Sardine skewers, the taste of Marbella
The Spanish gastronomy is one of the most ancient, succulent and diverse ones worldwide, therefore becoming one of the country’s main attractions. In fact, the different regions compete with each other to dominate and claim a culinary speciality. Paella in Valencia, ‘calçots’ in Catalonia, ‘cocido’ in Madrid or ‘sancocho’ in the Canary Islands are among the most noticeable ones. Meanwhile, the ‘espetos de sardinas’ (sardine skewers) are the most popular and notorious dish in Marbella and La Costa del Sol.
Sardine skewers are not so much a recipe based on this nutritious oily fish, but quite the opposite: a very minimalist but unique way of cooking and enjoying them. All you need is coarse salt and fresh, whole sardines, preferably the fattiest units. The rest consists of a very precise culinary process borned in La Costa del Sol.
To prepare this dish, the fish units are cleaned, sprinkled with salt and skewered on a natural cane or a metal rod known as ‘espeto’ (hence the name), forming something similar to a barbecue skewer. The espetos are then placed leaning over wood embers, never over a live flame, so that they can be slowly grilled. Slow-burning wood is used for this purpose, such as olive wood or vine shoot wood, which gives off a gentle, constant heat with less smoke. The result is a toasted-taste sardine that is browned on the outside and juicy on the inside, which can be additionally garnished with drops of lemon juice.
According to tradition, sardine skewers should be grilled over the sand of the beach, or on wooden boats filled with sand that work as a grill. If you suddenly find an abandoned and slightly buried boat on the beach during your stay at Alanda Marbella Hotel, then you are surely coming across a symbol of the Costa del Sol. Nowadays, those spontaneous grills usually take the shape of metal vats, like the iron ones at El Cable Beach in Marbella. In fact, these vats can be rented from the Marbella Town Hall to organise a ‘moraga’, that is, a traditional summer night party held around an ‘espetos’ grill.
Although it may seem simple, the art of making ‘espetos’ requires a skill only mastered by professional ‘espeteros’, a special member in Marbella’s cooking teams. Every step has its own secret. From the tactic of piercing the sardine through the loin to prevent it from breaking, to controlling the embers, the sand and the smoke depending on the wind, as ‘espetos’ are cooked outside.
There are several legends about the origins of this dish. While some date them back to the Phoenicians, who were already cooking grilled fish over wood embers, others place it in ‘La Gran Parada’, a historic restaurant in Malaga dating back to 1882 and considered the first beach bar on the Costa del Sol. What experts and keens do agree on is that the most authentic way to enjoy this Mediterranean delicacy is on the beach and with your hands, holding the sardine both by the head and the tail.
The best sardine skewers (espetos de sardinas) in Marbella
Apart from introducing you to the secrets of this delicacy, at Alanda Marbella Hotel we suggest you where to go if you want to try these famous ‘espetos’ during your stay:
La Bajadilla beach, Marbella’s historic ‘espetos’ point
In the restaurants and beach bars of La Bajadilla beach, such as La Relojera, Los Cañizos or Restaurante Puerto Playa, you will find the most local and traditional places to enjoy an ‘espeto de sardinas’ in Marbella. La Bajadilla beach is located right next to the fishing port of Marbella, so its restaurants are nourished by the freshest fish from the Alboran Sea.
La Fontanilla beach, between tradition and variety
The beach bars located on La Fontanilla beach and its marble promenade, such as Restaurante Playa Europa, Los Mellizos or Los Pescadores, are other Marbella’s classics that have served sardine skewers for many years. Each one offers a different gastronomic experience. For example, while Los Mellizos offers a more formal and elegant atmosphere, at Los Pescadores you can try a more spontaneous and familiar experience.
Marbella’s Golden Mile beaches, the place for fine ‘espetos’
At the beach bars and lounges on Casablanca Beach, Nagüeles Beach, El Ancón Beach or Río Verde Beach, you can find a more select experience. In fact, those beaches, which are the closest ones to the Alanda Marbella Hotel, also trace the ‘Golden Coastline’ of the city. We recommend you to try ‘espetos’ at Trocadero Playa or La Milla beach bar.