Where to stay
Large, luxurious and welcoming family seafront resort-hotel located between two main beaches offering many activities from aerobics to darts. The complex includes a spa, kids’ club and choice of several excellent restaurants. Charming gardens, lovely swimming pools and well-equipped bedrooms. From £300 for 2 per nights B&B. Calle Londres 15, Costa Adeje, 00 34 922 713 335, iberostar.com/en/hotels/tenerife/iberostar-anthelia
La Quinta Roja
Beautifully renovated, aristocratic 16th century Baroque mansion, now a charming boutique hotel. A five-minute walk from the beach and close to the natural volcanic swimming pools. Rooms from £100 per night B&B. Garachico, 00 34 922 133 377, quintaroja.com
The Ritz-Carlton Abama
Gorgeous cliff-top resort decorated in a Moroccan style that is the height of discreet, luxurious chic. Magnificent sunset views, private beach, seven swimming pools, ten dining options and a challenging 18-hole golf course make this an oasis of tranquility. From £428 for 2 per nights B&B. Guia de Isora, 00 34 922 126 000, ritzcarlton.com/abama
Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands. Flights from the UK take 4 hours and 30 minutes. There is no time difference between Tenerife and the UK. Currency is the euro. In February and March, the average high temperature is 22C and the average low is 16C.
easyJet offers regular services direct to Tenerife South
from London Gatwick, from £107 return. easyjet.com
Ryanair also flies direct to Tenerife South from London Gatwick, from £99 return. ryanair.com
Tenerife Tourism Corporation provides all the information you need to make the very most of your trip. webtenerife.com
To offset your carbon emissions when travelling to Tenerife, visit climatecare.org and make a donation. Return flights from London produce 3.4 tonnes of CO2, meaning a cost to offset of £25.60.
Where to eat
Prices are per person for two courses and a glass of wine or beer, unless otherwise stated
Based in the lavish Grand Hotel Bahia del Duque complex, Braulio Simancas is a young chef rapidly gaining an excellent reputation for creative new cuisine based on island produce. Tasting menus £50-70. Grand Hotel Bahia del Duque, Costa Adeje, 00 34 922 746 932, thetaishotels.com
Cofradia de Pescadores
Fish and shellfish comes no fresher than at this first-floor, marine-styled restaurant overlooking the harbour, owned and run by fishermen. Point and choose from the daily catch. Also try the fish gofio (Canarian flour). £22. Calle las Lonjas 5, Puerto de la Cruz, 00 34 922 383 409, lacofradiadepescadores.es
The Tenerife outpost of the Madrid Japanese-fusion concept has a Michelin star for highly accomplished cuisine. Menus are carefully constructed, and there is even a kids’ menu of tempura and sushi. Tasting menu £94. Ritz-Carlton Abama, Guia de Isora, 00 34 922 126 000, ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/spain/abama/dining/kabuki
Top destination dining in the two-Michelin starred restaurant that has brought the world-renowned, inspired cuisine of Chef Martin Berasategui to the island. Be prepared for a major gourmet experience. Tasting menu £124. Ritz-Carlton Abama, Guia de Isora, 00 34 922 126 000, ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/spain/abama/dining/mb
El Molino Blanco
Well-established, atmospheric and lively spot packed with memorabilia and greenery based around an old gofio mill. The ‘international’ menu has something for everyone and you’ll also find a few Canarian dishes such as goat stew. Don’t miss the singing chef. £44. Avenida de Austria 5, San Eugenio Alto, Costa Adeje, 00 34 922 796 282, molino-blanco.com
Rincon de Juan Carlos
Juan and Jonathan Padrón fly the flag for local produce with immense skill and flair, specialising in fish. One Michelin- starred but worthy of more in our humble opinion. There is a three-month waiting list – note the restaurant will be moving to a new address sometime in 2018. Tasting menu £74. Pasaje Jacaranda 2, Los Gigantes, 00 34 922 868 040, elrincondejuancarlos.com
Food and Travel Review
I lost my heart in Tenerife. Unlike Lord Nelson, who was parted from his arm on this dramatic volcanic island rising from the Atlantic waves, my experience was less stressful. The object of my affection was a fabulous fleecy rare-breed creature sporting dreadlocks, a velvety visage and an air of haughty indifference. I called her Naomi. It was, however, a fleeting affair: the superstar sheep from El Hierro snorted with contempt (clearly we hadn’t paid her agent enough) and led her band of skittish followers back to their five-star accommodation next to a contented band of fat black native pigs.
