Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

‘A lot of the older people just don’t come to these bars,’ I commented to my friend as we eased ourselves off the precariously high stools and left the stylish vibes of the Belgian beer palace aka La Maison Belge.

“We are the older people,” she laughed, stating the painfully obvious.

“Ah, but we’re younger, older people. We’re baby boomers,” I replied uncertainly. It’s a form of denial that works…for me anyway.

Martin and Anne are two of our best friends and were staying on Tenerife on a sort of two-centre holiday. The first few day they’d spent in Playa de la Arena before heading to the Hotel Monopol in Puerto de la Cruz to round off their trip. They are both massive fans of Mil Sabores so a visit to this shrine dedicated to ‘food to die for’ is always an essential ingredient of their visit…followed by a bit of liquid fuelled research into what interesting bars happen to have sprung up recently.

La Maison Belge has been around for quite some time now, but we’d never been despite commenting every time we passed the place how inviting the bar stools and table at either side of the door looked. Its interior lived up to the exterior’s promise. More chic stools were dotted around an area that was part bar, part delicatessen and part off licence – albeit one that sells only artistically designed bottles of Belgian beer. Each table had a teasing cheese menu and we would have ordered some to compliment the Duvel and cherry flavoured beers we ordered, but this was only an aperitif stop before filling our bellies with Mil Sabores’ finest offerings. A return visit has been pencilled in pronto.

The food at Mil Sabores was as inspired as always. Last time we visited we couldn’t get a table but this time we were the only diners in the restaurant’s upper floor. We’re in that post Easter lull period that Puerto experiences between the end of the Northern European winter season and the start of the vibrant Spanish one towards the end of June.

Both Andy and I have written more reviews of Mil Sabores than there are items on the menu, so I won’t rehash and repeat. But the quality of the food was as reliable as a faithful sheepdog and the mixed starter for two should have been renamed ‘a starter for 10’ (that dated reference proves I really am ‘older people’).

Post dinner we changed scene, swapping tastefully rustic for 21st C chic and the ultra suave, ultra violet lighting of the suitably named COOL Bar where we ensconced ourselves around a Martini-glass shaped table. One of the attractive qualities of Puerto de la Cruz and the traditional Tenerife towns is that nobody gives a damn what age anyone is, so even the though the majority of the clientèle in some of the trendiest bars can be way, way younger, nobody ever bats an eyelid.

A couple of drinks in COOL and a change of scene was required. The bar at the top of the small paseo where Mil Sabores seems to change name every time I pass it, so now I’m not exactly sure what it’s called. But it was bustling with people and the mix of Cuban and Latino music salsa-ing through the night air grabbed us by the ears and plonked us down at a table inside. Unfortunately it changed to Rod Stewart almost the second our beers arrived and after that veered between Buena Vista Social Club and old British rockers social club. An unusual Heineken-bottled bar compensated for the dodgy sounds.

Somehow by this point it was just after 2am and we decided to have a final nightcap at another venue. I favoured Cuban hot spot, Azucar but was outvoted on the grounds that at 2am the old gentlemen’s club was at its manic zenith. So, as a more conversation friendly option, we grabbed a table outside studenty Magnum where, on a late April night, the temperature was ambient enough for wearing short sleeves

Time in Puerto has a magical way of slipping by as smoothly as a canoe crossing a glassy lake. In barely the sip of a frosty beer it was 3am and time for us ancient boomers to throw in the bar towel as the people populating the tables around us headed off to dance till dawn at one of the clubs that many visitors don’t even know exist.

Puerto has a reputation for being a staid old girl, perfectly suited to ‘more mature’ visitors who aren’t seeking a lively nocturnal scene…and whilst that isn’t exactly inaccurate, neither is it the whole picture.
It’s only staid if you happen to frequent the staid places. For those of us who want to grow old disgracefully, there are lots of places where we can let our hair down (what hair we have left that is) and party (but in Spanish style only) until dawn…or the early hours at least.

I’m a happy bunny. For months I’d been gutted that my favourite tapas restaurant in Puerto de la Cruz had closed down. Not only was it located in a wonderful old building it was atmospheric as hell and full of characters – maybe too much authenticity for the average visitor as it never attracted the customers it deserved.

Then, one day recently, I actually took the time to read the small notice pinned to the restaurant’s wooden doors and my world was set on its axis again; the note read:

Cha Paula has moved to Calle San Felipe

Cha Paula lives – YAY – and whilst the new building isn’t quite as colonial as the previous, it’s still rustically attractive. Most importantly the restaurant’s characters have moved with the furniture.

Once again I was able to tuck into the best small squid I’ve tasted on Tenerife and order the chorizo de Teror just to watch friends’ faces as the waiter proceeds to napalm the table.


And just in case you think that the tapas is named chorizo de Teror because of the pyrotechnic display that accompanies it and it’s a misspelling on my part, Teror is actually the name of the place on Gran Canaria where this dish originates.

Still it also works for me if you were to add another ‘r’.

