Posts Tagged ‘Isla Baja’

We’d always been intrigued by the bar at El Guincho near Garachico in Isla Baja with semi-colon as a name, not the words just the symbol – ;

I mean what do people say – ‘I’m just off to punto y coma for a pint’ or do they mime it?

Anyway, after what seemed like a completely pointless and very expensive tunnel had been built which diverted the road away from the bar I’d completely forgotten about it…until Andy, our friend Bob and I emerged after a walk through the banana plantations at the top of a steep set of steps almost right outside Bar ;

It was perfectly positioned for a post walk beer.

Have you ever seen any of Robert Rodriguez Mariachi series of movies? If so, you’ll get the picture when I say walking into Bar ; was like walking into one of the Mexican bars featured in them. It didn’t exactly go quiet, but there was a noticeable pause…or was it a semi colon?

The barman was Tenerife’s answer to Cheech Marin. He had a miserable boat race; the only bright thing about it was the glistening stud in his ear. When we asked if he served bocadillos he grunted and pointed to a selection of mass produced, filled pastries.
“Too late for bocadillos,” he growled pointing to a sign which announced that the bar was shutting at 5pm. At that point it was 1.30pm.
We ordered beers and moved to sit at one of the tables…eliciting another grunt and a single word.

“NO!”

Okay to be fair to the guy, it was Christmas Eve and he probably didn’t want three extranjeros holding him back from getting into the Xmas spirit and the place looked as though it was setting up for a private party.  We squeezed in at the bar, one of the punters shifted along to accommodate us so it wasn’t exactly all unfriendly, and I had a look around the joint.

First observation was that there was quite a lot of Barcelona memorabilia on the walls, nothing unusual about that – in Tenerife it’s usually them or Real Madrid. The second thing I noticed was an interesting collection of specialist (for Tenerife at least) beer bottles lining the room, one of which was Old Speckled Hen.
The third thing that stood out was the incredible selection of sweet products in the bar. I mean this was in most senses a typical out of the way Canario bar, yet apart from all the pastries it had a better sweet selection than most big supermarkets. They had rows of Crunchies, Twix’s and all sorts of choccie delights. It also had the most extensive range of travel-sized Pringles that I’ve ever seen. It was obvious what Bar ; really was. It was munchie heaven.

“This is definitely a ‘smokers’ bar,” I whispered to Andy.

Almost on cue a man with a handlebar moustache wearing a cowboy hat, leather waistcoat and mirror sunglasses entered the bar, nodded ‘buenas tardes’ in our direction and plonked himself down at the bar. If the Robert Rodriguez Mexican bar reference needed reinforcing, he’d just provided the icing on the Navidad cake.

To be completely honest Bar ; wasn’t unfriendly, it just wasn’t particularly friendly…except maybe if you were a local, but Cheech behind the bar didn’t exactly exude love and kinship towards his regulars either.

We downed our beers and left with a ‘felices fiestas’ which everyone responded to cheerily – even Cheech…well his mouth sort of turned up at the corner as  he grunted.

Andy and I were pleased to have finally had a drink in a bar which had intrigued us for years. But in all honesty we were a bit disappointed that it wasn’t exactly the sort of place where you’d want to linger too long. In fact it probably really only warranted being called Bar ‘,’ and not ‘;‘

Nouvelle Cuisine – Looking Good Enough to Eat
After the tapas in the petrol station we went upmarket for our next meal. Dinner on the Tuesday evening was at the super chic Watermelon in San Telmo, Los Cristianos with John, Chris and Alan.
It’s a really nice venue overlooking Las Vistas beach; the presentation of the food complemented the views. Andy had salmon whilst I chose revuelta con chistorras y champiñones –  basically a posh way of saying scrambled eggs, sausage and mushrooms. So ostensibly I had opted for the all-day breakfast, but as created by a chef with Picasso tendencies. It’s an attractive restaurant and the food was nicely prepared and presented, but the service although friendly was a bit hit and miss.