It was far from the swathe of glittering resort-hotels that illuminate the southern tip of the island at night like a Cartier window display; we were 1,300 metres up from sea level on a remote plateau above cloud level, almost within touching distance of the great Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak. At Altos de Trevejos, one of Tenerife’s highest vineyards, we breathed in the stress-free air and listened to the silence: it was becoming clear why an exciting new generation of winemakers, artisan producers and chefs was bringing world-wide attention to the ancient archipelago.
This small island (albeit the largest in the Canary Islands) boasts a remarkable number of Michelin-starred restaurants, whose menus have kick-started an appreciation of local produce that has trickled down all levels of the culinary scale. Much as Santiago Calatrava’s epic auditorium in the Tenerife capital represents a level of culture light years away from the bar scene, those who venture beyond the coastal strip will find more than wrinkled potatoes and mojo sauces, inferior and downgraded versions of which have in the past so damaged the reputation of the island’s cuisine.
One of the natural advantages is how the climate, geography and vegetation change rapidly as you encircle the island and climb the vast slopes of ever-dominant Wagnerian Teide, the frequently snow-covered high-point of a range of jagged extinct volcanoes that gash the electric-blue skyline. Tenerife is a mini-continent floating off the coast of Africa, nearer to Morocco than the Iberian motherland: the use of spices reflects the former, the ubiquitous presence of pan-Spanish dishes, such as paella and gazpacho, the latter. The landscape rises like geological layers, mirrored in the tonal bands of a barraquito, an addictive coffee drink laced with condensed milk, cinnamon and liqueur. Increased humidity in the north brings jungle greenery; the arid, dry south attracts Homo Touristicus. Everywhere, the air is pure, soft and sweet.
At sea level, the climate is sub-tropical and the Mardi Gras colours are intense in the bright island light: black sand and golden fruit, brick-red earth and navy-blue breakers with lacy cream foam, fluorescent orange and purple flowers and sugar-cube houses. The banana groves are shielded from the wind by nets and white walls to protect the ravishingly creamy and fragrant little Canary bananas. They face the Atlantic, in the same way the families of poor emigrants once patiently waited for their return from the New World. The poignancy is reprised in arroz a la cubana, made with eggs, rice, tomato sauce and fried bananas.
The mineral-rich, volcanic soil also yields papaya, mango, avocado, tomatoes and pineapple in a patchwork of family-farm plots. Up to 1,000 metres, the steep, rocky land is terraced, often planted with over 30 different types of small Canary potatoes, of which the black with the golden-yolk flesh is perhaps most sought after. At this level there are also vines, cabbages, Reineta apples, pears, plums, loquats, chestnut trees and more. The island’s many bee-keepers produce glorious honey with flavours ranging from chestnut and fennel to the tajinaste plant, which blooms briefly in the Teide crater. And prickly pears can, despite their forbidding exterior, provide the most refreshing juice.
The higher slopes, slashed by deep and dizzy gorges, are ringed by a forest of protected, long-needled Canarian pine trees, the wood once used for floors, balconies and shutters. Finally, high above the clouds and trade winds, where the temperature soars in the summer but freezes in the winter, the surreal lava landscape of Teide National Park, a World Heritage Site, is home to unique flora and fauna including rabbit, partridges, rare mouflon sheep and the lesser-spotted Hollywood film crew (think Jason Bourne and Clash of the Titans).
