In contrast to Majorca, the Canary islands may be just as popular with holidaymakers, but they have not yet found favour with the world’s jet-setting beautiful people. Subsequently, the fine dining scene and the creative chefs and adventurous entrepreneurs needed to develop it, have still to arrive in any numbers. Between 2012 and 2017 I spent several winter weeks on Lanzarote, taking considerable time to explore some of the better restaurant addresses in the southern half of the island. Lanzarote’s vineyards are quite a fast-growing sector, the vines planted behind the shelter of lava walls to protect them from the winds. Last updated December 2017
Playa Blanca: Sebastyan’s, La Mulata Shopping, Calle Lanzarote. +34 928 349 679
This smart restaurant, elevated but on the beach front, is cool and, for the island, rather chic with crisp white linen on the tables and a casual but refined atmosphere. Greek ownership means there’s a strong Greek influence on the food, but it pays much more than a token nod towards Spanish and international choices too. The food is really very good, but the real reason to come here is the wine list, the best I have discovered on several visits to the island. It is strong in Spanish wines in particular, with several pages of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, but really does cover the globe. Prices will certainly please UK visitors: we drank La Rioja Alta’s Gran Reserva 904 from the fabulous 2005 vintage, a stunning wine at little over 40 Euros – for sale at £40 retail in the UK – while Dom Perignon 2004 was 150 Euros, the same as retail price back home. I started with a beef carpaccio, doused in excellent oil with a tiny hint of chilli through it, and a pile of Parmesan shavings. A few paper thin slices of roasted aubergine crisps added some crunch to the tender beef, which was of very good quality. Along with the Rioja, a fillet steak was excellent. Resting it for just a few minutes longer before serving would have been a good move, but it was cooked perfectly medium-rare, and the creamy boletus mushroom sauce was also very good. Some simple grilled peppers and a little mound of crisply-fried potato slices kept it simple and delicious. For dessert, Greek walnut cake with honey and Greek yoghurt was relatively light, and along with very good double espressos, rounded off a fine evening dining at a window table overlooking the sea and twinkling lights of Playa Blanca town in the distance. Dinner will be around 35 Euros per person without wine or service.
Playa Blanca: La Cocina de Colacho, Calle La Destiladera, Castillo de Aguila. +34 928 519 691
I last visited this upmarket restaurant near the Rubicon Marina three years ago, and whilst the experience then was marred by slow service and disorganisation, the food – an attempt to deliver contemporary haute-cuisine – was good, and I didn’t hesitate to re-book. It’s a striking and unusual space, basically two soaring glass, concrete and rusted corten steel pyramids, with Colacho cooking behind a wall of glass in one, and his wife running front of house. The wine list is modest but good, and the food fairly international in style though with several nods towards local island and Spanish ingredients. After 10 minutes sitting with zero interaction with the waiting staff, two glasses of cava were finally ordered, and came from what was clearly a long-opened bottle, flat and lifeless. I immediately decided we must request replacement pours from a fresh bottle, but after another 15 minutes with no staff within discreet hailing distance, I gave up – and they lost the chance to put an error right. First course of a ‘king prawn and leek pie’, was in fact a deliciously light tranche of a moussey terrine, with lovely flavour, studded with chunks of prawn and vivid, piquant flavour from the leeks. It was the highlight of the food on this evening. The main course ‘special’ of the day, Iberian black pig, was good but just lacking: slices of fillet were very soft and yielding, but perhaps a little too much so, missing any meaty texture, though the creamed potato and apple sauce, and the baby turnips that accompanied the dish were good. We drank a bottle of local Listan Negro from the Vulcano winery which was pretty good, and passing on desserts or coffees, settled for the bill which, after another 15 minutes and some prompting, eventally appeared at 129 Euros. It’s a bit more expensive than the few other more serious foody places around Playa Blanca, but that wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest had the timings and service, and care over pouring wines by the glass, been better. Two people out front and one in the kitchen just cannot look after 40 diners effectively, and sadly Cocina de Calacho proved that once again.
Playa Blanca: Harbour View, Rubicon Marina. +34 928 51 81 21
Who’d have thought it? Playa Blanca has a 100% genuine, contemporary, quite serious restaurant, complete with actual hipster chefs working in an open kitchen: big beards: check; tattoos: check; white tee-shirts and black aprons: check. A broad terrace or cool interior space is just set back from the main Marina drag, but on the edge of a small lagoon pool with funky fountain and lots of slowly meandering fish, so the setting is at once part of, and yet apart from, the always buzzing Marina walkways. We had intended to try the modern tapas menu, but the friendly English-speaking waiter extolled the quality of the lunchtime ‘meal deal’ and he was right: for 18 Euros per person, three small tapas starters (each), a choice of main course, dessert, mineral water and a glass of wine seemed too good to be true if the rumours of the restaurant’s quality were accurate. And they were. The tapas consisted of little brochettes of beef that had been through a spicy marinade, served with little Canarian potatoes and Mojo sauce, a salad of peppered mackrel, and sweet potato crisps with two dipping sauces – all delicious. I chose Sea bass from the three main course options, and it was terrific: the fish was heavily scored on the flesh side, coated in polenta crumb, and cooked a la tempura, so it arrived curled. hot and golden in a bowl with lots of sliced peppers and tomato and a lightly creamy and spicy sauce. It was truly superb. Dessert was light and perfect in the mid-afternoon heat, a salsa of pineapple and mango with a scoop of sorbet. We ordered a bottle of the organic ‘Habitat’ white from Torres in Catalunya at 17.50 Euros, and because we’d not taken the glass of wine in the deal, both bottles of mineral water were removed from the bill, which totalled 57 Euros before service. Tthe foodie choice at the Marina, and so good we returned for an equally enjoyable dinner.
