World Tapas Day is celebrated this week (16th June). Travel beyond the bars of the Spanish mainland to the wilds of northern Tenerife for the most distinctive little dishes.
After a day’s walk amid the deep barrancos and rocky terraces of northern Tenerife’s spectacularly beautiful Anaga Peninsula, I was looking forward to some well-earned refreshment. A glass of ice-cold Dorada beer, for definite, and perhaps a few tasty morsels from a certain restaurant I’d been dying to visit for some time.
In all my tours around Spain as a copywriter for Inntravel, I've sampled hundreds of tapa but those from La Bodeguita de Enfrente on Tenerife are definitely among my favourites. It’s situated on a hillside in Cuesta de la Villa on one of those winding hillside Tenerifean roads that raise the eyebrows of first-time visitors yet afford wonderful views down to the sea – if you’ve got the courage to look. It took a minute to spot La Bodeguita and I have to admit I drove past it at least once before I realised that a row of four differently coloured, single-storey cottages was, in fact, my destination. I think ‘unassuming’ is the word – but, as I was about to find out – what met me on the inside was anything but.
The best tapas are packed with taste and flavour – succulent, colourful bites that pack a punch and whet the appetite for more. The décor of La Bodeguita de Enfrente was a bit like that, too. No beige here, no soothing colours, or muted tones – no, it’s full-on, hit-you-in-the-face, rich and vibrant yellow ochres, burnt umbers and deep burnished woods interspersed with bare stonework, and bold artwork to match. It’s rustic, but very chic – bombarding the first of your senses. Dine here and it’s as if your other senses have been turned up to eleven, too. The wooden tables are rough-cut yet worn smooth by countless fingers; there’s a buzz of excitement in the air as the waiters call back and forth between chefs and eager diners; while the smell emanating from the succulent dishes already on the tables is intoxicating. Salivating in anticipation, all I need now is to taste...
I’m a bit of a seafood lover so ordered gambas pil pil (tiger prawns in garlic and chilli) and calamar(char-grilled squid) – but when in Tenerife it’s only polite to do as the Tinerfeño do. So I also ordered papas arrugadas con mojo (those odd-looking wrinkly potatoes with a choice of spicy sauces – mojo rojo and mojo verdes); pimientos de Padrón (blistered Padrón peppers); morcilla dulce (Canarian sweet black pudding) and queso asado (grilled cheese with more spicy mojo). The temptation is to keep on ordering just to prolong this sensory overload though, despite a queue beginning to form at the door, the amiable waiters seemed in no hurry to move me on.
La Bodeguita de Enfrente is what the locals call a picoteo – a restaurant where you drop in to sip a cold beer, to nibble a tasty treat or two, and to pass the time of day with friends. It’s tapas all right, but quite definitely Tinerfeño style... and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”