Last week we headed down into Puerto de la Cruz to check out the Ruta de Tapas currently being staged in the town. With four stamps on the ‘passport’ and needing ten to enter into the prize draw, last night we headed into town on the bus to see if we could manage to fill up our card and enjoy some more tapas and vino.
After a stuttering start when we sat down in the lovely Ebano Restaurant only to be told that their name was there through printer’s error and they weren’t actually participating, we headed into Plaza Charco.
Compostelana Plaza on Plaza Charco and the corner of Calle Puerto Viejo is one of those restaurants that we’ve avoided, labelling it a ‘tourist’ restaurant because it has live entertainment at weekends. But the ‘Saquitos de brick‘ tapas they promised sounded intriguing, plus we needed to dodge a heavy rain shower which was just gathering strength.
Refurbished in bright, contemporary style, we were led to a table inside and brought a small glass of beer while the waiter told us what to expect with the tapas and how to eat it. When it came, it was two small filo pastry parcels tied with seaweed (I think), on a base of sweet and sour sauce and packed to their crispy folds in savoury minced prawns. They were little parcels of taste sensation and went straight to the number one spot on my tapas top ten. Victims of our own prejudice for years, we have clearly been missing out on good food at Compostelana and will now rectify that with a return visit for a full dinner.
Next on the itinerary was the gorgeous Cafeteria Casa Mika on Verdad. For anyone who doesn’t know Puerto de la Cruz, Verdad is one of the prettiest streets in the picturesque Ranilla restaurant district. Opening up just four months ago, Casa Mika is a welcoming, homely yet stylish tea room/cafe/tapas bar with several small dining rooms and a big comfy sofa in a movie-themed alcove just inside the courtyard entrance – which is where we chose to sit.
The tapas that arrived was named ‘Delicias la Verdad‘ and consisted of a cake of creamy sweet potato with cod topped with red and green, home made mojos. Hot, savoury, creamy, fishy and having just enough ‘bite’ in the sauces, the delicias were delicious. Accompanied by a very easy to drink red wine served in an elegant glass, this tapas represented excellent value for money as well as top taste.
Reluctantly, we dragged ourselves off the sofa and on to Pizzeria La Esquina where there were two types of tapas on offer; Croqueta de arroz and Ropa Vieja. The croqueta was two, fat croquettes of creamy rice and cheese cooked in a bolognese sauce and deep fried in breadcrumbs. Crispy, creamy and filling. The Ropa Vieja was a small stew of shredded beef with chickpeas, topped with tiny squares of fried potatoes. Again, savoury and filling and a generous measure of wine to accompany them. A taste of tradition, good value and friendly service with a proper tablecloth and napkins into the bargain.
With three under our belts (literally) and three more to go if we were to fill our card, we again dodged rain showers and headed to Tapas y Cañas on the corner of Maquinez and Cruz Verde. Warm, elegant and atmospheric with funky jazz background music, we felt immediately at home and resolved, regardless of what the tapas was like, to return to enjoy a bottle of red at leisure.
Again, we had a choice of two tapas here – Tapa de mar and Tapa de la huerta – and ordered one of each. Tapa de mar was a cold terrine of herring on a biscuit base and was too salty for my liking. The Tapa de huerta was an Italian green pepper stuffed with savoury minced beef with a tomato sauce and was exceedingly moor-ish. A group of seven young Canarios arrived clutching their Ruta de Tapas passports while we were there and by the time we left there wasn’t a free seat in the house.
By now appetites were feeling sated and the clock was ticking so with two more to notch up, we left the warm and convivial buzz and walked around the corner of Cruz Verde to El Bistro. Under new management, El Bistro was offering a dish entitled ‘El sartén del bistro‘ which was giving nothing away in terms of what to expect.
What arrived was a small frying pan of the tastiest rabbit stew I have eaten. Normally a very rich dish served with papas arrugadas, this was more spicy than rich, packed with lean rabbit meat and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. It was filling, incredible value for money and absolutely delectable. Despite already being pretty much full, we scraped every last morsel from the pan.
With our decision making skills in tatters and our waistlines expanding, we couldn’t go home with just one stamp-free square on our passports, that would be just plain silly when there’s a weekend in a hotel, two cases of wine or dinner for two at the winning restaurant at stake. Heading towards the taxi rank in Plaza Charco we ducked into Bar Tasca La Pandorga to notch up our tenth and final tapa.
A very traditional bar with most of its customers usually dining al fresco on the tables that line the harbour end of Calle Méquinez, the rain had stopped play outside and just a handful of customers were enjoying their drinks and watching the football. When the tapas of ‘Delicias con cherne‘ arrived and it was the size of a decent starter, I nearly caved in, feeling completely over-faced. Two pieces of crispy coated, succulent cherne were accompanied by pan roasted potatoes and half a beef tomato studded with some crunchy, unidentifiable ‘spikes’. The dish was lightly coated in a mild curry sauce and was just too good to not eat, but I couldn’t finish it all and passed my last few forkfuls to Jack to do the honours.
Sated and with passports filled to capacity, we jumped into a taxi and headed home. We had notched up another six restaurants, at least four of which were now on our ‘to re-visit’ list and had tried eight tapas, all of them very different and ranging from the traditional to the nouveau cuisine.
What did we learn from completing the Puerto de la Cruz Ruta de Tapa?
- Puerto de la Cruz has a superb restaurant scene with more than enough quality restaurants offering a diverse range of menus to let you try somewhere different every night of your holiday and still not come close to exhausting choices. In my book, there’s nowhere else on Tenerife to touch it.
- You can still get incredible value for money here on Tenerife. We enjoyed all that food and wine and a taxi home for less than €50 between us.
- Six tapas on the Ruta de tapa is at least one tapa too many.
- Organizing a Ruta de Tapa is good for business. Even on a wet and cool Saturday night we encountered many more people already on the Ruta or picking up passports to get started and it was participating restaurants that were benefiting.
- Faced with such a high standard, choosing three tapas to vote for is a nightmare task. For the record, this is how I will be casting my three votes:
Bronze – El Bistro‘s El Sartén del Bistro
Silver – Casa Mika‘s Delicias de Verdad
Gold – Compostelana‘s Saquitos de Brick
I could award medals on the grounds of value for money which would produce different results but for me, the Saquitos de Brick was the perfect tapa – a delicious, bite-sized savoury, beautifully prepared and presented. Quite simple, but memorable.
The Puerto de la Cruz Ruta de Tapa runs until February 2nd 2014
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+