Playa Blanca: La Casa Roja, Rubicon Marina. +34 928 51 96 44
Much touted as the poshest restaurant around the Marina, Casa Roja does look the part when you step through the door: a broad deck juts out above the luxury yachts that cram the harbour, and well spaced tables between big, comfortable basket chairs glitter with silver and crystal. It certainly feels pretty exclusive. Of the two waiting staff on duty, one was slightly over-eager to sell, offering “A glass of cava? Champagne? gin & tonic?” literally before we’d sat down, and i felt just a slight sense of tourist-trap pushiness that was unsettling. Still, we relaxed into the very pleasant surroundings and I ordered a goat’s cheese salad with a pumpkin jam to start. It was competent, if unexceptional, a slice of grilled cheese on a bitter leaf sald over a just slightly watery sweet jam. My main course was more disappointing: tempura tiger prawns and vegetables. We both ordered this, and both received identical portion-controlled plates with half a dozen pinkie-sized slices of courgette and aubergine, and precisely four prawns, the only other thing on the plate a small metal cup of soy dipping sauce. At 17 Euros the value was questionable, but whilst the tempura batter was good and well fried, the prawns had a weird, far too soft and mushy consistency with no bite or texture. My guess was that they were cooked from frozen. A major disappointment. With water and a bottle of Viura from Rueda the bill of 90 Euros was probably 15 or 20 Euros more than similar places in the touristy spots of the island. So did the lovely setting make up for sub-par quality at that price? I’d hate to write it off based on one lunchtime visit, but wouldnt be in a hurry to return when El Mano below has such a similar location, and simpler but honest food.
Playa Blanca: El Mano, Rubicon Marina. +34 606 31 50 86
A restaurant In which I’ve enjoyed lunch a few times on previous winter visits to Lanzarote over the past 10 years, and I enjoyed it again this time. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing exceptional about the food, but the Marina is lined with tapas bars, Mexican restaurants and chill-out cafes, all pretty snacky by nature, and all on the heavily trodden Marina boardwalk. The constant traffic passing by makes for good people watching, but not a relaxed atmosphere. El Mano offers a slightly more grown-up and sophisticated atmosphere, whilst still having a broad terrace right over the water with only the bobbing boats in the harbour for company. Some toasted bread with lots of tomato pulp, oil and garlic kept us entertained along with a bottle of the Enate Chardonnay from Somantano (18 Euros), before a very good tuna steak, grilled rare as requested, with salty Canarian potatoes and green veg. Tasty and well cooked, we finished with some ice creams and coffees and happily settled a bill for 70 Euros all in.
Playa Blanca: Restaurant Romantica, Avda De Papagayo 10. Tel: +34 928 517 166
This is my only review of a restaurant in the centre of the resort of Playa Blanca, where scores of restaurants ply their trade along the seafront promenade, with fading photographs of food and bored looking touts trying to entice a customer or two. Though Romantica’s entrance is on the street behind the prom, its views are just as good from a wall of picture windows one floor up that face directly onto the beach. A window table should be reserved in advance, because it’s an essential component of my recommendation – being seated further back would knock off several brownie points. The clientele seemed to be entirely made up of middle-aged golfing-set Brits, dressed up for a special occasion, as Romantica is a little more more formal and expensive than surrounding places. Try to ignore the Barbara Cartland colour scheme and totally naff ‘romantic’ theme and you will find simple, well-executed dishes like a hot crepe filled with minced and chunks of whole tiger prawn, and some cheese garlic sauce, to make for a hearty but tasty starter. I followed this with a fillet steak: a two-inch thick piece of Uruguayan beef, cooked à point as requested and served with very good Boulanger potatoes and simple steamed vegetables. The wine list is no great shakes, and my first choice was out of stock, but the substitute of a Crianza Ribera del Duero from Bodegas Portia at 20 Euros was very good. We passed on dessert, and the meal came in at 75 Euros, which was fair value. TripAdvisor is full of glowing reviews for Romantica of the ‘best meal of my life’ variety that need to be taken with a huge pinch of salt, but in the gastronomic wasteland of Playa Blanca centre, it’s a decent choice.
Playa Blanca: Deutsche Bäckerei
In an anonymous row of gift shops and cafes at one end of on the promenade in Playa Blanca (close to the harbour and ferry port), this tiny bakery and cafe sells and serves cakes, coffees, beers and ice creams. Stop by for the island’s very best croissants for breakfast, good coffee, or a slice of spicy apple strudel with ice cream or delectable baked almond and apricot cheesecake. Simple, unpretentious and a little gem. 12 Euros for coffee and cake for two.
Puerto Calera: Amura. Tel: +34 928 510 850
Puerto Calera is an upmarket resort and yachting harbour around 12 kilometres south of the airport. Based around a marina with some very smart boats, the front is festooned with cafes and restaurant, whilst one street behind teams with big name boutiques – Hugo Boss, Armani and the rest. At one end of the marina is Amura, the most upscale restaurant. It is very smart with a broad terrace set with comfy wickerwork chairs and heavily napped tables. As with previous visits, we were among just a handful of diners one weekday lunchtime, no doubt the slightly higher prices and more formal dining setting being too much for many holidaymakers. An amuse of a melon soup, chilled, was full of flavour, then I moved on to seared scallops, intrigued that they would be cooked with coconut “juice” and peanuts. Three plump scallops were perfectly cooked, nicely singed on the outside, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the coconut veloute they sat in: it has split slightly, and whilst a crumb of crushed peanut was a nice mediator between the exotic flavour and the delicate fish, overall it was not a choice I’d repeat. For my main course, sama, a local white fish, came pan-fried with lots of sliced roasted garlic, some melt-in-the-mouth waxy Canarian potatoes and a pile of pepper and courgette strips, nicely cooked in olive oil. Desserts looked too good to resist, and I succumbed to a salted chocolate fondant, with a scoop of tangy raspberry sorbet, that was very good. This restaurant has one the best wine lists on the island, with a good range of local, mainland Spanish and some international wines including big names like Vega Sicilia. We shared a bottle of the excellent Reserva de Familia Cava from Juve y Camp at 35 Euros, and with water and coffees the bill of 145 Euros seemed absolutely right for the overall quality of food and the calm, relaxing pace of the meal as we sat in the shade watching various little craft enter and leave the marina.
