Marbella's hospitality sector has built its reputation on Michelin star restaurants and fine dining establishments that attract the rich and famous from all over the world, and yet the town also offers some of the best traditional bodegas in the area. Away from the glitzy eateries of Puerto Banús, one will find long-serving taverns and tapas bars that present authentic local cuisine in the most nostalgic surroundings. One of these is the Bodega La Venencia, a small Jerez-style tavern that was founded in San Pedro Alcántara in 1985, but which is now situated in Avenida Miguel Cano in the heart of Marbella. The bodega takes its name from the instrument used for extracting sherry from the aging barrels. Consisting of a small cylindrical steel cup at the end of a long flexible shaft, the wine is poured into a glass from above head height, a tradition that goes back to the 19th century Andalusian sherry merchants.
The bar, which has a cosy interior with typical Andalusian decor, has built its reputation on its extensive selection of wines of denomination of origin from different areas in Spain, such as Ribera del Duero, Rioja and Condado de Huelva.
The tapas menu is based on authentic Spanish cuisine, and specialities include Iberian sausage and succulent hams, along with various rice dishes, meats, fresh fish and seafood. This is one of the most popular establishments with the locals and a place where visiting tourists head to enjoy welcoming Andalusian hospitality.
Another celebrated establishment is Guerola, a rustic-style tapas bar located close to the casco antiguo (the old town) that serves some of the best tapas in Marbella. The interior decoration is unique and includes a large collection of caricatures of some of the bar's regular clientele, along with hand-painted ceramics, wooden beams and cultural memorabilia highlighting local customs and traditions. The menu offers classic tapas, like papas ali oli, meat balls, calamares, croquettes and gazpacho, along with a varied wine list that includes a selection of Malaga's sweet wines, sherries and Vermouth. The bar, which was established in 1960, is one of the town's hidden gems and offers a truly authentic experience to culture-seeking visitors, especially those looking for excellent cuisine at extremely reasonable prices.
One tapas bar that is frequented by both local Spanish and the town's expat community is Tapería de Jamon y Vino, which, as the name suggests, specialises in Iberian ham and wine. Here, one will discover that the act of eating ham is a semi-spiritual event, seeing as there are numerous different types to tempt the taste buds, including, of course, Pata Negra.
Although the interior is inviting, elegantly decorated with racks of superior wines and dangling legs of ham, during lunchtime the main action takes place on the outside terrace area.