Los Bandidos, on the frontline of Puerto Banús, has always held a well deserved reputation for offering an unbeatable dining experience, where the most exclusive produce and fine wines are married to the very best service. Without a doubt, however, the experience is that much more special in the presence of Jill Lindberg, founder of the iconic restaurant.

It is a Thursday evening in spring-like November and at 8pm, every table at Los Bandidos is taken. Jill, as glamorous and friendly as ever, is seated windowside, putting her talent of ‘360º vision’ to good use, as she makes sure that all diners are satisfied, their glasses topped up and the temperature set to warm, toasty perfection.

Los Bandidos is no less than an entrepreneurial phenomenon. Founded by Jill in 1986, it has never ceased to be the ultimate standard bearer for fine international dining in Marbella. Jill no doubt has a keen business acumen; she obtained her degree in political sciences in Sweden, but was unconvinced that her future lay in politics.

One area she did shine in since her childhood, was in cooking; she learned traditional French and international recipes at the hand of her grandmother. She laughingly recalls, “As a child, I loved to eat and cooking gave me the perfect opportunity to enjoy delicious meals!”

Since her family usually vacationed on the Coast, Jill decided to open quaint restaurant, La Fondue, on the Port. “I worked hard for two years and with my savings, bought the Los Bandidos locale.” In 1986, what is now the chicest side of the Port was abandoned and totally dark.

“People used to walk up from the other end of the Port and turn around because there were no lights… it took a few months before people discovered us,” says Jill. ‘A while’, for Jill, is but the blink of an eye for most: in just three or four months, Los Bandidos was the place to be and, today, almost 30 years down the line, it still is. The restaurant typically serves two sittings every night, with both the early and late crowd enjoying their fill.

Most new diners enquire about the catchy name of the restaurant, which was actually inspired on the ‘gang’ of Jill’s then-husband, Kurt, who played golf and partied alongside some of the world’s most famous stars and celebrities – including Sean Connery and Frank Sinatra.

Kurt has since passed, but his name lives on in one of the dishes: Kurt’s Favourite, comprising a fillet of beef with a black pepper sauce and a gratin of green tagliatelli on the side. It was created by Jill to show her husband that pasta wasn’t “a woman’s dish” and she was right; Kurt was soon hooked and the dish became his all-time favourite.

The secret to the success of Los Bandidos is its respect for the essential elements we crave when we go out to dine: dishes made with the very best produce and great respect for tradition. On the evening of my visit, Jill tells me she is just back from La Rioja, where she has made her latest purchase of Joselito ham: “You have to buy the ham two years in advance,” she says, “such is the demand.” Jill heads a staff of over 30 but still travels herself to source her produce. Moreover, a vast majority of the dishes are made to her own recipes.

The menu at Los Bandidos is ample, boasting the finest wild fish, tender meat dishes and heavenly desserts. On the day of my visit, I opted for the tuna tartare for my starter, served over slices of fresh avocado and red onion.

It was, as usual, exquisite, the freshness of the tuna taking precedence over all other flavours. Jill savoured a pil-pil: not the ordinary kind, but made with flat parsley and thus bearing a refreshing green sauce seemingly made for bread dipping.

The main courses were to-die-for. Jill’s lamb cutlets served with whole garlic were buttery soft and flavourful (accompanied perfectly by a bottle of a full-bodied Alberdi Rioja), while my Sole Los Bandidos (comprising a fillet of sole topped with prawns, béchamel, Duchess potatoes and caviar), was heavenly and filling. Portions at Los Bandidos are generous, perfect for even the biggest appetites.

For dessert, we tucked into fresh berries of all kinds, ice-cream and a crisp-on-top, creamy-beneath crème brûlée. The end of the meal was as sweet as the beginning. There can be no doubt that the welcoming warmth of Los Bandidos, the exquisite touches within (such as the hanging gardens that envelop diners in lush greenery) and the wonderful food and service, are universal qualities that every discerning diner dreams of.

Words Marisa Cutillas Photography Kevin Horn and Los Bandidos

Open nightly for dinner. Muelle Ribera, Casa M, Puerto Banús. Tel: 952 815 915.