Macher: La Cabana, Carretera Tias-Macher, 84. Tel: + 34 650 685 662
Macher is an inland town, on the main road between Arricefe and Playa Blanca, which boasts this really very good restaurant run by English couple Debbie and Darren Spurr. Darren was a chef in London, working for Marco-Pierre White amongst others, before the couple moved to Lanzarote 10 years ago to open a restaurant of their own. The modest dining room is dominated by an open kitchen where Darren operates studiously whilst Debbie takes care of front of house. We settled in with glasses of the tasty Cava from Segura Viudas and nibbled on hot rolls. I started with a lovely dish of a twisted tower of tagliolini pasta in a little pool of a saffron, butter and delicate curry sauce – I detected a bit of vanilla too I think – studded with really big, juicy char-grilled tiger prawns. I followed this with, again, a perfectly cooked roast fillet of pork, sliced over creamy mash and served with a spiced apple and apricot chutney. There was lots of attention to detail in this dish, including an extra little moistening pool of apple sauce beneath the chutney and some nicely crisp, fresh steamed vegetables on the side. We drank a half bottle of the house wine with this, Rioja from Campo Viejo. I finished with a ‘volcano’, in fact a Lanzarote-themed chocolate fondant, and one of the best I have had with a crisply baked shell that provided a thin outer covering to a rich, gooey and melting chocolate inside, all served with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. This was a fine meal and one of the best on the island. I do have to comment on the wine list however, which is a real let down: clearly catering for an ex-pat clientele, it is around half Spanish and half from elsewhere, but neither is all that inspiring and it is a shock to see workaday big brands like Kumala from South Africa and Nottage Hill from Australia take up so much of a small list in a fine dining restaurant like this. The bill at just over 100 Euros was very acceptable for food and cooking of this quality.
El Golfo: Restaurante Bogavante, 39 Avenida Maritima. +34 928 17 35 05
El Golfo, the gulf on the western coast of Lanzarote, is a wild and dramatic place where the ocean pounds the rocky beach and surf sprays tens of metres into the air. Strung out along the shore road is an array of a dozen fish restaurants with, it always seems to me, not a huge amount to choose between them. I’d eaten in Bogavante previously and enjoyed a simple fish lunch on their terrace, a roped off area of black sand beach with magnificent views and some shelter from the sometimes fierce sun. Nibbling on bread and aioli, on this occasion we shared some deep fried cheese with a fig jam, a slightly bland but enjoyable dish, though probably not the wisest choice from a fairly extensive menu. A bottle of local Malvasia Seco from Bodegas Guiguan slipped down very easily with a dish of grilled calamari, served with salty and waxy Canarian potatoes, the only other adornement on the plate, a wedge of lemon. To be honest the fish was fairly dull, a touch chewy, and OK rather than special. My partner’s grilled tuna steak was cooked not quite as rare as requested, and was also summed up as ‘OK’. So, no great reason to recommend Bogavante above any of its neighbours, but with bottle water and coffees and a bill of 70 Euros, it wasn’t a huge price to pay for the drama and beauty of the setting, and filling if unexciting food.
El Golfo: Costa Azul. Tel: +34 928 173 132
The famous green lagoon of the village of El Golfo (nothing to do with whacking a little white ball with a stick) draws day trippers from across the island, to take in it plus the nearby salt flats and the arches and foaming sea caves of Los Hervideros. The first beachside restaurant you will come across walking from the main car parks is Costa Azul which serves only locally caught fish. Indeed down on the water’s edge two workers sat all through our meal gutting and scaling fish and delivering buckets of fresh produce up to the restaurant. We started with some garlic bread then shared the grilled fish platter of the day: five different unidentified fish, char-grilled and served simply with some lemon and salty Canarian potatoes. The fish was truly delicious, each flaking off the bone and succulently soft. Washed down with a couple of cold beers and followed by a shared cheesecake (homemade unlike most of the desserts on the menu) and coffees, the bill of 65 Euro was just fine for such fresh and wholesome fish served right on the ocean front.
If your image of Tenerife is purely that of cheap package holidays and all-day English breakfasts, then you are missing out on a dramatically beautiful island, at the centre of which lies Spain’s highest mountain and the world’s third-largest volcano, El Teide. The weather is indeed a main driver to visit, especially off-season when the temperatures in the south stay in the low 70s throughout the UK winter. But you will also find that the island boasts a burgeoning wine scene that sees winemakers on the volcanic slopes of Teide who are amongst the best, hippest and most happening in the Iberian Peninsula. Alongside those is an increasingly upmarket dining, shopping and hotel scene. Last updated February 2015.
Los Abrigos: Restaurant Los Roques, Calle La Marina 16. Tel +34 922 749 401
The small fishing village of Los Abrigos may now be firmly on the tourist map with its string of harbour-front restaurants, but it is still a million miles away from the bustle and more downmarket clamour of the island’s largest resorts. Los Roques had come highly recommended, so we reserved for a Saturday lunch, requesting a table on the narrow terrace, though the dining room is all open to views of the harbour and the sea. I have to say the food here was exceptionally good, and whilst a menu that mixes Asian, Spanish and modern European cuisine might normally ring alarm bells, every course we ordered was excellent. I kicked off with a Tod mun goon, a Thai dish of prawn balls, served with a pickled salad (a sweet and sour tagliatelle of carrot and cucumber) with a few little dots of a spicy chilli sauce. It was very nicely done, the little fishcakes made with corn flour perhaps, but delicately flavoured and spiced. For my main course I chose Fillet of Lubina (Sea Bass), which was beautifully pan-fried, skin doused in olive oil and herbs and fried crisp, served with an island speciality, ‘papas arrugadas’, which are little waxy potatoes baked until wrinkly and dusted with salt, a really good herb salad and bowl of delicious home-made alioli. It was a dish packed with flavour, yet light and a perfect lunchtime portion. That left room for dessert, and although there is a whole variety of tempting home-made ice creams available, I could not resist individual baked cheesecakes, topped with a forest fruit compote and served with a dash of Chantilly cream. Along with a very good and strong Americano, it rounded off a great lunch. The wine list is one side of A4, and I really liked the way it had been put together with care: this is a relatively upmarket place (though very casual) so Cristal is there, and some top Burgundy and Bordeaux, but also a keen selection of island wines which owner Peter Borg explained in knowledgeable detail. The delightful white Marmajuelo from Bodegas Viñátigo was the perfect choice with this food at 23 Euros. Total bill for two came to just under 100 Euros – expensive by island standards, but a seriously class act and worth every penny.
