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Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

I feel like I’ve been watching back to back movies in some dingy cinema for weeks and have finally emerged, blinking into the sunlight.
I’m not complaining (okay, that’s clearly a lie) but I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to meet my Simonseeks deadlines for their Tenerife pages that I’ve neglected everything else, including this blog, Twitter, Facebook, hiking, cooking and most importantly of all – R and R.

So when Jack’s sister and her boyfriend arrived on Tenerife for a two week holiday which coincided with hitting the second of three arduous deadlines, it was time to cut loose and take a break.

We’ve been hearing great things about a band called Traveller who regularly play Friday nights at the Tajinaste restaurant outside Los Gigantes so I figured I’d kill three birds with one stone – see Traveller, eat at the Tajinaste restaurant which I could then review for Simonseeks and have a good night out with Rhonda and Graeme.

But with typical bad timing, the day before we were due to see them, I got a mailshot from  Traveller to say that the new management of Tajinaste were closing for refurbishment…no band to watch, no restaurant to review and a disappointment for our night out in the west.
Except that it wasn’t really. Sure it would have been great to see a good live band but not seeing one didn’t spoil our night.
We headed into the resort to eat at Domingos and then to the Pilgrim for a few drinks. Domingos was pretty much full but it’s fair to say that the rest of the resort was very quiet. It was a great night and we enjoyed ourselves but to be honest, there was really not very much there in the way of bars and if I was on holiday in the resort, I guess I’d be heading elsewhere for my Friday night out.

Playa de la Arena

Most bar owners blame the lack of after-dark customers in Playa de la Arena on the proliferation of all-inclusive hotels in the resort but a few nights later Rhonda and Graeme were in Route 66 in Puerto Santiago where, with the usual full house, they watched the excellent Old Dogs New Tricks. One of the things that they noticed was the number of people in the audience wearing tell tale all-inclusive wrist bands.
It seems that if you give them a good enough reason, people will give up their free beer and bring you their custom. If you don’t, they won’t.

Fast forward to last Saturday night when Rhonda and Graeme came over to Puerto de la Cruz for a change of scene.
After spending the afternoon testing tapas we headed back into town around 8.30 pm and arrived in a packed Plaza Charco where every seat around the red hot braziers was taken. We had to sit on the harbour wall to eat our roasted chestnuts hors-d’oevre and drink our vino del país aperitif.  There was no entertainment, no live band or cabaret – just the old fishing town, the chestnuts, the wine and that old Puerto charm.

Blanco Bar

After eating we headed into Blanco Bar where some tables in the courtyards were still vacant and we tried a new instant favourite cocktail – Bailey’s Colada – courtesy of the bar staff, before relocating to the downstairs bar to see a local band. We watched and listened for a while before moving on to Limbo where we arrived at the upstairs bar to find that even standing room was limited. It was packed to beyond capacity.
A couple of rounds of beer and much gawping (mainly from me) at the group of young seven footer basketball players who were standing at the bar like Aragorns amongst the hobbits of the Shire, it was on to the next venue.

Courtyard entrance to Limbo

No Saturday night out in Puerto is complete without a visit to Azucar, the town’s liveliest Cuban bar and despite its temporary relocation to the ground floor while the former gentleman’s club upstairs is refurbished, it was good to see the place still packed to the rafters with people of all ages and a range of nationalities.

Suan Chill

After the madness and salsa of Azucar it was time to chill out so around 2 am, just as the town was beginning to reach its Saturday night zenith, we headed for Suan Chill where  we settled in amongst the sequined cushions and relaxed until fatigue got the better of us at around 3.20am and we headed for a taxi home.

The contrast between our two nights out couldn’t have been more marked, as indeed is the contrast between the two areas.
Happily, despite the move to all-inclusive by many of its hotels, Puerto has a thriving local population who don’t rely on bars laying on good entertainment to get them out into the town at night.  I really like Playa de la Arena and think it’s a lovely family resort but if you want night life, it’s not going to deliver the goods, or at least, not until the bar owners stop bitching about all-inclusive and start giving holidaymakers something other than sports coverage and Karaoke to leave their hotels for.

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Tenerife is an island that attracts over 6 million visitors a year, many of whom believe they know it like the back of their hands and few of whom know it at all.”
Going Native in Tenerife

The Tenerife we knew long before we set foot here

Long before we ever set foot on Tenerife we knew exactly what it was like – that’s why we’d never set foot on it.
Persuaded by a good friend to give it a chance, we spent some time in Los Cristianos, Playa de San Juan, Playa Santiago and Los Gigantes, before finally heading to Puerto de la Cruz and finding a different island; one we’d held no preconceived ideas about and so saw with new eyes. We liked it so much we stayed.
We didn’t bother looking at the east coast at all; “Lancashire Hill in the sun” our friend had said, so we gave it as wide a berth as we’d always given Lancashire Hill.
And we didn’t bother looking at Playa de Las Américas; we didn’t need to, we knew what was there. Cheap shops selling tourist souvenir tat; all day British breakfast cafes, €1 a pint Brit bars showing Sky Sports coverage and the Soaps followed by Robbie Williams tribute acts. Our idea of Hell.