Lunch in Isla Baja
Breakfast on Wednesday morning was basically coffee at the Pearly Grey Resort. We had to stop off at Playa de la Arena and Masca, so wanted to head off sharpish. By the time we’d finished our business and had driven in and out of Masca (that road never fails to WOW me, it’s incredible – I love it) we arrived at Buenavista del Norte at around 2pm with stomachs rumbling like angry volcanoes.
We stopped at the first restaurant we spotted, the Akabu Pizzeria I think it was called (Pamela from Secret Tenerife can put me right if I’m wrong here). It was a comfortable little restaurant just off the main road through the town. The only other people were a couple of workman having a liquid lunch. As we’d had a few drinks the night before, we felt a carb and sugar hit was in order, so a quatro estaciones pizza and two Fanta orange juices were ordered. It didn’t take long for it to arrive on the table and it was surprisingly good; a credit card thin crusty base and with lots of salami, ham and mozzarella cheese topping. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Cost €11

Traditional Canarian Cuisine in Los Cristianos

The final meal out of the week was back in Los Cristianos on Thursday for a lunchtime meet-up with John, Chris, Alan and fellow bloggers and writers, Colin Kirby, Julie Hume and Joe Cawley. The menu was traditional Canarian, but I’ve got to admit to balking a bit when I saw the prices. The problem is when you know what items on a menu cost in restaurants in other parts of the island. The dishes on the menu were familiar, but the price was double what we’d normally pay in an equivalent establishment in many places outside the main tourist drag. You might think that the price hike is because the restaurant is in a predominantly tourist area, but it was filled to bursting with Canarios. Andy and I ordered potaje de lentejas (a meaty lentil soup) followed by hake and one potato (Andy) and rabbit and rice (me) which I picked because it sounded like an odd combination. In truth it was rabbit paella. Chris also went for the rabbit…but his turned out to be more rice with a hint of rabbit as actual rabbit pieces were a tad on the scarce side.

When we asked for vino del país they brought us a rather fine bottle of local Arona wine. Up north you normally get a jug of earthy country wine from the owner’s own little vineyard. Both eminently quaffable, but also very different.
Overall the food was nicely cooked and the company good fun with the conversation veering from pearls of wisdom to enjoyable nonsense. The waiters did have that annoying knack of having an aversion to eye contact though, making trying to attract attention an almost impossible affair. I think at one point there were three sets of waving arms and we still failed.

It was interesting comparing eating in all those places on Tenerife over the last week. At every one the service was friendly, but funnily the least efficient establishments were probably the two most expensive. Similarly with the food. I wouldn’t say that the food at any wasn’t enjoyable – my least favourite was the rabbit and rice, but that was more down to me not picking well – but neither did it follow that the higher the price, the better the food.

Due to the demands of a hectic, but most enjoyably diverse schedule, we found ourselves eating out quite a lot last week – it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

The places we ate were incredibly varied, as were the prices, and included an eclectic selection of eateries in the north, east, south and west.

Junk Food Joy
First up was the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday. Having spent the afternoon with friends we still had to pick up a chicken for Sunday dinner. As it was 8pm we decided to head to La Villa shopping centre in La Orotava for the bird and then grab one of the seriously belly swelling pizzas at the Posada del Rey there. Normally we avoid shopping at La Villa on Saturdays. It feels as though everyone from the La Orotava Valley descends on the place; in short it’s manic. At 8pm on a Saturday evening it was pandemonium. Every table at every restaurant was taken and the Posada was closed. Feeling like Joseph and Mary we managed to squeeze in at the bar of La Oficina and ordered cheeseburgers, fries and a couple of beers. Their burgers are home made, big, beefy and as good as I’ve tasted anywhere. It was buzzing and watching the two waitresses zip about like blue-arsed flies made me feel tired on their behalf, but they cooked and kept everyone happy with super efficiency. Cost €8

Bocadillos Al Fuera
This one doesn’t really count, but it’s worth a quick mention. On Monday we headed up into the Mount Teide crater to map out a walk for one of our Island Walks routes. Sitting on top of the crater wall munching on home made bocadillos whilst devouring the incredible views was possibly the meal of the week.

