“Having traversed the banks of the Yangtse, the Mountains of Atlas and the most beautiful valleys of Sri Lanka, I own that I have never beheld a prospect more attractive or more harmonious than the Valle de Orotava…”
Okay, maybe it was the cava talking and clearly I’ve partly stolen it from Humboldt, but as the morning sun turned a golden spotlight on the dancing bubbles in my glass, the La Orotava Valley stretching below me never looked more alluring.
A champagne breakfast is a decadent treat at the best of times; throw in a cloudless morning, a beautiful verdant valley and an exquisite setting and it’s about as good as it gets.
It was my mum’s last morning and we wanted to do something extra special to mark her visit. It didn’t take much head scratching to come up with something memorable. A champagne breakfast at El Monasterio in Los Realejos is the perfect way to end a visit from friends and family with an experience that will ensure their memories of Tenerife are capped with a smile-inducing ‘WOW’.
Mesón El Monasterio isn’t a former monastery. However, it does occupy the site of a finca and chapel set up by a Dominican monk called Fray Antonio, therefore the ecclesiastical connection is accurate enough. And Fray Antonio financed his operation by selling wine and food, so the fact that El Monasterio remains a shrine to eating and drinking seems like a nice way of keeping Antonio’s memory and traditions alive.
El Monasterio is simply in a class of its own in the looks departments – from the moment you enter the grounds to be faced with the Hispanic San Pedro restaurant whose Mexican hacienda is fronted by a wine barrel and a wine press and backed by a volcanic cone topped by a tiny ermita. After that your eyes need to be on full alert to try to absorb the enchanting and endless quirks. Cobs of corn and strings of garlic hang from the tapas restaurant’s eaves; marrows weigh down roof tiles; vibrant flower displays decorate whitewashed walls and peacocks, ducks and crowing cockerels roam freely like lords of this exquisite looking manor.
There are immaculately tiled courtyards, lush gardens with more wildlife (or in this case tame-life), ponds, trickling water channels, shady benches galore and views of the La Orotava Valley that hypnotise.
Early morning at El Monasterio and the place had a sleepy, chilled-as-a-glass-of-ice-cool-cava feel to it. No-one prompted us to enter any of the various restaurants; we were acknowledged only by a smiley ‘buenos dias’ wherever we strolled. Nobody cared whether we were there to eat, drink or to merely enjoy the surroundings. This is a place that has played host to Bill Clinton – it doesn’t need to coerce people.
Our destination on this occasion was the Café Mirador where floor to sky plate glass windows give the impression that you’re suspended above the dream of valley whose aspect inspired explorers and poets. On a hot, sunny May in 2012 the valley is very different from the one that had Humboldt waxing lyrical on the opposite slopes. But on the Los Realejos side, there are less housing developments and more terraces and plantations. It might not have Mount Teide on the horizon but in some ways it enjoys the better vista.
But what about the food? The food at El Monasterio is the one thing that doesn’t always impress. But it can depend on which restaurant you eat in and importantly, also what you choose. I know people who’ve had wonderful culinary experiences, I’ve known others who haven’t.
For our part, we’ve never been let down by any of the champagne breakfasts we’ve indulged in over the years and neither have any of our friends.
There are four main breakfast options to choose from – bacon and fried egg, salmon and scrambled egg, steak with bacon and tomatoes or steak with scrambled eggs and prawns. The cava doesn’t come with the bacon and fried egg option but ask and that is quickly rectified.
Each breakfast includes coffee, fresh juice and a mountain of bread to rival Mount Teide. There are croissants, bread rolls, brioche, pan integral and fruit bread; all of which is made at El Monasterio. After countless attempts over the years, we have never yet managed to see off the bread mountain.
All in all we spent a couple of hours working our leisurely way through breakfast as it stretched into brunch and then arrived within nodding terms of lunch. Sometimes we’d have quiet moments where we sat and stared quietly at the magical valley. It was simply the most special way to start the day and the smile that never left my mum’s face throughout our visit made it all the more satisfying.
We eat out a lot on Tenerife in wildly varying places and whilst I’ve eaten better food, I can’t think of an experience that tops a champagne breakfast in the sunshine at El Monasterio.
Mesón El Monasterio, Montaña de los Frailes, Los Realejos near Puerto de la Cruz; (+34) 922 340 707; open daily 9.00am -midnight; champagne breakfasts cost from €10.50 to €15.95 per person but you can also visit El Monasterio for a drink, snack, or a full meal.