Puerto de la Cruz - a different Tenerife

When friends and family asked where we were living, we went to great pains to explain to them that we lived in the North of the island – as far away from Playa de Las Américas as it was possible to get. We spent countless Internet hours on the Tenerife forum of TripAdvisor correcting other peoples’ preconceived ideas about the north, explaining that, despite being Spain’s highest mountain, Mount Teide wasn’t actually high enough to block out the sun – a popular misconception – and that the town did not consist entirely of octogenarian Brits and their Zimmer frames but in fact had a large, young and lively resident population.

We began writing and photographing for a popular Tenerife lifestyle magazine which involved exploring in depth every town, village and hamlet across the island, uncovering hidden gems in the most unlikely places. We discovered that, apart from one small area of ugly high rise buildings, much of the east coast contained delightful hidden coves, secret hamlets and hill towns where life went on in much the same way as it had done for centuries. We found cave restaurants; emblematic bridges, forgotten roads and empty beaches.

Lancashire Hill never looked like this!

We wrote our first guide book, giving detailed driving routes to encourage other people to discover a Tenerife that was a million miles away from their misconceptions.
And when it came time to place our book in retailers across the island, we knew we’d have to put it in and around Playa de Las Américas if we were to reach our target audience, so we began to explore the streets and coast of the south from La Caleta to Los Cristianos.

The Playa de Las Américas we didn't know

At La Caleta we discovered a small fishing village with lovely seafood restaurants; in Playa Del Duque we stumbled upon golden sandy coves with azure waters lapping the shore, fine restaurants and designer shops; and in Playa de Las Américas we uncovered a vibrant, modern, chic resort with a palm tree lined promenade, wide avenues, stylish bars and restaurants and a pulsating nightlife.

From north to south and east to west, there are many different Tenerifes – how well do you think you know them?

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Puerto at Christmas - pretty as a picture

I think it’s fair to say that our first couple of Christmases on Tenerife were not quite what I’d hoped they’d be.

The first year we’d only been here for a couple of months when Jack’s family descended on us en masse – bless them. Not wanting Jack and I to be lonely on our first Christmas in a foreign land, mum, sister and brother-in-law and their two teenage sons and Aunty Barbara all arrived four days before Christmas to stay with us in our rented house.

All was going swimmingly and remarkably well considering 8 of us were sharing 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom until we went to Loro Parque the day before Christmas Eve. It was raining and we were all dressed like yellow parakeets in our Loro Parque rain capes. We were flying (ouch) to get to the parrot show before it started when Aunty Barbara slipped on the wet tiles and broke her wrist in three places.
Pins were inserted into Barbara’s arm on Christmas Eve, party frocks stayed in the suitcases and the mood was sombre.

The following year we had our friend Jo coming to stay with us and decided to make up for the year before.
Dressed to the nines, we jumped on the bus and got off at Poco Loco, a Mexican restaurant that we’d long wanted to try and had settled on for our Christmas Eve dinner. Walking down the dirt road leading to the restaurant we thought the lighting was a little subdued and got to the door to find that they were closed. We were gutted…and hungry.

Plan B kicked into operation and we walked down to town to peruse other menus. The next 40 minutes or so was a nightmare as restaurant after restaurant was closed or just closing its doors as we got there. We wandered incredulous through empty streets as if in some kind of play where everyone else had a script. We even began to doubt that this was Christmas Eve; we’d never seen the town so quiet.

Poinsettias are in abundance on Tenerife at Christmas

Eventually, the only place we could find that was open was the Chinese at San Telmo and we ended up having an overpriced and distinctly average meal there.

Never mind, we mused, we’ll just have to party instead and headed into the night in search of the hot spots. But the nightmare continued. Bars were either closed or closing and apart from a handful of motley German tourists, no-one was around.
Finally, we gave up and headed to the Beehive, a Brit bar, on Calle La Hoya, where the only party in town was happening.

Admittedly we had rather a good time. In fact, we had such a good time that Christmas Day was ruined by the hangover from hell.

The moral of this story is simple…if you’re coming to Tenerife for the Christmas season, make sure you know what you’re likely to find, and not find, when you get here. Other wise, you could end up going home with a suntan and the feeling that somehow, you missed out on Christmas altogether.

