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Swellboy on… summer at the Marbella Club

‘By the time I get to my table, I feel quite in need of a holiday’

Swellboy on… summer at the Marbella Club

Image: Brijesh Patel

August 11 2011
Nick Foulkes

The big news in Marbella this summer is that the Marbella Club chiringuito is open during the evenings as well as for lunch, which in itself can start as late four or five pm.

I love the chiringuito, which at the height of the summer is about as rammed with people as Scott’s in the weeks before Christmas. Sometimes just making my way across this crowded beach restaurant at the beginning of the summer takes about as long as it does for me to cycle into the West End of London from the ancestral jerry-built terraced house in fragrant W12. Once I have exchanged a few words with Count Rudi von Schönburg, shaken the hands of waiters and managers, stopped to say hello to the occupants of about four or five tables, renewed old acquaintanceships, enthusiastically agreed to lunch dates that are unlikely to happen this summer or indeed next, and set up a few backgammon fixtures, I feel quite in need of a holiday by the time I get to my table.

Most days the polyglot cacophony of the chiringuito is further enhanced by the Paraguayos, a group of itinerant mariachi musicians who, armed with a few maracas and some elderly-looking stringed instruments, belt out spirited versions of Guantanamera and other Latino classics that have one thinking that it’s the early 1960s, a time before the ubiquity of international chill-out music and the bland modernity of non-specific Asia-themed spa-beaches ensured a homogeneity of beach experience everywhere there is sand and seashore. It recalls a time that probably never was when billionaires were not two a penny and tycoons looked like tycoons arriving in their Greek-ship-owning-magnate-spec oversize sunglasses on board elegant yachts that did not look like floating multi-storey car parks.

It seems I am not the only one to harbour a fondness for the nostalgia summoned by the aural madeleine of Guantanamera and The Girl from Ipanema. I have recently got to know an intriguing chap from the north of Spain, who travels with his own mariachi group, with whom he has even been known to visit restaurants and eat while they serenade him, his guests and presumably other diners too.

I understand that he works in real estate, which is at best about as elucidatory as someone telling you that they are in “business” (although the favourite reply I received to the “Do you work for a living?” question was that my interlocutor was “In raw materials”). Anyway, the current downturn does not seem to have affected him unduly; indeed he is probably rather grateful for the extra time that it has allowed him to pursue his real love of gastronomy.

The other evening he had a four-month-and-20-day-old pig flown in from Segovia for dinner at a local restaurant. He brings his own lemons to drinks parties so he will not have to suffer inferior citrus fruit in his drinks and I was told that rather than trusting to the local cigar merchant, a year or two back he had bought up all remaining Spanish stocks of the 2004 limited-edition Cohiba Sublimes.

Viewed in this context of perfectionism, the idea of travelling with your own musical ensemble just in case the music at your destination is not to one’s taste makes perfectly good sense. The only thing that perplexes me is how he manages to squeeze his musicians into his Ferrari when going out of an evening.

See also

People, Marbella, Spain, Clubs