A PIPING hot raclette, a burger and chips and a few stale tapas used to be the basic offering in the Sierra Nevada two decades ago.
Today ceviches, ramen and gyozas are more the order of the day as the demands of the sophisticated skier got that bit more exotic.
Alongside a dramatic rise in quality around Andalucia, the Sierra Nevada has also upped its game.
Much of the change in quality began when former professional snowboarder Stevie Silva swapped his board for a line up of pans and knives a decade ago now.
The sign above his kitchen door reads ‘rebel food’ and he has certainly come up with plenty of dishes away from the norm over recent years.
A soft crab tempura or nigiri of red snapper with truffle is nothing compared to his scallop served in a bloody mary sauce. Even better is a ‘false’ Thai langoustine risotto that massively won me over using wheat semolina instead of rice, a total melt in the mouth winner with creamy coconut milk and a smorgasbord of spices.
His kitchen is always a hive of activity, buzzing with over half a dozen chefs, while the dining room is run, on and off by his lovely Maitre’d girlfriend Luna.
A classic meeting point for snowboarders (and their professors), there is always a buzz about the place and lots of banter, noise and laughter, giving it the feel of a taverna in Granada or Madrid.
Aside from also having among the best pizzas on slopes, much of what’s on offer depends on what Stevie can find in the markets, although luckily there’s loads on offer from the nearby Costa Tropical of Granada or the ‘gold coast’ of Almeria.
Another place that is set to give Stevie a run for his money this year is Tito Tapas, run by pals Xavi and Luis, who have recently expanded and put in a new kitchen.
No expense has been spared on the new design with its hip sackcloth chairs, important from the UK, and beautiful olive wood tables. The clever wood effect on the walls is eye-opening too, but the real masterstroke is letting chef Tomeu Carbonell get all creative in the kitchen.
This enthusiastic chap from Menorca has been around the block a few times and did his training at one of Spain’s very best joints, Azurmendi, in Bilbao.
You can tell from his dishes that come out with attitude.
Take the ‘Totopos from Mexico and Japan’ which is a dish of tacos coming out with perfectly seared bluefin tartare from Barbate and a guacamole topping with watercress. They are delicious. This is a mixture of Asiatic and central American that really works.
The Boletus mushrooms from Bilbao mixed with lightly fried pork jowls and an egg yolk was really impressive too, a great heart-warming winter dish!
Finally, definitely try the gyozas, which were beautifully cooked with minced pork.
Xavi and Luis also own the well established Tito Luigi, just around he corner.
They can claim at least two kings of Spain eating here and the walls pay tribute to their esteemed clientele, including various international film stars, bullfighters and politicians.
An absolute must for any stay in the resort, in particular to see it in action (it can serve up to 250 people in one sitting), make sure you book in high season.
Expect some of the best pizzas in the resort, generally splendid Italian fare, while a stand out dish is easily the squid-ink spaghetti with prawns.
If meat is your thing make sure to try out La Muralla, run by Argentinian Gonzalo Funes, whose steaks sit pride of place in the window and are among the best in the resort.
The ‘tostas’ are also great and come in various guises, while I loved the milhoja of foie gras and a courgette carpaccio with fig sauce and the melt-in-the-mouth bulls cheek is also stunning.
He and his brother Luciano also run Muralla Burguer, almost next door, which specialises in the best quality burgers on the slopes.
It’s hard to disagree trying his ‘gourmet’ burger, which is actually made from oxtail ‘rabo de toro’ with a thin slice of cheese and mayonnaise and cooked in its own juice.
The pair also run popular Las Gondalas just off the slopes and excellent for some apres ski light bites, a hot drink or a beer.
Another great simple joint, but with great home cooked food, is Telesilla Burger.
It is one of the most popular joints with workers in the resort and that is no surprise both for its great value prices, and the fact that owner Maria works in the kitchen.
Cleverly designed using ski lifts as tables, you can get everything here from hot coffees in the morning to superb desserts at tall times of day.
The menu del dia is excellent value and changes by the day, but the really tasty morsels, such as ribs go fast, so don’t hang around.
By far the most fun tapas joint is Bar Ski, set up by the funniest man in the Sierra Nevada, Nichi, two decades ago.
His place is always buzzing at lunch and in the evenings and comprises a classic soul kitchen concentrating on hardy, simple dishes.
And, if you fancy something simpler (and available to take away) he has just opened a new joint Nichis Cooking next door, with a great range of roast chicken, pies and other dishes.
Fancy Mexican? Then you are now spoilt for choice in Pradollano.
If Mexican is your thing then Calambrito is a lovely space with a good mix of Mexican favourites.
I particularly liked the tacos, while the staff were really attentive and friendly.
Another place focussing just on burgers, La Calle, opened up last season next door.
Another excellent place overlooking the slopes is Tia Maria, which has a good mix of dishes and is a great place for breakfast. A total institution run by Carlos (part of the Tito Luigi family) this is the spot to chill out and enjoy the sun for the afternoon and early evening.
For coffee, breakfast, and in fact just about everything, Vertical is hard to be beaten and also has a great range of snacks and light bites, including hot dogs for the British clientele.
Another couple really focussing on creative food are Nestor and Sonia, who have just opened their first restaurant, Confusion, in Pradollano after running holiday apartments for five years.
You can tell it’s going to be different from the floral decor outside, while inside it has a sense of Alice in Wonderland, thanks to the creative interior design skills of artist Sonia.
Luckily, the food is able to match and, while just finding its feet, it has a real international team in the kitchen coming up with some great ideas.
There are lots of vegetarian options, which is rare for skiing resorts, and a great section of sharing dishes, salads and soups.
I really liked a Harira soup, from the Rif mountains, a rich broth of chickpeas, lamb, harina and apricots, among other ingredients.
The tostada section was also enticing, with a lovely avocado and anchovy number, with watercress and cherry tomatoes from the couple’s own huerta (vegetable garden).
“We are only using fresh, quality ingredients and insist on proper free-range chicken and proper duck foie,” adds Nestor, a father-of-three, who has set the place up with children and families in mind, the tables each covered with their own animal photos.