Sex, booze and sun-kissed sand – many holidaymakers flying to Tenerife see these as essential elements of their perfect vacation. Of course, ask locals and they’ll tell you there’s markedly more to the largest and most populous of the Canary Islands.
They’ll urge you to view the rugged, volcanic landscapes of Teide National Park, the home of Spain’s highest peak, the eponymous Mount Teide (whose summit stands 3,718 metres above sea level). Trekking in the ancient laurel forest of Anaga Rural Park, on the north-east of the island, is another tip they readily share. Tasting traditional Tenerifan cuisine in a tasca or guachinche, unpretentious and inexpensive eateries, is another way of getting to know the island and its culture.
Mass tourism and greasy food
You might find it hard to believe such dining spots exist on an island that, over the past four decades, has made its name as a mass tourism destination. After all, many of the millions who enjoy Canarian sunshine want to do so fuelled exclusively by the food they eat back at home.
Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Américas, on the south-west of the island, have won dubious reputations for their timeshare properties and boozy nightlife. Hangovers after heavy nights out on the Dorada, Tenerife’s local beer, create demand for fried breakfasts on the terraces of seafront cafes. The idea of people travelling abroad to dine on fish and chips or gammon and eggs has resulted in some food snobs refusing even to countenance a visit to Tenerife.
Rest assured, there’s more than just greasy British grub to be had on Tenerife. The island offers much for discerning foodies.
Wrinkly potatoes with dipping sauces
If you’ve ever visited Tenerife you’ll know one of the staple foods of the island is papas arrugadas – boiled potatoes still in their wrinkled, salt-crusted skins – served with a coriander-laced green mojo sauce. The red version of the sauce, mojo rojo, has a spicy kick thanks to the presence of chilli. Dipping the potatoes in the sauces can serve as a simple but tasty snack or as a filling accompaniment to fish- or meat-based dishes.
One such delicacy is carne fiesta, a succulent dish of cubed meat – often pork – that’s been marinaded in a garlicky, peppery sauce. Locals swear that red wine produced from grapes grown on the mineral-rich, volcanic soil on the north of Tenerife is the ideal accompaniment to the dish. I was warned carne fiesta doesn’t taste nearly as good when served with wine from the Spanish mainland or elsewhere in the world.
Chickpea stew and gofio
Good, tasty food can also be simple, as I found when tasting sopa de garbanza, which translates as chickpea soup but is, in fact, more a of a stew. Chickpeas form the mainstay of the dish, which is often a served as a starter but could be a meal in itself, especially when accompanied by a basket of bread and carafe of wine.
I tasted a home-style version of sopa de garbanza on the terrace of the 4-star Hotel VillAlba at Milaflor. For dessert a mousse made from gofio, a flour from roasted grains, was served with fresh fruit. Keep your senses open and you’ll see and taste gofio in a number of dishes around the Canary Islands.
Top places to taste Canarian cuisine
Here are nine highly rated restaurants where you can try Canarian cuisine on Tenerife. There are, of course, many more on the island:
Bodegas Monje (Camino Cruz de Leandro 26, El Sauzal; tel. +34 922 585027) – After a guided tour of the vineyard while away an afternoon in the restaurant, which has a sizable terrace with ocean views.
Bogey (Las Madrigueras Golf Resort and Spa, Playa de Las Américas; tel. +34 922 777818) – A smart restaurant where Jesus Gonzalez and his team interpret traditional dishes from the Canary Islands.
Délicieux Tasca Restaurante (Antonio Dominguez Alfonso 6, La Noria; tel. +34 922 547186) – The décor of the dining room is bright and modern but it’s a good bet for local, Spanish and international dishes, including conejo en salmorejo (rabbit in herby tomato sauce).
Dula y Pipa (Trasera camino del Torreón 2, El Ramal; tel. +34 922 333509) – Chef Juan Carlos Clemente and his team put a modern interpretation on the island’s dishes at La Granja Verde, in La Orotava valley, where herbs, fruit and vegetables grow in expansive gardens.
El Lajar de Bello (Carretera General del Sur 35, La Camella; tel. +34 922 720382) – With a tiled floor, wooden ceiling and warm ambiance this restaurant is a good bet if you want to taste Canarian cuisine but have people with you who favour international dishes.
Meson La Finca Chayofa (Calle el Taroso 43, Chayofa; tel. +34 922 729189) – Taste Canarian delicacies or succumb to the tempting aromas of the grilled meat dishes at this restaurant that grows its own vegetables.
Restaurante Bodegón Casa Tomás (Callejón de la Iglesia 2, El Portezuelo; tel. +34 922 636971) – This popular yet highly regarded restaurant serves Canarian delicacies, including tripe and goat.
Tasca El Granero (Calle Isla Margarita 14, Arona; tel. +34 922 720745) – Sit below wooden beams in this compact eatery that has a reputation for its stuffed courgettes and succulent ribs.
Tasca José Mi Niño (Avenida Antonio Dominguez 24, Playa de las Américas; tel. +34 922 790114) – You can taste dishes from the Canaries and elsewhere in the Med at this inviting dining spot, where you’ll see murals on the walls and hams hanging. If you enjoy seafood why not try the local take on octopus?
Why didn’t we recommend ten of Tenerife’s restaurants? The tenth is down to you. Send us a message and recommend your favourite.
For more information about the island and where to dine, see the Tenerife Tourism Commission and Todo Tenerife websites. The Real Tenerife and My Destination – Tenerife are both managed by locally based experts and are good sources of ideas for things to do and see.