Valle San Lorenzo: Era Las Mozas, Calle La Cabezada 26. Tel +34 922 765 597.
Valle San Lorenzo is a busy and bustling little hill town high above the resorts of Las Americas and Los Cristianos, about 10 to 15 minutes by car. Era Las Mozas is a large restaurant, rather tucked away at the end of a side street that seems to wind on forever (perhaps ask a local if you get lost), but the journey is worth it for authentic, plentiful food centred around superb meats cooked in a wood-fired barbecue oven. We’d been warned that portions were epic, so along with the bread and alioli we shared one of the house special starters: a local sheep cheese, a bit like halloumi, grilled and served with a blueberry compote. It was delicious I must say, the charred surface of the cheese revealing a softer centre, and the sweet blueberry a lovely counterpoint. Six big portions was indeed more than enough for two. Suitably alerted, we decided to share a main course too and went for the fillet of beef, cooked medium. The hunk of meat that arrived was enormous, glistening with a secret marinade and wonderfully cooked: it yielded immediately under the knife, and these two hungry gastronauts could not finish it between them. Along with it we ordered a portion of chips and of papas arrugadas, and a mixed salad. All were competent, if unexciting. We washed the whole lot down with a bottle of the tasty and dirt cheap Viña Norte Tinto from the island, at just 9 Euros, and left, mooing contentedly, with a bill for 36 Euros all in.
La Camella: El Asador de la Finca, Carretera General 16. Tel: +33 922 721 538
La Camella is a very pretty and eminentaly likeable small hill town in the hills above Las Americas and Los Cristianos, only about 3 kilometres from Valle San Lorenzo. This new restaurant is slightly alien to the town I suspect: tucked behind the town’s petrol station it is a large, chic and stylish place that would not be out of place in downtown Barcelona or New York. It features a large barbecue grill in the semi-open kitchen, and apart form a small selection of seafood, majors on prime meats: Iberico pork in all its manifestations, and superb beef including local and wagyu beef from Japan. It was fairly quiet on our Monday evening visit, and the lone waiter was absolutely charming but slightly overworked serving the 3 tables that were in whilst also doing drinks, coffees, carving ham and generally running the show. We shared some Iberico and local cheese croquettes and a portion of wagyu morcilla to start with. The croquettes were OK, if a bit bland, but the morcilla – a delicate spicy black pudding – was delicious. Did the wagyu taste better than the regular alternative also listed at 2 Euros less? Hard to say but it was very good. I couldn’t resist the fillet of beef, topped with a slice of foie gras and served with a sweet Oloroso sherry reduction. The beef was charred to a wonderfully tasty cinder on the outside, but yielded with zero resistance to the knife, and was just packed with juicy flavour. The sauce and the flash-cooked foie were excellent, as were the accompanying chips. No room for dessert, but with espressos, a bottle of red and water, the bill of 76 Euros seemed very reasonable for high quality food in stylish surroundings. The wine list is not too extensive, and it was disappointing that the first bottle I ordered was out of stock in such a new place with such a short list, but there is plenty of choice at modest prices.
La Camella: El Lajar de Bello, Carretera General 103. Tel: +33 922 720 382
La Camella is twice blessed, for at the opposite end of the village from El Asador de la Finca is another very good restaurant, which delivers a similar quality of food, though in very different surroundings. Smart and upmarket, yet ultra-traditional with its tiled floors, wooden ceilings and solid Spanish wooden furniture, the first thing I noticed when sitting down was the live TV feed from the kitchen, a gleaming showcase of stainless steel where one chef in whites assisted by 3 commis in black worked quickly and studiously. The second thing I noticed was what a bargain the wine list is: every bottle on an extensive list is offered at retail price, plus 6 Euros corkage. A second bottle is 5 Euros corkage. The mood was right for another bottle of the lovely Marmajuelo from Bodegas Viñátigo, which had been 23 Euros in Los Roques a couple of days before, and here was 7.50 Euros, plus that 6 Euro corkage. Local cheese and Alioli is served with very good breads, and we shared a really delicious starter: meltingly seared foie gras on toast, topped with a slice of Iberico ham. Heavenly and inexpensive. I then choose ‘Secreto’ of Iberico pork: this ‘secret cut’ is meant to be a butcher’s favourite cut of the pig, in this case from the loin, but marbled with fat and deliciously tasty it was too, served with a tomato salad and some very good hand cut chips. With a good dessert made in house – a ‘three milk pudding’ that was a soft sponge topped with layers of creamy sauce, and coffees and water the bill totted up to 72 Euros.
Los Cristianos: Antica Pizzeria Del Porto. Paseo Maritimo. Tel +33 822 667 807
Let me say up front that Los Cristianos is not my sort of place. I last visited 25 years ago when it was a small town, just beginning to make a play for the tourist trade with one eye on its giant resort neighbour, Las Americas, next door. In 2015 I found it pretty much cheap and tacky, a bit run down, and with very little appeal. However, it was lunch time and we were there, so dodging between the restaurant touts and somehow resisting the lure of the belly-buster breakfast and all you can eat Indian buffet for 2 at 6.99 Euros, happened across this tiny café tucked back from the promenade close to the port, with its daily blackboard special of beef tortellini with a wild mushroom sauce. And pretty decent it was too, served with garlic bread and a half litre pitcher of house wine, for a total of 22.50 Euros for two. Not a destination restaurant by any stretch of the imagination, but handy to know about.