Tapas at the Petrol Station
Having squeezed in as much work as we could on Tuesday morning we headed south to meet with John Beckley of Sorted Sites and Chris Clarkson & Alan Gilmour of Tenerife.co.uk. The meeting was at 1pm, so we decided to grab a quick bite en route in the cafe at the PCan petrol station near Tajao. These places are great; they’re always busy and full of customers shouting to be heard over the loud salsa music. We ordered ensaladilla rusa (huge portion), croquetas (potato and fish croquettes – a bit dry) and a bizarre one I hadn’t seen before; hot dogs and potatoes in a spicy sauce (surprisingly good). These were washed down with two steaming cups of black coffee that were strong enough to put hairs on your chest – basically amphetamine in a cup. I never slept for three days afterwards. In twenty minutes we were fed, watered and ready to hit the road again. Cost €11.

Continued in Eating Out on Tenerife – From Junk Food to Nouvelle Cuisine Part 2

Monday the 8th December was a public holiday in Tenerife. Unlike the UK during a bank holiday Monday, the roads here were remarkably quiet. There were a number of things we had been planning to do and some of them were due to finish, so like last minute Charlies, we headed up to the lovely little town of Los Silos in Isla Baja to catch the final day of their storytelling festival.

Cool town, cool people, cool plaza

Cool town, cool people, cool plaza

The sun was shining when we arrived, so the town’s fairy tale church was looking its best. Los Silos is quite a bohemian little town and the plaza, where most of the tale-telling takes place, was filled with a mixture of trendy young residents and story tellers, performers and stallholders who wouldn’t have looked out of place at a hippy market in Goa.

It’s a lovely little intimate festival, where nothing particularly fancy, or spectacular takes place, but it exudes an engaging atmosphere and watching the kid’s face light up as a Jay Kay from Jamiroquai look-alike juggled and gurned is a reminder that people here (of all ages) still get pleasure from simple little things.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo

In the late afternoon we drove back to Puerto de la Cruz, arriving just as the funfair was starting to get busy, but we weren’t looking to have some fun at the fair; we were seeking a more tranquil experience. The Santo Domingo convent behind the town hall has been closed since we arrived in Puerto, but it’s recently opened its doors as an exhibition centre and Monday was the last day of a Bonsai exhibition. The convent with its pale cream walls was the perfect setting for the little trees and the combination of the beautifully balanced bonsais, soft Japanese background music and tranquil open courtyard was almost enough to make me get into the lotus position and engage in a bit of meditation. Unfortunately I don’t exactly know what the lotus position looks like so I had to settle for just looking at the exhibits.

After that it was a visit to the lovely old building of Casa Ventoso and the

Casa Ventoso

Casa Ventoso

search for the obligatory coprophiliac amongst the collection of belénes which were on display (okay, I know it’s childish, but it makes me smile – I admit to being guilty of having that British curse of enjoying ‘toilet humour’). The life size display in the courtyard was a bit amateur night (and slightly creepy), but the model villages in the adjoining rooms were excellent, with lighting and sound effects; blood red sunsets turned to starlit nights whilst oxen threshed wheat, men treaded grapes and my favourite figure was destined to stay, squatting in his outside loo (where the lockless door periodically swung open) until the 6th January. I love it.

I know it wouldn’t be everybody’s idea of what to do on a bank holiday, but we love the sheer diversity of the things that are constantly going on in Tenerife and the bonus ball? Unlike the men in the belénes, we didn’t need to spend a penny.

Where on Tenerife can you see a whale without risking getting wet? Loro Parque doesn’t count and anyway, chances are you’ll get more soaked at the orca show than taking one of the whale and dolphin watching trips out of Los Gigantes.

The answer is in Los Silos on Tenerife’s north west coast. This giant skeleton of a sei whale (the third largest species of whale) is a result of collaboration between conservation groups, local business and the Canarian Government and is a tribute to the relationship between man and the sea and the giant mammals which inhabit it.

It’s a wonderful image, but is located in an area of Isla Baja which most visitors to Tenerife don’t go anywhere near.