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Sunday was the last day to participate in the Puerto de la Cruz Ruta de Tapas and we’d only managed to try three restaurants and six tapas so far. This was our last chance to notch up a few more.

Seafood kebab with gazpacho

We began at La Clave on Calle Puerto Viejo. A stylish Galician restaurant with tables and chairs outside and a New York-style counter inside, we’d wanted to eat here ever since it opened and the tapas route was the perfect opportunity.
We ordered our ‘one of each’ tapas and sat back with the accompanying glass of beer to study the route and see where we wanted to go next.

The food arrived; black rice with cuttlefish and ali-oli; and seafood kebab with gazpacho, all beautifully presented on plain white crockery. The seafood kebab was cooked to perfection, the gazpacho was just okay (but that’s more to do with the fact that I’m not overly keen on gazpacho) and the black rice was delicious. In the time we were there, four more tables became occupied by tapas routers clutching their blue ‘passports’ in their hands.

We’d realised that several of the participating restaurants were only serving up until 3pm and so time became a factor both in our choice of venue and in the time we could afford to linger over each stop. So, leaving a five Euro note on the counter, we downed our beers and headed to the next stop.

Cuttlefish and seafood tempura, or Tiger, Tiger!

At the top of the harbour with tables and chairs laid out on the opposite pavement is Bar-Restaurant Oregón.
Within minutes, the elegant glasses of beer had arrived and the tapas was on its way. Lying on top of a crusty piece of brocheta and striped with orange and black sauce so that it looked like tiger kebab, was a crispy cuttlefish, seafood and vegetable tempura. The sauces were mojo rojo and soy sauce and the barbecued smokey flavour of the tempura combined with the sauces was fantastic.

By now I’d noticed a couple of things; firstly I recognised several of the people who’d been at La Clave so there was a small band of us doing this food crawl, and secondly, I was beginning to feel tipsy.
The clock was ticking and we still hadn’t decided which restaurant to make our third and final so once again, a fiver was placed on the table, our passports were stamped, we downed our beers and off we went.

Mushroom hat

It was between Restaurant La Guapa which was offering stuffed calamari and stuffed peppers or Restaurant Maga which had a seafood filled shell and a mushroom hat on offer. We opted for Maga on the grounds that we’d never eaten there. When we arrived, the tables were empty, but within minutes other tapas crawlers had arrived and the terrace was buzzing.

It turned out to have been the right choice because the mushroom hat was excellent but the seafood filled shell, although small, was a real taste sensation.

Passports stamped and appetites sated we relaxed with our beers while we deliberated over which restaurant to vote for. Over the past two weekends we’ve tried eleven tapas in six restaurants and we haven’t been disappointed with any.
Eleven beers later I can honestly say  – what a brilliant way to try restaurants and food – Puerto should do this every month – hic.

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Then you’re lucky you stumbled across this, particularly if it’s your first time to Tenerife.

The economic crisis is deepening, prospects are bleak, the pound has today fallen against the dollar and remains on its knees against the euro and the yen.

So if you’re going to invest in a holiday abroad, it’s imperative that you get it right.

Some holiday brochures will tell you about golden beaches, romantic sunsets and organised tours to Mount Teide. I copied this piece of in-depth insight to the island from a popular tour operator’s website today:
Tenerife is making a comeback. It’s bigger and better than ever before, with 2 bar strips, a waterpark, loads of beaches and even its own volcano.”

With that level of information, how on earth can you make an informed decision about where to stay and when to go?
How do you know where to find Tenerife’s hidden treasures; that little gem of a place off the tourist trail that has everything you’re looking for?

Where can you find the best seafood lunch on the island or the best tapas in the south?
How do you know where to go to pay the same as locals do and not ‘tourist’ prices?
What about the best nudist beaches or where the cool set go?
Is there going to be a local fiesta while you’re there and if so, where and when do you go to catch the best of it?

Well now you can get answers to these and hundreds more questions by flicking through the pages of Tenerife’s first truly comprehensive, brand new guide; ‘Going Native in Tenerife’.

Going Native in Tenerife’ has 200 pages written with insight and passion by authors who have spent years treading the streets of every town and village, trekking along goat trails in the mountains and revelling at fiestas until dawn (all in the name of research). In short, exploring the Tenerife that visitors and even most residents never see…the Tenerife which lies beyond the holiday brochures.

If you only get one holiday in Tenerife in 2009, make sure it’s the best it can possibly be.