Los Cristianos: Restaurant El Cine, Calle Juan Bariajo 8. Tel +33 609 107 758
Ok, ok: having said what I did about Los Cristianos, our villa was high in the hills of La Florida, 15 minutes above the town, and at 8pm on a Sunday evening with nothing else planned, we found all the local places closed and a couple of nearby places we also wanted to try similarly locked up for the night. So back down to Los Cristianos is was, heading for El Cine. Touted as an ‘insider’s secret’ – tucked up a lane where tourists never venture and near impossible to find – it promised a no frills Canarian experience of fresh fish. The number of google references to it suggested it wasn’t really so secret, and indeed it was pretty easy to find (look out for the Subway sandwich shop and it is down a lane to its left). All the ingredients looked set for a great experience: the place was packed, there was a busy open kitchen, and the menu was as limited to just half a dozen different fish and seafood options, one chicken dish, potatoes and salad. The truth is, that it was no better than average really. I asked for the mackerel which was not available, so went for hake instead. Although the accompanying potatoes and salad were good, the fish itself was cooked from frozen I’m pretty sure. With a bottle of the house white wine (there is no list, just a choice of white or red) and water it was cheap at 37 Euros, and again – within the context of Los Cristianos’ lack of culinary appeal – a useful address to know. But for a genuine fresh fish experience head to Playa Tajao up the coast instead.
Tajao: Restaurant Playa Tajao, Callao Hondo. Tel:+33 922 164 004
Playa Tajao is the real fishy deal. A tiny fishing village with an active fleet of small craft, it is 20 kilometres or so north of the southern airport. There are a handful of fish restaurants, but this one had come recommended and I have to say it was first class. Packed with Spanish speaking guests at lunchtime, there’s a nicely chaotic start to your meal as before being seated you must go to the fish counter (which is also selling retail to a queue of customers) and select what you want to eat from the glittering array of ultra-fresh whole fish and seafood on ice, which will be weighed and is how your bill will be calculated. Asking what was local (most of it) we settled on calamari and asked for a recommendation for a local fish. What we got was, our waiter explained, called Abadejo – better known to us as cod, so not so exotic, but excellent eating for sure. You can specify how you want each cooked, but looking into the gleaming open kitchen where a band of no nonsense middle-aged ladies was cooking up a veritable storm with such aplomb, we left it to them. The calamaris came lightly battered and deep fried, the cod doused in lemon and herbs and char-grilled. Both were sensationally good, as were the potatoes and copious plate of salad we ordered with them. I tried to use my faltering Spanish to order a half bottle of white wine like a table opposite, as it looked interesting, but instead a half litre of the house wine arrived in a jug – obviously a rustic but actually quite interesting white, a bit oxidised and ‘natural’, but really very good. With espressos, the bill came out at 37 Euros – exceptional value for this.
La Caleta: Rosso Sur Mare, Avenida Las Gaviotas 4. Tel: +33 922 782 374
La Caleta is a small bay, very upmarket, just beside the big hotels of Adeje, with a short seafront prom lined with restaurants. One of the first you will come to at the western end is Rosso Sur Mare, an italiante/Mediterrannean place with a big terrace, chilled out music playing, smart young uniformed waiters and a mix of cocktail bar and restaurant tables. The food here was good rather than great, a tiny bit of style over substance perhaps, but having said that I enjoyed what I had and on a sunny lunch time it was a wonderful place to sit in the shade with a decent lunch and bottle of wine (the delicious Blanco from Viñátigo at 19 Euros) people and boat watching for a while. A Caprese salad was pretty enormous with a pile of tomatoes and a whole mozzarella broken on top, although the baby tomatoes in the mix were sweet and tasty, the large chunks of beefsteak tomato were rather tasteless. For mains I ordered seabass, which came in a slightly incongruous thick tomato and garlic sauce, that would have been more appropriate with a pasta I think, though the fish drowned beneath it was well cooked, if slightly overpowered. Sharing a tiramisu, and with coffees and bottled water, the whole bill came to 88 Euros. Expensive for the quality perhaps, but a lovely spot for a lazy lunch on a hot Tenerife day.
La Orotava: Restaurant Lucas Maes, Barranco de la Arena 53. Tel: +33 922 321 159
A few people had told me that this was one of the best kitchen’s on the island, so we turned up for lunch with great anticipation and immediately settled on the a la carte menu, though a set four course lunch at 29 Euros and tasting menu at 40 Euros is offered. Some very good breads appeared, and soon after a little amuse of a bowl of a delicate watercress soup, that was fresh and very gently spiced with Asian flavours. To begin I ordered the chanterelle and truffle risotto, which I must say was superb. I’m not normally a fan of truffle oil, but here it combined really well with a creamy and deeply flavoured risotto, presumably made using the mushroom stock, and together the dish really was packed with flavour. Moving on, I chose the confit rabbit, which came slow braised on the bone and which was another triumphantly flavourful dish: the white meat fell apart under the threat of a fork, and sat on a bed of potato and celeriac mash with a rich jus. For dessert, a version of a chocolate soufflé pudding, oozing not chocolate but buttery caramel also came with a scoop of delicious home made icecream, a gentle verbena touch to it I think, and was decadent and delicious. We drank water, a bottle of the very good Baboso Negro from Viñátigo (24 Euros) and finished with coffees. With the bill came two little white chocolate icecream lollipops, which made a total of a very reasonale 119 Euros all the sweeter. A great meal this, my only complaint being that the restaurant was rather chilly in one of the north’s gloomier, misty lunchtime days.
