We’d just driven down a road so steep that if we’d been on foot, I’d have expected to be lowered down on a rope.
At the bottom was a dead end and a beautifully carved wooden sign with a word on it – ‘Guachinche’. The sign pointed to a lovely old building with windows overlooking the valley. Inside were lots of tables. Andy and I looked at each other for a moment and then we both shook our heads. Far too posh for a guachinche.
Quite a few restaurants try to get in on the act by calling themselves ‘guachinche’. I’ve seen plenty of ‘mock’ guachinches in towns around Tenerife. Whilst guachinches come in all shapes and sizes, if the one you’re in looks like a restaurant and has menus, the chances are it is a restaurant, not a guachinche.
Eating at Guachinche Number 1
We thought we’d introduce our visiting nephew to a unique Tenerife eating experience by heading deep into the heart of guachinche land in the Orotava Valley. His instructions were simple.
‘Keep your eyes peeled for a sign saying ‘guachinche’ tacked to a wall or a tree.’
About 500 metres after taking to the valley’s back roads we struck guachinche gold. A sign pointed to a bland looking house where an open garage door revealed a handful of tables.
The garage had been transformed into a makeshift restaurant with chunky wooden tables and chairs. At the back of the room were plastic wine flagons on a bar made from logs. The guachinche was packed, yet although we were the only non-Canarios nobody paid us any attention.
A small whiteboard listed more than the usual three or four dishes legally allowed in a guachinche. This isn’t uncommon, rules are often bent. It included the who’s who of basic Canarian food – carne fiesta, cabra, costillas, garbanzas etc.
The whiteboard made it easy for us to be ready when the waitress arrived at our table. We ordered a couple of portions of carne fiesta (spiced pork) and one of cabra (goat) accompanied by a jug of red wine (guachinches sell their own wine). Whilst we waited we munched on a plate of salty yellow beans (altramuces) that seem to be obligatory in guachinches in this area.
The atmosphere was lively and friendly, the food simple, fresh and wonderful. For the three of us the bill came to under €20. A perfect guachinche.
Guachinche Number 2
The second guachinche, a couple of weeks later, illustrated that some authentic guachinches are even more authentic than others.
On our previous hunt we’d passed what looked like a popular place (another garage conversion) but had initially missed it because there was no ‘Guachinche’ sign, only one stating ‘Se Vende Vino’ – we sell wine.
Even though it was a Wednesday, every table was taken bar one. There were also a few wooden barrels doubling as additional tables (no stools) where workers on their lunch break stood with glasses of white vino and plates with two papas arrugadas on each – tapas Tenerife style.
There was no whiteboard menu, so no time for any decision making before the owner came across and rattled off what dishes he had, in full-speed, non-diluted Canarian Spanish. I identified ‘chicharros’ before the rest of the words sprinted straight in one ear and out the other without stopping.
“Más despacio, por favor,” I pleaded for him to speak a bit slower.
This time I got it. There were only four items – chicharros (grilled small mackerel), salchicha and sauce, cheese and octopus. We went for the chicharros and salchicha, with a plate of papas arrugadas and a jug of sweet white wine (everybody was drinking white wine) plus the complimentary yellow beans.
The chicharros were excellent, the salchicha so-so (it was simply a frankfurter with chips in sauce). But, like the previous time, the atmosphere made it an addictively enjoyable experience. This time the bill for two of us came to under €10.
The thing about authentic guachinches is that they aren’t quaint or picturesque. They don’t normally have wonderful views and there are certainly no frills. The attraction is they are fascinating and fun places to eat and the food is usually good, honest fare. They are also about as authentic a Tenerife dining experience as you can have.
Eating in one is for people who really want to venture off the beaten track.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+