plates with. There is also a bar section for tapas.

Granados 2
Tel 952 211 899
€ € €

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Food 8 | Wine 8 | Service 9 | Ambiance 8

fried artichokes

braised artichokes with jamón

chivo (baby goat) al ajillo

owner Mariano

orujo blanco

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After years of working in the family business and attending the prestigious La Cónsula catering school, in 2012 Antonio Fernández opened the excellent wine bar and gourmet food shop Dom Vinos just up the road from his family’s popular Bar Nerva. Fast forward to December 2016 and we find Antonio has not only moved to the centre of Málaga, just a stone’s throw from the Cathedral, but, with the help of new partners, he has expanded his enterprise in both size and scope. Eboka is an attractive and comfortable wine bar and restaurant, the staff are well-trained (I’d expect no less) and, as Antonio joked, the kitchen is the same size as the whole of his beloved Dom Vinos. There is also a nice sidewalk terrace.

We stopped in twice during a quick visit to Málaga. Once just for a drink and a snack at the bar, the other time for a proper meal with friends. On both occasions it was very pleasant. The wine list is crazy, and if you are lucky enough to find Antonio at the helm, he will take you through a fabulous wine-pairing journey that is hard to beat. Favourite dishes included the mixed croquetas (all of them were delicious) and the tartare of Málaga sausage – outstanding. The presa Ibérica salad is also something I will go back for.

Delightful desserts are by local pastry chef María García ( Candy’s) and crazy good cocktails are creatively prepared by Jesús García Recaj.

Pedro de Toledo, 4
Tel 952 12 46 71
€ € € €

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Food 9 | Wine 10 | Service 9 | Ambiance 8

bar snack

mixed croquetas: garbanzos, ropa vieja and lomo Ibérico

salchichón de Málaga tartare

presa Ibérica salad with mango and fried cashews

rocket, avocado,octopus salad with emulsion of mustard & sea urchin

baby goat shoulder confit, cream of pumpkin, couscous

Antonio (second from right) with my friends

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Situated on the banks of the River Guadalete in the sherry town of El Puerto de Santa María, Bespoke embodies a youthful approach to the sherry culture of the region, in an atmosphere that’s relaxed and fun. It is the creation of Carmen Gutiérrez, whose family owns Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía next door. The décor and decorations are entirely hand made by Carmen using materials recycled from the bodega (barrels and implements), with lots of colour and whimsical touches. As you would imagine, there’s a good range of sherries, and of wines from other regions of Spain, accompanied by traditional local tapas and plates.

We only stopped in for desserts and a couple of sherry cocktails, but will certainly be back to try the food on our next visit to El Puerto.

Avenida de la Bajamar 36
El Puerto de Santa María
Tel 956 106 412
Bespoke Website
€ € € €

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Food (haven’t tried yet) | Wine 10 | Service 9 | Ambiance 9

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bespoke arabic dessertsarabic pastries

bespoke cocktailssherry cocktails

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Brunchit Organic


Although open all day, as the name suggests this little restaurant on the edge of Malaga’s historic centre specialises in breakfast, brunch, and early lunches. It’s the love child of two young entrepeneurs, local Lydia Nieto and her Italian partner Roberto, and both the place and the cuisine have something of an Italian feel. The bar is small and minimalist, featuring exposed brick walls and real wood furnishings. It’s also “geek friendly” with good free WIFI and lots of outlets along the walls and benches for keeping your devices charged up.

Food is locally sourced and organic, and features toasts, muesli, yoghurt and fresh juices, but also bacon, eggs and tomatoes for those looking for something more substantial. Along with the brunch menu (served daily from 9.30 – 15.30) there is also a good burger menu, though they’d do better to opt for a soft burger bun – the dense and chewy organic buns they use are not conducive to hand-held eating.

For me their star product is pizza (in this case the organic crust works very well) which you can order in two sizes, or choose a slice or two from the ever-changing varieties offered at the front counter. Orders must be placed and paid for at the bar, but food and drink are brought to your table. Not much of a wine list – just one red and one white (Italian) by the glass. A nice touch is the large glass urn which dispenses (free) herb and lemon water. Staff are very friendly and, if you have kids, you can sit at the bar in front of the kitchen window and keep them entertained watching the pizza chef tossing dough and making endless pizzas and focaccia.

Carreteria 46
Tel 951 338 497
€ € €

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Food 8 | Wine 7 | Service 7 | Ambiance 8

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brunchit (4)herb & lemon water

brunchit (18)pizza by the slice (eat in or take-away)

brunchit (7)foccacia & pizza

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brunchit (13)pizza with extra parmesan and chili olive oil

brunchit diavolopizza diávola

brunchit mango avocado chickenmango, avocado & chicken salad

brunchit bacon cheese burgerbacon & cheddar beef burger

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brunchit (11)lots of plugs!

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Venta Esteban

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Founded in 1983 by the five Ballesteros brothers, Venta Estevan moved to its present location just outside Jerez in 2002. It is located in a large chalet-style building with ample parking (if you don’t have a car it’s about a 9€ taxi ride from Jerez). I’d been hearing about this place for years from various foodie friends and so finally did the taxi thing on a recent visit to Jerez, to try it out.

As you walk into the bar area there are displays of jamón, fish and seafood and local wines. There’s also a large terrace and several light, spacious dining rooms. The menu offers classic dishes, with just a few tapas in the bar, so best to go with a group of friends so you can share big plates (raciones). We sat in the bar, which felt a bit less stuffy than the dining area. Of course we had to try the house speciality El Antojo (The Craving) which was a huge plate of chips and fried onions, fried eggs and jamón. Then we tried the breaded artichokes and finished with grilled presa Ibérica (pork shoulder). Everything was very good quality, but perhaps another visit with more people would make it feel more special. And perhaps with someone who knows the staff, because although the service was okay, we felt a bit like we were being given the “tourist treatment”.

Colonia Caulina (Seville-Cádiz motorway)
Jerez de la Frontera
Tel 956 316 067
€ € € €

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Food 8 | Wine 7 | Service 6 | Ambiance 7

esteban (5)

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esteban el antojoEl Antojo: fried eggs, fried onions, chips & jamón

esteban artichokesgrilled artichokes

esteban presagrilled presa Ibérica

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