Ronda’s Barrio San Francisco has its own special flavour, perhaps because it is on the edge of town surrounded by open countryside, it has an intimate, village feel and is incredibly laid back, even by Andalucian standards. This is where you will find two of the best restaurants in town opposite crumbling buildings that leave gaps between the whitewashed houses. It is here, on the site of the former cemetery, or Al-Maqabir, in a beautiful square - Ruedo Alameda - shaded by magnificent Plane trees, that the locals like to gather, enjoying a drink at one of the bars, watching their children and grandchildren at the lovely playground and taking the time to just sit and watch the world go by. The barrio escapes any of the unwanted trappings of a city so accommodating to tourists and instead epitomises the Rondeños’ manner of doing things – informally but with passion and with flair.
Head to the Almocábar gate in Ronda's medieval city walls for the best dining in town
The well preserved medieval walls mark the boundary of the old city. The two gates, the Almocábar and the Carlos V gates, each distinct in their architectural style, represent both the Arabic and the Reconquista influences on this city so rich in culture. You can climb the city walls by heading towards the formidable gothic Iglesia Espiritu Santo, constructed on the foundations of a Moorish tower once used to defend the city from attack. The city walls lack the railings and handrails that the less adventurous might hope for but in a city with a 120m ravine to plunge into, what is a 6m drop? You can look out over the barrio to the mountains of the Serranía and watch the first stars appear in the southern sky.
Restaurant Almocábar sits on the corner of the square, opposite the Almocábar gate, serving up excellent dishes to locals in the know and holidaymakers who have been given the heads up to venture beyond the city walls. The food is consistently good and the desserts, some of the best in Ronda, but it is just inside the city walls that restauranteur Guillermo Jacob Lorenzo has crafted a little gem of a place. The well travelled Guillermo draws on his eclectic heritage and has described his philosophy as 'gastro hippy - small bar, relaxing, good food.' Don't be put off by its unassuming appearance, tables in this place are in high demand and rightly so - if you want to dine at De Locos Tapas you must book.
Intimate dining and excellent, theatrical service
Every diner witnesses many a hopeful without a reservation turned away. There are only six tables, outside if it is fine and upstairs if it is not. The minimal covers ensure excellent, attentive service. Guillermo is a real character, flamboyant, familiar, theatrical, he takes time to run through the diverse menu of creative, globally inspired tapas and seldom does a dish not live up to its promise; truffled quails’ eggs on a vermicelli nest, duck smoked at your table under a glass cloche, tuna tataki with wasabi ice cream, beetroot gazpacho, the softest, melt in your mouth cod and a ratatouille that would make Remy blush.
A mouthwatering menu of globally inspired tapas
Recent years have witnessed a huge growth in gastro tourism in Andalucia and it is not uncommon to find folk who have made the trip inland, away from the fine dining that Malaga and Marbella offer, to sample the delights coming out of this tiny kitchen. Whilst Guillermo basks in the limelight, it is also the quiet efforts of his charming wife that shine through.
Those with a sweet tooth will not be disappointed, dark chocolate truffles rolled in orange salt, gin and tonic sorbet or mango crème brulée. The wine is good too, less focused on local wines than other establishments and perhaps the list is not as extensive as its neighbouring Restaurant almocábar but a pretty good selection nonetheless.
You'd be crazy to miss out on this gem of a place
Guillermo is great with children, a real comic, getting a shy laugh out of even the quietest ones. Vegetarians can relax too because the extensive menu includes several delicious vegetable based dishes, Guillermo is not reluctant to share his opinion that you will ultimately go crazy from a lack of essential nutrients but incredible efforts are made to recreate dishes without meat or fish; barley risotto, griddled artichokes, baby broad beans and . We absolutely love this place, don’t be put off by the website, the initial abruptness of your host or the fact that you absolutely must book in advance. The whole experience is one not to be missed, perhaps not the best choice for a quiet, romantic dinner – there is too much theatre – but if you enjoy inventive cuisine, a riot of flavours, a gregarious host and a surprisingly small bill you will be crazy about this place too.