Test Driving La Zambra - an eighties celeb hangout in Mijas gets a 5 star makeover

Barely a 20-minute drive from Malaga airport, you'll find La Zambra, a five-star resort that's something of an oasis in the Malaga countryside, with some great Andalusian-inspired food to match. We fled the "summer" that the UK has been having of late for a couple of much-needed warm nights in the Andalucian hills. 


The resort

roomThis is La Zambra. It happened to be hosting a bunch of UK journalists test-driving Porsche's new 911 hybrid, hence that sign on the door. Alas (and probably luckily for them) we didn't get to take one out for a spin.

La Zambra itself has a pretty impressive history. Originally built in the 80s (and called Hotel Byblos back then), it became something of a Spanish getaway for the rich, famous (The Rolling Stones) and royalty (Princess Diana). A couple of years back, the resort was reborn as La Zambra keeping the original hotel style but with a proper 21st Century five-star makeover, and expanding things quite a bit.

Now it's just as much a resort as a hotel with multiple restaurants, pools and a pretty big wellness retreat. We tried out (almost) everything, so here's what to expect if you're looking for a Spanish getaway where you're very looked after. Cutting to the chase, there's more than enough to keep you happily ensconced in the resort for a few days. 

roomA look around the resort. They really like their fountains at La Zambra.


The food

In charge of the food at La Zambra is executive chef Iker Gonzalez Ayerbe who hails from San Sebastian and has brought some Basque inspiration to the menus throughout La Zambra. There are three restaurants and a bar to choose from here so, of course, we tried them all... 

roomAn evening at Picador

First up, we checked out Picador. This is a partly standalone restaurant at the front of the hotel (we noted that it seemed to attract plenty of locals, always a good sign). Here, you're going to find Spanish food served with a little extra flair, so there's a fair amount of tableside theatre thrown in. We noticed that a beef tartare made at the table was a strong favourite when we visited, and here's some more of what's on offer:

roomBite-sized Cecina croquetas, served on roasted bone marrow. The trick here is to get a spoonful of that bone marrow, pop a croqueta on top and down the whole lot. You'll want to have all your croquetas like this afterwards. 

roomGuinea fowl salad with homemade pickles and egg. This is essentially a Russian salad pimped up with the great addition of guinea fowl. Russian salad is one of our favourite dishes at any time, and this was an excellent, elevated version. 

roomGoat cannelloni with payoyo cheese sauce - presented and then sliced for you at the table. 

The main in-hotel restaurant is Palmito. As with Picador, there's a big and more traditional restaurant indoors, but if the weather is even halfway decent, you're going to want to be out on the terrace overlooking the pool (all covered, just in case).

roomThe terrace at Palmito

Think of the food here as more broadly Mediterranean using local ingredients. All of the below were absolutely fantastic creations. 

roomRed tuna tartare with kimchi and yolk, trout roe, yuzu emulsion, and spring onions - just a beautifully put-together starter.

roomTuna belly carpaccio with roasted chicken demi-glace - we doubled up on tuna because who could resist the idea of that chicken demi-glace. 

roomIberian pork loin with chimichurri, mushrooms and potato parmentier - a top-notch serving of presa. 

roomValencian-style griddle-cooked dry rice with confit duck - a modern take on a traditional rice dish.

Then finally, there's their poolside restaurant called La Bartola. If you're after a quick snack during the day, this is the place to come (although they will serve poolside too, of course). And for us, poolside food in the sun means only one thing: 

roomLa Zambra Club Sandwich - marinated chicken, lettuce, tomato, bacon, york ham, egg, and mayonnaise with toasted bread. No visit to a poolside restaurant is complete without trying a club sandwich. We'd also give top marks to their Wellington sandwich - something of a deconstructed Wellington between two slices of bread.

On top of all this, there's breakfast, of course. Here at La Zambra they serve up a full Spanish spread in Palmito with pastries, cheese, jamon and everything you could possibly want. 

As for drinks, there's the bar Bamboleo, which has its own food menu (fried bacalao, pizzas and a "Hamburguesa Mick Jagger" among other things) and plenty of wine and cocktails. Those cocktails are around the 15 euros mark and bottles of wine start at an incredibly reasonable 28 Euros, a price point that would be unthinkable for a five-star resort in this country. 

On top of that, keep an eye out for special events that they hold every day. We took part in a tasting of local wines and they also have olive oil tastings. These are all free to take part in, so it's worth checking what's on at the start of the day. Although if all you can cope with is lying by the pool, of course, that's something that we're no strangers to ourselves. 

roomThe wine room in Palmito, used for tastings. 



We didn't get a chance to try out the wellness elements of the hotel, unless you consider lounging by the pool as wellness (which, frankly, we do). There's an extensive standalone wellness facility here, with various spa treatments, yoga classes and another hidden indoor pool. Although not connected officially to the hotel, there's a big golf course next door too (apparently the Stones booked the whole course up when staying in the hotel, so they wouldn't have any neighbours taking a look). 


The rooms

Within the resort, there are 197 rooms (a mix of rooms and suites), with the £35 million refurb really showing through in the gorgeous pared-back room design. There's lot of beige and pastel, but in a very comforting way. Essentially, it's the kind of decor you'd love to have at home but fear that you'll end up spilling red wine on it (which we didn't, just as full disclosure). 

Prices start at around the £270 mark for a King Room, with suites around £1k a night. 

roomA junior suite at La Zambra


Overall thoughts

If you're after a Spanish getaway but don't quite fancy the bustle of Malaga or its beaches, heading into the hills to La Zambra is an excellent choice. The food, particularly at Palmito, is excellent and there's more than enough to keep you busy, whether for a long weekend or a relaxing week-long break.   


More about La Zambra

Where is it? Av. de Louison Bobet, 9, 29650 Mijas, Málaga, Spain

Book your stay

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @la.zambra.

Hot Dinners stayed as guests of La Zambra, prices are correct at the time of writing. 


Subscribe to be the first to get the news from Hot Dinners

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy.