Stuart Forster suggests some of the best restaurants in Tenerife for traditional Canarian cuisine.
The traditional Canarian cuisine served on Tenerife is both tasty and healthy.
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Experiencing Tenerife like a local
Ask locals for insider tips and the may well tell you there’s much more to the largest and most populous of the Canary Islands than most tourists experience while holidaying on Tenerife.
There’s a chance they’ll urge you to view the rugged, volcanic landscapes of Teide National Park, the home of Spain’s highest peak. The summit of Mount Teide reaches to 3,718 metres (12,198 ft) above sea level.
Trekking in the ancient laurel forest of Anaga Rural Park, on the north-east of the island, is another insider tip.
Tasting traditional Canarian cuisine is another way of getting to know the island and its culture. One way to do that is in a tasca or guachinche — unpretentious and usually inexpensive establishments serving local food and wine.
A reputation for mass tourism and greasy food
For four decades, Tenerife made its name as a mass tourism destination. Many of the millions of tourists who enjoyed Tenerife’s year-round sunshine did so fuelled by food that they were familiar with from back at home.
That’s something British author Joe Cawley touches upon in his More Ketchup Than Salsa series of books. Joe moved to Tenerife and opened a bar where food was served. In his humorous series of books, Joe mentions that many of his regulars favoured British-style dishes to Canarian cuisine.
Joe Cawley’s More Ketchup Than Salsa: Confessions of a Tenerife Barman (£) is available via Amazon (£):
Hangovers — often after heavy sessions drinking Dorada, Tenerife’s local beer — were a factor in driving demand for fried breakfasts on the terraces of seafront cafes and bars.
The idea of people travelling abroad to dine on dishes such as English breakfasts, fish and chip or gammon and eggs resulted in some foodies writing off Tenerife and the Canary Islands as a potential holiday destination.
In recent years Tenerife has repositioned itself, emphasising that the island offers affordable luxury and year-round sunshine. There’s much for keen walkers and landscape photographers.
The Old Town of San Cristóbal de La Laguna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Laid out on a grid plan, the city was a model for Spanish colonial settlements in the Americas.
The colonial connection was a factor in the evolution of Canarian cuisine, including the local dishes served on Tenerife. Ingredients introduced to Europe during the age of sail became staples in local cooking.
Several of Europe’s oldest potato varieties are grown on Tenerife and often served with a spicy sauce. Bananas also thrive on the island and feature in traditional desserts.
If you’re a discerning foodie and keen to try traditional Canarian dishes there are plenty of restaurants that warrant visiting.
Local food in Tenerife
If you’ve ever visited Tenerife, you’ll know one of the island’s staple foods is papas arrugadas – boiled potatoes served in their wrinkled, salt-crusted skins.
The potatoes are often 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 serve either as a simple but tasty snack or as a filling accompaniment to fish- or meat-based dishes.
One traditional Canarian delicacy is carne fiesta, a succulent dish of cubed meat — usually pork — that’s been marinaded in a garlicky, peppery sauce.
Locals swear that the 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.
In recent years dishes made with the meat of black pig, known locally as cochino negro, have seen a resurgence in popularity.
Rabbit stew, the paprika-laced Canarian delicacy known as Conejo al salmorejo, is a great dish to tuck into if you can get past the idea of eating a bunny.
As you’d expect of an island, fish dishes feature widely. Octopus doused in olive oil is a popular local starter. It may not look the most appealing of dishes but when it’s good it’s very good.
Canarian cuisine in Tenerife
Good, tasty food can be simple. For me, that was one of the joys of dining is restaurants serving Canarian cuisine in Tenerife.
One dish that I enjoyed was , a dish whose name translates as chickpea soup. In fact, it’s more a of a stew.
Chickpeas form the mainstay of the dish, which is often a served as a starter. It could easily be a a meal in itself, especially when accompanied by a basket of freshly baked 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 I opted for gofio, another local delicacy. Gofio is a mousse made from a flour milled from roasted grains. It’s often served with fresh fruit when made into a dessert. Gofio is used in a number of dishes on the Canary Islands.
Best restaurants in Tenerife for Canarian cuisine
Here are nine of the best restaurants in Tenerife for Canarian cuisine. There are, of course, many more dining options on the island:
The restaurant at the Bodegas Monje (Camino Cruz de Leandro 26, El Sauzal; tel. +34 922 585 027) has a sizable terrace with ocean views. After a guided tour of the vineyard while away an afternoon enjoying a degustation menu. Mojo making workshops are an option if you want to learn how to make the sauce so often served with Tenerife’s wrinkled potatoes.
Hopefully the name doesn’t put you off visiting Bogey Restaurant (Las Madrigueras Golf Resort and Spa, Playa de Las Américas; tel. +34 922 777 818). It’s a chic dining venue where chef Jesus Gonzalez and his team interpret traditional dishes from the Canary Islands.
Délicieux Tasca Restaurante (Antonio Dominguez Alfonso 6, La Noria, Santa Crus de Tenerife; tel. +34 922 547 186). The décor of the dining room is modern but it’s a good bet for traditional Canarian cuisine as well as Spanish and international dishes. Look out for the conejo en salmorejo, rabbit in a herby tomato sauce.
With a tiled floor, wooden ceiling and warm ambiance El Lajar de Bello (Carretera General del Sur 35, La Camella; tel. +34 922 720 382) is a good bet if you want to taste Canarian cuisine. International dishes are also served.
Where to eat and drink in Tenerife
Taste Canarian delicacies or succumb to the tempting aromas of the grilled meat dishes at Meson La Finca Chayofa (Calle el Taroso 43, Chayofa; tel. +34 922 729 189), a restaurant that grows its own vegetables.
Popular and highly regarded, Restaurante Bodegón Casa Tomás (Callejón de la Iglesia 2, El Portezuelo; tel. +34 922 636 971) serves Canarian delicacies, including tripe and goat.
Sit below wooden beams at Tasca El Granero (Calle Isla Margarita 14, Arona; tel. +34 922 720 745). This compact dining establishment has won a glowing reputation for its stuffed courgettes and succulent ribs.
Taste cuisine from the Canaries and Mediterranean dishes at Tasca José Mi Niño (Avenida Antonio Dominguez 24, Playa de las Américas; tel. +34 922 790 114). You’ll see murals on the walls and hams hanging at this inviting dining spot. If you enjoy seafood why not try the local take on octopus?
Restaurant Playa Casa Africa (Roque de las Bodegas 3, Santa Cruz de Tenerife; tel. +34 922 590 100) is a down-to-earth place looking on to Taganana Beach. After strolling barefoot on the black volcanic sand you can sit down to taste the likes of grilled octopus and fish dishes accompanied by carafes of Tenerifian wine.
El Rincon de Juan Carlos (Pasaje Jacaranda, 2 Los Gigantes; tel. +34 922 868 040) holds a Michelin star and serves modern Canarian cuisine.
Enjoy the Canarian cuisine when you visit Tenerife. Please feel welcome to recommend any restaurant or dish that you particularly enjoy visiting in the comments field below.
Where to stay in Tenerife
Find accommodation in Tenerife via Booking.com (£):
For more information about the island and where to dine, see the Tenerife Tourism Commission website.
Stuart Forster is an award-winning freelance travel writer. His work has been published in National Geographic Traveller, BBC Good Food and The Mail on Sunday.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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This post was originally published in March 2016.
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