For some years now the Spanish island of Majorca (Mallorca) has been quietly but steadily upping its game to offer more and more fine dining opportunities to globetrotting foodies. There’s a whole world of modern travellers out there with an expectation of high-end wine, dining and hotels, and the disposable income to enjoy them. Majorca, which has always been Iberia’s most sophisticated island destination, now attracts them in droves. Wallpaper magazine’s guide to Palma de Majorca is crammed with page after page of chic addresses. A little bit of the mainland’s explosive and exciting dining scene has transferred here. Majorca now boasts five restaurants with Michelin stars but in truth there are dozens and dozens of opportunities on the island to enjoy refined, inventive and modern cuisine. I spent a week getting to know the food scene, basing myself in the Port of Soller on the island’s peaceful and dramatically beautiful northwest coast, but exploring fine dining options across the island, from the very grown-up and bustling capital, Palma, in the southwest, to the resort area of Pollença in the northeast. I drank mostly local wines and found them to be of a surprisingly high standard. The Majorcan DOC of Binassalem produces white, rosé and red, and there are exciting producers pushing the boundaries with both local and international varieties. With the Majorcan cuisine, which often revolves around fish, seafood, Iberian pork and rice (Paella), the rosadas seemed, more often than not, to be the perfect match.
Porto de Soller: Restaurant S’Atic, Hotel Los Geranios, Paseo de la Playa 15. Tel: +34 971 638 113
The lift of this small hotel will whisk you to the fourth floor and a cool, chic, modern space occupied by S’Atic, the independent restaurant run by Spanish-American couple(chef Oscar Garcia Torrenteis, whose training included a stint at Arzak, and Anna Byer from Chicago who runs front of house). There’s a small outdoor terrace with spectacular views over Soller bay and its lighthouse. This is very refined, modern cuisine that balances traditional Catalan ingredients and flavours with a nod to molecular gastronomy. We chose the tasting menu at an absolute bargain €35 per person for six courses, preceded by an appetising cup of watermelon gazpacho. First course proper was a stunner: marinated Iberian pork that had been slow cooked to succulent, intensely flavoured perfection, served with a salty, savoury parmesan ice cream. Mallorcan prawns and vegetables came next, deep fried in light, crisp breadcrumb and served with dipping sauce flavoured with sesame oil and soy. The pasta on the next course, beef ravioli, was almost transparent, with ground, lightly spice beef and a carbonara sauce. The main course was sensational too: a fish Anna told us was called ‘negrette’ (though I can find no reference or translation for that) and which they had bought from a local boat that day – all 17 kilos of it. Now it was being served as a delectable, just opaque little tranches of firm, flaky flesh in a burnt butter sauce with a kick of lemon, and creamy cauliflower purÃƒ©e. The main course was Spring chicken in a rich red wine reduction, a conventional and tasty dish, enriched with mushroom and shallot. A glass of PX was perfect with a good, if unremarkable dessert: dark chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream. Along with a couple of glasses of CAVA, a bottle of slightly too oaky (for me) Chardonnay from the local Binigrau winery and coffees, there was change from €150 for a terrific meal and evening. Fantastic value this.
Soller/Deia: Restaurant Bens D’Aval, 07100 Soller. Tel: +34 971 63 23 81
Locating and getting to Bens D’Aval is a challenge, but believe me, it will be worth it. Take the Ma10 road between Soller and Deia that twists through the mountains, and around half way, look out for Bens D’Aval’s sign. Follow their single-track road for four kilometres to get there. The restaurant sits high on a cliff with extraordinary panoramas from its broad terrace or elegant dining room, and chef Benet Vicens prepares exquisitely good food based on the island’s ingredients. He is carrying on, but completely modernising, a tradition started by his father in 1971. We chose the seven-course tasting menu at a modest €59 for this quality of food: this meal was a highlight of my week in Majorca. The amuse bouche was a highly unusual squid ink cappuccino: a pitch black squid stew served in a little glass, topped with a half-inch thick salty and creamy topping and accompanied by a parmesan biscuit. The squid itself was delicious, but on the whole this is the one dish I wouldn’t rush to eat again – a warm ‘squid soup’ in a glass is slightly too weird, even for an adventurous eater like me. But from then on this meal was faultlessly conceived and executed and was a tour de force of modern, ingredient-led cuisine. A lobster salad, rich in succulent white meat, was ringed by a tangy, sweet and sharp cherry tomato gazpacho, with little cuttlefish gnocchi and a scoop of wonderful parmesan sorbet that added a terrifically creamy yet deep flavour. Caramelised foie gras came next, the top brûlléed to a crisp candy, served with a wondrous spiced brioche that had the texture of a Nimbus cloud, as well as beautifully soft fresh figs. Course three was an exquisitely creamy and dense, perfectly roasted little fillet of John Dory, served simply on a tower of Majorcan vegetable mire-pois with a lobster sauce. Meat came next, in the shape of a succulent fillet of organic veal, with croquettes of onion confit and a waxy potato, rocket and dried tomato parmentier. This nicely paced meal concluded with an almond gateau served with a cinnamon and strawberry sorbet and tangy lemon cream before coffee and petit-fours: watermelon ice and chocolate cakes. We drank a couple of glasses of CAVA and a bottle of superb rosado from the island’s Ribas winery, and the bill came in just under €200 for two.
