File photograph. / karl SMALLMAN

Top tip from the Costa del Sol's new King of the Espeto: “The secret is to cook them with love”

The chiringuitos that made it through to the final were La Batea Churrianera, Narval Marisquería and Restaurante Las Acacias, all from Malaga city, Chiringuito Royal Beach in Mijas and Marina Playa in Rincón de la Victoria

MATÍAS STUBER

No dish is identified as closely with the Costa del Sol as the ‘espeto de sardinas’ - sardines cooked on canes over an open fire on the beach - which has become famous worldwide.

And Malaga now has a new Espeto King, following the recent gastronomic route organised by SUR, sponsored by Turismo Andaluz and Sabor a Malaga, in collaboration with the Chiringuitos Association of the Costa del Sol and Cruzcampo.

On Tuesday, the final of a competition to find the best ‘espetero’ took place, and the representatives of five beach restaurants were charged with cooking an espeto their way for the judging panel led by SUR’s food critic Enrique Bellver to try.

The chiringuitos that made it through to the final were La Batea Churrianera, Narval Marisquería and Restaurante Las Acacias, all from Malaga city, Chiringuito Royal Beach in Mijas and Marina Playa in Rincón de la Victoria.

The judges pronounced the winner to be Marina Playa, a family business which has been going for more than three decades, and Narval Marisquería won the public vote.

Miguel Díez de los Ríos, the espetero at Marina Playa, said his secret was to cook the sardines “with love”.

“You have to like what you are doing, you have to know how to keep the fire burning properly and know how long to cook the sardines for,” he explained, and he should know, having spent most of his life – from the age of 16 – preparing espetos in different restaurants on the Costa del Sol, and loving every moment.