Unexpectedly, perhaps, island goats provide one of Tenerife’s gastro-glories. When the Quesería Montesdeoca won the award for champion cheese at the 2014 World Cheese Awards, it was an eye-opener. Are you kidding?, was the goaty joke. At last year’s ceremony, Canary Island cheese carried off multiple medals and the reputation of local cheesemakers has soared. Alberto Montes de Oca emphasises that the North Tenerife breed, with their African genes, are adapted to the climate and conditions but are completely free of illnesses endemic in many European herds. At his dairy, the 800-plus native-breed goats lead a pampered life and in return produce a generous amount of rich milk from which he makes a wide selection of cheeses ranging from fresh – light, melting and slightly sea-salty – to semi and hard-cured. He says, ‘For me, it’s more than a business, it’s a way of living, a philosophy in which we respect both the animals, their milk and the cheese. I like to describe our cheese as having a ‘complex simplicity.’’
A similar attitude is apparent among the island’s new winemakers who have also been carrying off international laurels. Tenerife wine first came to prominence with the English-Canarian trade in Malvasia, the original sweet Shakespearian ‘sack’. Protected by distance and sea, the vines remained free of phylloxera and the indigenous grape varieties such as Listán Blanco and Baboso still produce wines that perfectly match the food of the island. Seek out the super-fresh fish served at one of the several Cofradía de Pescadores dotted around the coast, owned and run by local fishermen, and goat or rabbit stew found in local eating places or in a homely, pop-up rural guachinche.
As Enrique Alfonso of Altos de Trevejos noted, ‘The sun does not belong only to the hotels, the fertile, volcanic soil is mineral-rich and the air pollution-free.’ Some of his grapes are still grown in the ancient vaso en baso method of small bushes where the roots go deep into the stony ground.
At the prestigious Suerte del Marqués vineyard, the wine wonders kept coming: ancient vines grown in the unique trenzado or cordon system, no grafting on rootstock, hand fermentation and a patchwork of plots each possessing individual character. It is still unusual to find a skilled woman winemaker in the Canaries but Loles Pérez Martín is an expert advocate of low yield and low intervention. The volume produced will always be limited but, as she says, ‘I want people to discover our wine and realise why we shouldn’t be planting ‘foreign’ varieties such as Shiraz.’
The Canary Islands were once called the Fortunate Islands, and a constellation of Michelin stars has brought increased expectations across the board. At El Rincón de Juan Carlos, the two Padrón brothers combine clever interpretations of traditional dishes such as a turrón de morcilla amuse-bouche with more horizon-stretching dishes including a celeriac pasta with Comté cheese, pine nuts and truffle served in a bowl made from volcanic pumice. Juan tells me, ‘Ten years ago, no-one would have believed we would have so many Michelin chefs. We are a world-wide fraternity now, not limited by time and place. Nonetheless, it is important to preserve old flavours and products and bring these to younger people. There is a generation that has grown up only tasting pizza and burgers and this can’t continue.’
David Rivero Piedra is a young Canarian chef who bucked the trend. Fascinated with Japanese culture from an early age, he now has his dream job running Madrid-born Michelin-starred Kabuki at the Ritz-Carlton Abama. He marvels at the myriad fresh fish at his daily command, has a local farmer growing produce with seeds brought from Japan, cooks sushi rice the authentic way and makes his own fermented tofu. It seemed an intriguing fusion, but as he pointed out, ‘Both the Spanish and Japanese like to eat and drink together, and we share a respect for food, ingredients and quality.’
At the same hotel, Erlantz Gorostiza at M.B. (Martín Berasategui), rules a two-Michelin star outpost of the world-renowned empire that originates in San Sebastian. I was curious. How could their Basque table travel so far south? ‘ I don’t pretend to do Canarian dishes,’ he replied, ‘I am not from the island, after all, but I try and adapt our style of cooking to make best use of the products here. The quality of fish and vegetables, for example, is outstanding. As far as I am concerned there is just good food and bad food, and every day it inspires me to do something better than the day before. I could not have a better life than here – I am the most fortunate man in the Fortunate Islands.’
Sunsets and volcanoes, spiky dragon trees and luminous light. Cacti, prehistoric rain forests, whales and dolphins. Ocean, wind and land. When Alexander von Humboldt, one of the founders of modern geography, came to the island in 1799, he left ‘almost with tears in my eyes’. Beyond the bling, Tenerife is an island full of secrets.
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