Deia: Es Raco des Teix:, Calla Sa Vinya Vella 6. Tel: +34 971 63 95 01
Though there is much to commend about this well-established, Michelin-starred restaurant in the seriously exclusive mountain enclave of Deia, it was also the one disappointing experience of my gastronomic week. First the superlatives, which sadly are centred on just one dish and the absolutely breathtaking setting of this restaurant – dining on the terrace is essential. Sited at the base of the Teix mountain, a higgledy-piggledy patchwork of ancient houses, gardens and soaring dry-stone walls defy gravity as they climb the hillside above you. The terrace is a fabulous spot, and as we settled in with a glass of fine rosada CAVA from Raventos i Blanc and nibbled on little appetisers of quiche Lorraine, pumpkin curry soup and smoked mackerel, it was a day full of promise. Indeed, my first course (right) was exquisite: foie gras parfait with sweet wine jelly, a clever and crunchy little raw salad of mange tout and physalis and a ballotine of foie and meaty quail breast. The textures and flavours of these varied components were wonderful. The arrival of this first course had been slow – we sat down just after 2:00pm and it appeared at 3:00, but as we’d had the view, the CAVA and the nibbles to entertain us, that was no great problem. However, as we watched the sun move across the mountain, 4:00 o’clock notched up with no sign of the next course. Even this view began to pale. Finally at 4:20 our next course finally appeared, without a word of apology or explanation. It was good – saddle of lamb crusted with herbs and breadcrumbs and served with confit fennel, a little tomato stew and herby mashed potato. But at €75 for two for this one course alone it should have been better. There was another sizeable delay before a forgettable peach tarte tatin with banana ice cream, and then coffee was served with petit fours – which arrived five minutes after we’d drained our cups. With a 50cl bottle of excellent Ribera del Duero from Lagaris and water, we paid the €220 bill at almost 6:30pm, thankful that we hadn’t booked anywhere for dinner. Diea is full of millionaire’s hideaways and boasts two of the island’s most expensive and exclusive hotels. Maybe I was just unlucky on the day, but I’m afraid it was the one experience on this holiday island that felt a bit like an upmarket tourist trap.
Porto de Soller: Hotel Esplendido Bistro, Es Través 5. Tel: + 34 971 63 18 50
This boutique-style hotel has a wonderful position on the bay and the dining room, serving modern Spanish-European food, offers a funky, white-tiled indoor space with booths running down one wall opposite the open kitchen, or a terrace looking out to sea. The short menu and wine list are nicely put together and moderately priced. We drank a couple of excellent Bellinis made with fresh white peach (€7.50 each) and a bottle of the local Chardonnay-Prensal blend, Nounant, from the Binigrau estate which was simple but delicious. My starter of a carpaccio of zucchini with walnuts, bitter leaves and a tomato concasse was packed with flavour and slightly spicy, but really fresh and appetising. For my main course I chose turbot, served with sautéed orange and peppers. The fish came as one inch-wide tranche of white meat fillet, and a rather larger portion of what seemed like skate wing, but which might well have been from the turbot. Whilst pleasant enough in its very soft, almost gelatinous way, it wasn’t quite the meaty turbot experience I’d been hoping for. The Bistro offers a nice dessert option of small dessert portions at just €3.50 each, or more substantial puds at around €7 – 9. I choose two small deserts – a very good crème brûllée and a less successful take on apple crumble; the topping was nutty and crunchy, but beneath it was too much like a baby-food apple sauce, without enough tang or texture. All in all, a good meal this with a few minor quibbles, but at €100 all in, including good coffees, worth a try – in fact we did, eating there again on a second occasion where tournedos steaks were excellent.
Porto de Soller: Restaurant Randemar, Es Través 16. Tel +34 971 63 45 78
The picturesque and fairly upmarket small resort of Porto de Soller has its fair share of touristy restaurants with their faded photographs of food trying to lure the unsuspecting (photographs of food is the numero uno danger sign when trying to decide on where to eat – it might as well be a poison symbol). This restaurant definitely sets a slightly more sophisticated tone with its white linen tablecloths and position inside a walled garden off of the beach-front road. A lunch here was pretty good and honest, with some olives, bread and aioli to start with, a half bottle of Albariño, two main courses and water and coffees coming in under €50. My lobster and crab-filled ravioli with a saffron sauce was well cooked and tasty, if small (four digestive biscuit-sized pastas) and my partner’s goat’s cheese salad was good, despite a slightly odd strawberry-flavoured dressing. Pleasantly far from the madding crowd, even if the food is good rather than great.
Palma de Majorca: Simply Fosh, Carrer de la Missió 7A. Tel: +34 971 720 114
British chef Marc Fosh is one of the leading lights of the Majorcan culinary scene, his Michelin starred restaurant within Read’s hotel reputedly one of the best on the island. Sadly it is only open in the evenings and at the time of my visit, was also closed Sundays and Mondays, meaning I could not fit it into my schedule. His recently opened bistro within the über-chic Convent de la Missió hotel in Palma’s old town turned out to be a wonderful alternative however, and on my lunch time visit Fosh was behind the stoves and keeping a watchful eye on proceedings. There’s an absolute stand-out bargain set lunch on offer each day, which changes every two weeks, for only €18.50. We decided to eat a la carte however, from a menu featuring around eight choices at each course. The wine list is presented nicely too, each page featuring a dozen or so wines all at the same price, starting with an €18.50 selection, and running up to around €40, with a small selection of special wines at the back (including Flor de Pingus and Vega-Sicilia’s Valbuena for example). We chose a lovely, unoaked white that blended Chardonnay and Prensal from Mollet, from the page of €26.50 wines. Bread, warm from the oven, was served with local olive oil, sea salt and a lightly curried Sri Lankan salt. For my first course I chose cod, which had been roasted under a pesto crust and which was served ringed by little cubes of verjus jelly (verjus is a condiment made from unripe grapes) and bitter leaves, the waiter then poured in a jug of the most delicate white almond soup, to form an exquisite dish. I stuck with fish for my main course, this time hake, with a totally contrasting treatment: it was served with a rich, thick spoonable sauce of Mediterranean Quinoa and tomato, in a saffron and clam broth, with little heaps of still crunchy pak choy. This was a fabulously flavoursome dish. Dessert (left) was a subtle triumph too: chocolate and olive oil truffles (two small quenelles of impossibly rich flavour and texture), sprinkled with flor de sel which crackled across the palate, and cubes of raspberry and red pepper jelly. Sensational. The bill, with a couple of glasses of CAVA to start and coffees to finish, came in under €120. Fosh’s brilliant concept of delivering high-end cooking served in stripped down form, at moderate prices in an informal setting, works wonderfully thanks to the faultless execution. What a nice way to set yourself up for a lazy afternoon strolling down the Ramblas or indulging in some of Palma’s shopping or cultural opportunities.
