Tapas: small food that packs a big punch

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.”

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