I have a love hate relationship with Tripadvisor. On the one hand it’s a good source of useful information about destinations like Tenerife, on the other it’s also full of misinformation and opinions which are seriously subjective. None more so than when it comes to restaurant reviews.
We all have differing tastes when it comes to food. Some folk like to play it safe and stick to familiarity, some like trying new culinary experiences. Some like traditional, others like contemporary dining. Then there are those, like us, who enjoy trying them all. I tend to think of eating out in the same way as deciding what movie to watch. Sometimes I want to see something thought-provoking or obscure, sometimes I want pure escapism. Similarly, one day I can have a yen for a burger, or fish and chips. On another I fancy a tasting menu featuring dishes which look like they could belong in an art gallery.
What this boils down to for anyone looking for restaurant recommendations is who can you trust? Which also really means knowing who, of the zillions of people writing restaurant reviews, likes the same food as you do?
People get caught out all of the time because they’ve gone for restaurants which lie in elevated positions on Tripadvisor’s best restaurants in a given destination. But just because a restaurant occupies the number one spot in, say, Los Cristianos it doesn’t mean it’s going to wow your tastebuds.
Opinions about the good, the bad, and the ugly of Tenerife restaurants are often down to the wildly varying experiences of the people who review restaurants. That old saying ‘one person’s meat is another person’s poison’ (that’s the modern version) is perfect for being applied to restaurant reviews. I often read reviews where the author has been disappointed having tried a restaurant which was highly rated on Tripadvisor. Some behave as though they’ve been lied to. They haven’t; they’ve just chosen badly. It might be that the food is simply not to their taste yet is as good as others say. But, equally well, it might be the food isn’t as good as the majority claim and a restaurant has been artificially elevated into a higher position than it might be if it was located somewhere else in the island. In a sea of mediocre restaurants anywhere half decent stands out.
These musings were prompted by a discussion on Tenerife about a popular restaurant in Los Cristianos where some people raved about it being a 5 star dining experience whilst a minority classed it as being little more than upmarket pub grub. We haven’t eaten at this particular Tenerife restaurant so I did what I always do when I check out any reviews for any destination. I looked at the photographs and made up my mind on whose reviews sounded most trustworthy based on the visual evidence. I don’t discount the minority when it comes to reviews as there have been plenty of times those are the ones I’ve agreed with.
Photos speak volumes. They show us what a restaurant and the food it serves actually looks like. When people speak of upmarket restaurants I have a certain expectation of the decor, just as I would if it was a traditional Canarian restaurant, or a tapas bar. Photos show whether the restaurant matches reviewers’ descriptions. And they also reveal a lot more. If a review talks about a restaurant being ‘off the beaten track’ whilst photos show it as being in a commercial centre in Costa Adeje, then that’s another I can take with a pinch of salt.
In one discussion about good tapas bars there was one place which a few folk raved about. A quick look at the photos showed a local (a lot in a commercial centre) whose frontage advertised it as specialising in Italian food. The Italians do have their own version of tapas, but I’m guessing Italian tapas wasn’t what the person who asked about tapas on a Spanish island was seeking.
In another example when a query was posted about where to eat fresh fish and seafood in a southern resort, photos of one of the restaurants recommended showed it to not only be inland, but also to be Italian – this is on an island which has loads of wonderful Canarian fish & seafood restaurants at the coast.
People regularly talk of the food in a restaurant being Michelin standard yet accompanying photos invariably show dishes which are a bit of a messy mish-mash. The food might be tasty, but the presentation shows not Michelin level. There are a lot of aspirational cooks out there who think making swirly designs with various sauces and piling ingredients into towers means creative cooking. Real Michelin dishes are usually creatively neat and original in presentation. But meaningless terms are bandied around willy nilly when it comes to TA reviews. Going back to the discussion about whether the restaurant was 5 star or elevated pub grub (because they served pies and fish and chips) one person remarked that Michelin restaurants all over the world serve fish and chips. No they don’t, that’s just one of those cases of somebody just saying the first thing that comes into their heads to back up the point they’re trying to make. But if they did it would probably be served looking like a carrot (I’ve been in a Michelin kitchen where a famous chef was trying to make a pea taste like a mushroom).
There’s a restaurant in Puerto de la Cruz which at least one reviewer described as ‘being like a Michelin star experience’. I took my mum to eat there because she’s not particularly adventurous when it comes to food. Photos showed the dishes to be nicely presented but safe, in a familiar meat and two veg sort of way. She loved the food, but I know she wouldn’t be impressed with a real Michelin dining experience.
Even a restaurant’s name can be misleading. Just because it’s in Spanish doesn’t make it a Canarian or Spanish restaurant. In one instance the first photo of a Spanish sounding restaurant in Los Cristianos showed a menu which included the likes of prawn cocktail, beef bourguignon and battered cod and chips.
So whilst others resort to verbal jousting to insist their views about a restaurant are the valid ones, leapfrog over them and check out the review photos. If you like the look of the restaurant and the photos of the food get the juices flowing, the chances are it’s a restaurant which should suit you.