Palma de Majorca, Portal Nous: Lollo Rosso, Puerto Portales 40, Calvia. Tel: +34 971 67 51 86
Towards the end of a week of gourmet dining, with a succession of seven-course tasting menus and Michelin stars under my belt, I found myself amongst the seriously rich and famous Portal Nous crowd one lunch-time, admiring the €10 million yachts, Ferraris and Bentleys, when a thunderstorm had me diving for cover and an early lunch. Thankfully perhaps, Majorca’s most upmarket dining room, the two-starred Tristan, opens only in the evening, so we opted for a bit of light relief in the shape of this friendly and functional little pizzeria just a few doors down, and with the same views of the super-yachts from the terrace. The pizzas were tasty and fresh, the beer cold, and the spot perfect for an informal and relatively inexpensive lunch (€43 for two including coffees and water). A fine antidote to a week of gourmandising round the island.
Port d’Andraxt: Restaurant Roma, Avd. Almirante Alemany 25. Tel: +34 971 67 47 45
The picturesque harbour of Port d’Andraxt is lined with restaurants, most with terraces right on the sea front. I’d been tipped off that Roma was one of the better choices, and indeed on a slightly off-season lunchtime it was choc-a-bloc whilst others around it where almost empty. We bagged a fine table by the water’s edge and enjoyed really good, simple food using excellent ingredients served by friendly and efficient staff. A carpaccio of salmon was served with a little frisee salad and a lemon and balsamic dressing and was fresh and appetising. People around me had some fine looking fish and seafood, including whole fish baked in a salt crust and the Paella which was extremely popular, but I opted for a simple dish of ravioli filled with sage, rocket and cheese, which was delicious, drizzled with olive oil and chunks of fresh tomato. Another carpaccio to finish – this time of pineapple with a scoop of coconut ice-cream – and the bill for two, including glasses of decent house wine, water and coffee, came to €75. A wonderful way to while away a couple of hours with the sights and sounds of the harbour as a backdrop.
Sa Coma: Es Moliâ den Bou, Calle Liles. Tel: +34 971 56 96 63
Majorcan Chef Tomeu Caldentey has held his Michelin star since 2004, though his restaurant relocated here, to the hotel Protur Sa Coma Playa, only in May 2009. It’s a slightly odd place – the hotel part of a whole purpose-built complex that takes a little navigating, but once inside it is a beautiful, chic and modern dining room that would grace the most fashionable quarters of London or New York, done in soft, oatmeal tones. Along with Bens D’Aval and Simply Fosh, this was undoubtedly the gastronomic peak of my visit to Majorca. It was also a bit of a bargain. Though we opted for one of the more expensive tasting menus at €58 per person, it is possible to have lunch here for €28 including wine. Indeed, I was delighted that I had decided to add a wine matching flight to our meal, as it included healthy servings of three very good wines, for just an extra €10 per person: an absolute steal. There were also so many little appetisers and pre- courses that it was hard to keep track. To start with little madeleines of olive and cinnamon, a chilled melon soup with mint and a mousse of foie gras with chocolate and crispy, deep fried niblets of corn – all of them delicious. First course proper was a cannelloni of duck and pork, served with mushrooms in a creamy sauce. This was a quite rustic but deeply lovely dish, the earthy flavours of the meat and soft pasta, a little bite to the mushrooms and a sweet edge to the butter-rich sauce. Roast hake with an orange and carrot cream and sweet orange reduction was brilliant, the fish cooked to flaking, alabaster perfection. For my main I chose Iberian pig with coconut and lime sauce, as opposed to the lamb alternative. I was very glad I did, the succulent, juicy meat served on a mound of very fine noodles that had soaked up the cooking juices, and topped with fresh, brilliant flavoured pea shoots. A complimentary cheese course was unusual and inventive, a goat’s cheese ice cream with candied fig and grapes and white truffle foam. Pre-dessert of vanilla ice cream with spices was delightful, before a tasty, textural dish of curd cheese with fresh strawberry sorbet, marinated strawberries and foam and crunchy almond biscuit (right). Throughout the course of the meal was served a fine Verdejo from Rueda, a rich Ribera del Duero (though we were offered a Mallorcan alternative too) and a delicate, sweet Moscatel from Valencia. This with a couple of glasses of excellent CAVA and coffee served with a fabulous array of petit fours including caramel cream, mint cream and various chocolate creations, came to €167. A stunning bargain for this quality, service and all-round experience.
Port de Pollenca: Illa d’Or, Paseo Colan 265. Tel: +34 971 86 51 00
Looking for a lunch spot in this popular beach resort in the island’s northeast corner, I forgot that someone had recommended a place called Iru, and instead headed away from the crowded cafes and bars of the main beach, round the pine walk, to one of the resort’s posher hotels and its open-air terrace that sits right on the water’s edge. A functional, tasty lunch here was made special by the setting and some pretty good, if middle-of-the-road food. My chicken and mushroom risotto was tasty enough and the rice well cooked, whilst the recommended almond cake with strawberry ice cream was a touch dry. With water, coffees and a half bottle of Torres’ Viña Sol, a €50 bill was decent value.
The Michelin starred addresses
Es Moli den Bou, Sa Coma. Tel: +34 971 56 96 63
Chef Tomeu Caldentey Soler
Es Raco des Teix, Deiâ . Tel: +34 971 63 95 01
Chef Joseph Sauerschell
Plat d’Or at Arabella Golf Hotel, Son Vida. Tel: +34 971 787 100
Chef Rafael Sanchez
Bacchus at Read’s Hotel, Santa Maria. Tel: +34 971 140 261
Chef Marc Fosh