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The end of an era at Santiago's

Santiago Domínguez in the kitchen of his restaurant.
Santiago Domínguez in the kitchen of his restaurant. / SUR
  • The chef's sixty-year career has made him an icon in Marbella with his restaurant being a popular venue for the rich and famous

The seafront in Marbella won't be the same any more. Santiago Domínguez, founder, owner and soul of the Marisquería Santiago is about to do something that no-one has expected - retire. Now 80, he has worked for 75 years, starting at the age of five helping his family in the fields around Vadocondes in Burgos where he was born.

The restaurante has been sold to El Urogallo, a group of Asturian businessmen with five restaurants in Madrid and this will be their first venture in Andalucía. The Marisquería Santiago, which will keep its name, staff and menu, is known as the most emblematic restaurant in Marbella. In a town which has a total of six Michelin stars, the biggest concentration in Andalucía, and which is in the vanguard of gastronomic innovation, Santiago continued with the recipes he had used all his life.

The sale includes the main restaurant and the tavern on the first floor on the Avenida del Mar. Santiago will keep the adjoining property, which will be operated autonomously. In this way he will be free to carry on serving his countless friends.

Santiago's career forms part of the history of the Costa del Sol town since 1957, when Marbella wasn't yet a tourist destination. He opened a chiringuito (beach bar) with his brother on the beach in front of the present restaurant.

Before he arrived in Marbella at the age of 20, he had already made sacrifices in his desire to do well. After leaving his hometown, he went to Madrid and then London where he took his first steps in his trade. He then headed to southern Spain, a decision which he has not regretted.

Seven years after opening the chiringuito he moved to premises in Calle Antonio Belón and then in 1972, for 45 million pesetas, he acquired the building right by the beach. There he became one of the main characters in Marbella's Golden Age during the 1970s.

In the summer of 2015, he closed the restaurant for the first time in its history, for two months for renovations. He continued with even more verve until he made the decision to sell last year.

His sixty-year career ran through many different eras and his diners have included celebrities from the world of politics, business and culture. The list is endless but includes Charles de Gaulle, Helmut Kohl, Sophia Loren, Anthony Quinn, Grace Kelly, Liza Minelli, Aristotle Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy. In a final act before closing, Santiago organised a charity event which raised 11,000 euros towards the purchase of bionic prosthetic limbs for Sarah Almagro, the young Marbella girl who lost her arms and legs to a rare bacterial infection.