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Christmas has come early this year for anyone on Tenerife who enjoys the social and culinary joys of eating tapas.
From today (17th October) until November 2nd, Puerto de la Cruz is staging its second ‘Ruta De Tapas’ or tapas route (tricky translation, that one) which this year they’re calling ‘Un Mar de Sabores’ (A sea of flavours). What that means, is that 25 of the town’s restaurants will be offering one or two speciality tapas dishes for the embarrassing sum of €2.50 each…including a drink! Okay, clearly at that price the dishes are going to be on the ‘pequeño’ side and you’re unlikely to get drunk, unless you go for all 25 establishments and 50 dishes in the one go…hmmm, there’s an idea…but hey, that’s still good value in anybody’s book.

Serrano ham and smoked cheese; classic tapas dishes

Serrano ham and smoked cheese; classic tapas dishes

And we’re not just talking ‘boquerónes’ and ‘tortilla Español’ here, Bodega de Guapa on Calle Viejo is offering ‘berenjena rellena de salmón ahumedo y queso de cabra’ (aubergine stuffed with smoked salmon and goat’s cheese); the Ébano Café on Plaza Iglesia is offering ‘solomillo de cerdo a la mostaza’ (pork steak with mustard) and Régulo in the Ranilla District is offering ‘huevos estrellos’ (starry eggs!).
You can pick up a map showing all participating restaurants and their locations from the Cámara office on Plaza Europa (where the tourist office used to be), from the Town Hall and from the offices of ALCIPC in Plaza Charco.

So if you plan to be on Tenerife in the next couple of weeks come and enjoy this tapas extravaganza.

¡Buen Provecho!

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Only for Bravehearts

Only for Bravehearts

As it was Bryan’s last night, we felt that it would have been mean to dump him in Playa de Las Américas whilst we joined the smart set at Siam Park’s inauguration. So whilst I noseyed around ‘The Water Kingdom’ amongst the designer suits and Audrey Hepburn print dresses of the invited guests, Andy showed Bryan the sights and bright lights of the ‘revamped’ face of Tenerife’s tourist Mecca.

Siam Park has had its detractors, but transforming the bland desert-like landscape into a lush Thai paradise is no mean feat and, in my opinion, an improvement. Like the resorts below it, Siam Park is designed with the pleasure of its visitors in mind; its white knuckle ride attractions are meant to be brought alive with excited screams and the sound of laughter. Whilst the Thai themed water park looked splendid in the golden twilight, the perfectly attired guests seemed strangely out of place below the menacing ‘Dragon’ or the gaudy features of the ‘Giant’ water rides; maybe the invitations should have advised ‘bikini’s and Speedos’ as the preferred dress mode.

The mighty Palace of the Waves

The mighty 'Palace of the Waves'

Once I’d listened to the speeches and decided I’d seen enough for the moment, I headed into Playa de las Américas (PDLA) to meet up with Andy and Bryan in a pleasant, but unremarkable pavement bar/restaurant on the ‘Patch’. After I’d baulked at the prices (I’d forgotten how much more expensive restaurants were in the ‘upmarket’ tourist areas of PDLA and Costa Adeje) and I told Andy and Bryan all about Siam Park, they told me all about their impressions.

Bryan had been to PDLA some years ago and had stayed around the infamous or famous, depending on your point of view, ‘Veronicas’ area. He hadn’t been impressed. The area around the ‘Patch’ with its smart restaurants, stylish bars, designer shops and Las Vegas type hotels was not the PDLA he remembered. The mock Roman pillars and statues of the ‘Palacio de Congresos’ had apparently elicited a “What’s that all about?”
Around us, visitors from a host of countries were stylishly dressed in expensive looking clothes; not the cheap and cheerful image of Tenerife that is too often portrayed in the UK.

PDLA or Las Vegas?

PDLA or Las Vegas?

And then Bryan said something that we initially laughed at, but then it occurred to us that it might not be as far fetched as it first sounded.
“Do you think that people in places like Benijos have ever visited PDLA, or do you think that they talk about it like some mythical land which may or may not exist on the other side of the island,” he pondered. “Like that M. Night Shyamalan movie, ‘The Village’.”

It was an interesting thought. Most of the people around us certainly never knew Benijos, or places like it, existed. To many of them this was Tenerife and the idea of a little village surrounded by vines and pines where people play imaginary ‘timples’ and you’re as likely to see horses on the roads as cars might seem a ridiculous notion, so why not the other way around? I’m pretty positive that if you told some of the older folk in Benijos, that in PDLA people pay over €7 for a hamburger, they’d run you out of town for being a fanciful fool.

And that is one of the beauties of Tenerife; you can find your Benijos if you want, or you can wallow in the amenities of a modern tourist resort if that’s your preference. Tenerife is nothing if not diverse.

Guest Blogger – Jack M

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