How anyone can ever be bored in Tenerife I’ll never know. Even the humdrum of everyday life normally keeps you on your toes, but the weekend before Christmas was a perfect example of how one minute you can be living the highlife here and the next completely brought down to earth and then some.

Friday had started off in a rather sad and bizarre fashion (part of one of the more fascinating Tenerife experiences that either Andy or I will write about one day). We weren’t directly involved, but it took some of the shine off collecting my mum, sister and her boyfriend from the bus station.

Despite there being a weather alert for high winds to such an extent that the cabins had been taken down from the harbour funfair’s big wheel it was actually a hot, sunny day and we spent a lovely day reintroducing my family to Puerto de la Cruz’s charms.

On Friday night we went to the Bitter & Twisted show at the Majestic where it was a great Christmas present to watch my mum in stitches at John Sharples and Barry Pugh’s clever and very funny show.

On Saturday we drove them back to Playa de la Arena where they were staying for some sun therapy prior to a snowy Christmas in the UK. The sun was shining again on that coast after a couple of days of cloud and rain and we deposited them at the beach as we drove on to Puerto Santiago and booked into the Barcélo Santiago Hotel.

Highlight of the Weekend
We’ve stayed in some fab hotel rooms and suites around the world; in Sheratons, Shangri-La’s and Dusit’s and so on, but the room we had at the Barcélo Santiago was one of the sexiest. I was completely seduced by its sophisticated, modern design and frosted glass interior walls. The views from the generous balcony of the Los Gigantes Acantilados and La Gomera simply made staying there one hell of an attractive package. I would have quite happily spent the whole visit in that room.
I could rattle on more about it, but Andy has already described our stay in her Real Tenerife blog in more beautifully described detail.

After spending the day and a good part of the night in the hotel we decided to have a change of scenery to end the night. We strolled, after a long and most enjoyable dinner at the hotel’s a la carte Sabor Español restaurant across the road to one of the top entertainment venues in south west Tenerife, Route 66.

Resident band Old Dogs New Tricks weren’t playing that night, but Los Tres Hombres did a great job of keeping the bar rocking to some classic sounds. It was a lively end to the day and all was well with the world until I had to pay a visit to the men’s room.

Lowlight of the Weekend
When I was ready to leave I turned to unlock the door and the bolt didn’t move. I tried again and again, but the little mock gold locking mechanism wouldn’t budge.

At first I wasn’t a bit concerned – in fact I figured the bottle of wine over dinner and couple of beers in Route 66 had impaired my toilet door opening skills somewhat. But as I dropped to my knees to inspect the stubborn lock it became clear that it wasn’t me at all. At some point in the recent past a new lock had been attached…and it had been a botched job.

At that point I have to admit to starting to get quite worried. No amount of rattling, cursing and pulling would make the damn lock budge. I looked around for an alternative way out, but the door went all the way to the ceiling. There was only one potential escape route; a little gap between the gents and the ladies’ toilets. If it came to the worst I figured I could squeeze through, but that option seemed a bit drastic.

Ten minutes later and still imprisoned, it started to look like my only way to escape this hell. But before I resorted to scaring the be-Jesus out of some poor unsuspecting woman I tried one last pathetic approach. I banged loudly on the door and shouted “HELP” over and over.

Unfortunately being locked in the toilet of a bar playing loud rock music meant that my cries for help must have been completely drowned out and no rescue was forthcoming.

Finally after twenty minutes of imprisonment and trauma the door started to rattle and bang and then after a few moments it sprang open…I was free.

After a wonderful day and night I’d walked into that toilet with the swagger of James Bond (the Sean Connery and Daniel Craig versions not Old Codger Moore’s) and emerged gushing relieved gratitude like a Chilean miner.

Andy, meanwhile, was still singing along to the band oblivious to my ordeal.

As I said at the start how can anyone ever be bored on Tenerife?

As a footnote, I pointed out to the barman that the lock was faulty, but as far as I could see he didn’t actually do anything about it. So guys, if you’re visiting the loo at Route 66 don’t lock the door. And gals, if you’re in the loo keep one eye on that little gap between the male and female toilets, you just never know when you might have some unexpected company.

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

The Good Samaritan was walking down a deserted road when he heard the sound of someone toiling away.

He could hear the sounds of physical exertion, but couldn’t see anyone. Then he noticed a large hole at the side of the road. Inside it a Scandinavian man was shifting earth from one side of the hole to the other, building a mound to raise himself from the bottom so that he would be able to eventually scramble out.

The Good Samaritan reached out his hand and the Scandinavian grabbed it and climbed out of his hole. He thanked the Samaritan and, after they shared dinner, the Samaritan continued on his way.

After a few miles he came to another hole, this time there was a Lebanese man inside it. Once again the Samaritan offered his hand, which the Lebanese gladly took and he climbed out of his hole. He was so pleased that he invited the Samaritan to his home to meet his family before the Samaritan once again had to continue on his journey.

Another few miles and he came to yet another hole. This time there was a Spaniard inside it.

