Andalucia’s best known ingredients are its simplest – gazpacho, ham and sherry. At Finca Cortesin in Estepona – an impossibly stylish hotel squeezed between the mountains and the sea – these ingredients are elevated to a new level.
In the El Jardin de Lutz restaurant, chef Lutz Bösing uses local ingredients to bring new twists to classic dishes: gazpacho is not made with tomatoes but leeks, and topped with Iberico ham and wild flowers. It’s part of a tasting menu that might also include tempura vegetables with truffles, monkfish and quail. The restaurant, like the rest of the hotel, blends traditional and modern, with Portuguese tiles set against a courtyard shaded by 1,000-year-old olive trees.
Part of a vast estate and golf club, the hotel is a long way from the clichéd chintz that might summon up. White walls, terracotta floors, antique wooden doors and huge balconies whisper luxury and space. Food is key, with simple dishes (croquetas, salads, plates of ham) served around the swimming pool and terrace. The hotel is also home to Kabuki Raw, an outstanding restaurant with an open kitchen that balances exquisite Japanese cooking with playful Mediterranean touches. Dinner might include wild shrimp tortilla and tuna belly with tomato and toasted bread.
Jerez is a 90-minute drive away, where earthy sherry bars contrast with Finca Cortesin’s sophistication. A tour of the biggest bodega, Tio Pepe, is a decent introduction to how this fortified wine is made. Taste the range from super-dry, green-apple fino to figgy, sweet Pedro Ximénez, and stop at nearby ham specialist Montesierra , you can buy the perfect Iberico de Bellotta to serve with it at home.
HOW TO DO IT: Suites from €450 per night, B&B (fincacortesin.com). Return flights from Gatwick to Malaga start from £78 (ba.com).