“Aaah,” exclaimed the Samaritan. “You seem to be stuck down a hole.”
“No,” the Spaniard shrugged. “I’m not stuck, I’m fine.”
“I have ladders here,” The Samaritan continued. “The might help you climb out of your hole.”
“I’ve never heard of ladders,” the Spaniard eyed the Samaritan with suspicion. “And if I’ve never heard of them how can they help me? And anyway what are you going to charge me to do this?”
“Nothing,” the Samaritan smiled. “It’s simply that I have ladders and they could help you.”
“Hmmm,” the Spaniard rubbed his chin. “I’ll think about it. Maybe if you come back next week I might let you.”

And with that the Spaniard knelt down, dug a hole and stuck his head in it.

The Samaritan shook his head and carried on, but within a short distance he came to yet another hole. On this occasion a Canario man smiled up at him.

“Hello, you seem to be stuck in your hole,”
the Samaritan said.
“No, no,” the Canario replied. “It’s not my hole; this is my boss’s hole.”
“Well whoever’s hole it is, I can help you get out,” the Samaritan reached out a hand.
“Well, I’d like to take your hand,” The Canario continued to smile. “But, you’ll have to ask my boss first.”
“Okay, but where is your boss?”
“I don’t know,” the Canario shrugged. “But he may be here tomorrow at 10am…or maybe 11am…or maybe later. If you come back then you can ask him”

The Good Samaritan sighed sadly and left the Canario down his boss’s hole and continued on his way.

Shortly after that he retired from being a Good Samaritan.

This week I was arranging to take some photographs of restaurants to accompany already written recommendations for a UK based travel website which will be viewed by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Brits planning to come to Tenerife for their holiday.

Some people might be able to sell snow to the Innuits – I cannot apparently give free publicity worth god knows how much to Canarios or the Spanish.

That’s some, not all may I add, but more than enough to make it more than a generalisation. A couple of years ago we experienced similar when writing the ‘In Deep’ location reports for Living Tenerife Magazine; a feature which recommended the best paces to eat, stay, visit etc in Tenerife’s resorts.

I remember one bar owner who flatly refused to be mentioned and on another occasion a hotel that didn’t want to be included. Both, I have to report, are now shut.

Anyone in the tourist business who cavalierly turns down any free publicity which comes their way, especially when it’s reaching way beyond the shores of this little island must be either very confident, or…well do I really need to say it.

Tenerife I love you, but you can be very strange sometimes.

Searching for WiFi in San Sebastian

Although there had been WiFi on the ferry, the signal was so weak that we hadn’t managed to complete all the things we needed to do before we headed into the wilds (a.k.a our friend’s house on the edge of the rainforest – a place where broadband is still a stranger). There was one email that we really needed to reply to, so after a round of hugs and kisses with Jo who was waiting with her trusty Berlingo to meet us we headed into San Sebastian to find a café with WiFi access.

Ha, ha, bloody ha.

Jo’s a bit of a Luddite and has pretty much ignored the internet revolution, so didn’t know where, or if there was WiFi in town. However, she thought the ‘studenty’ places were worth a try. First stop was the bar El Rincón de la Poeta which at least had a sign saying it had internet.

“Have you got WiFi?”
I asked the barman. He shook his head and smiled.

“Do you know anywhere that might have WiFi?”
Jo asked.

All the heads in the bar turned our way and the bar’s clientele stared for a second at what was clearly los ingeleses locos, before they all burst out laughing as though she’d just recounted a hilarious joke.

The barman spread his arms wide, smiled and gave a reply that said it all.

“In San Sebastian??????”

We told ourselves that he probably wouldn’t have known anyway and carried on with our mission. A few yards further on from the bar we reached the town’s tourist office. If anyone was going to know, surely they would. We popped inside and asked the girl the same question we’d asked the barman…and do you know what her reaction was? She laughed…a lot.
To be fair, when she stopped laughing she did come up with a few suggestions, none of which turned out to have access. We did find one place which had a WiFi sign, but it was shut…for good.

In the end we had to admit defeat. There are plenty of paces in San Sebastian which still advertised good, old fashioned paid internet access. It was clear that the idea of customers having free internet when they were still able to get people to pay for it was too radical a concept for the bar owners in San Sebastian.

We grabbed a seat at an internet café/bar in the main plaza and ordered some beer and bocadillos and spent 50 cents for fifteen minutes internet time to complete what we wanted to do. It was more annoying than anything else. Work completed, we bit into our bocadillos and made friends with a cool glass of dorado.

“I can’t believe that La Gomera’s capital town doesn’t have WiFi in this day and age?” I grumbled through a mouthful of Spanish tortilla in a baguette (a great carb hit).

“It’s what makes the place so charming,” Jo countered.

That’s one point of view I suppose. Another could be that it’s what makes it seem backward and why Tinerfeños make jokes about it.

I knew from the notebook that there were WiFi zones all around us; they just didn’t want to give it away free. One day the penny will drop.