It’s a quiet spot on a north Tenerife hillside away from the tourist resorts and yet there’s a queue of people spilling out of the door whilst they wait for a seat. In the middle of an economic crisis, La Bodeguita de Enfrente in Cuesta de la Villa is clearly doing something right.
We heard of La Bodeguita de Enfrente within a few weeks of moving to Tenerife but had never eaten there. Don’t ask me why, it’s less than ten minutes from our house; as we basked in the comfortable warmth of its easy personality it’s a question we asked ourselves over and over again. But then there are just so many excellent restaurants in the area that it takes time to get round them all.
From the outside La Bodeguita de Enfrente looks intimate and quaint, but inside is a warren of rooms that gives it the Tardis effect. The décor is rustic and imaginative, warm without being twee – barrels of veg, bigger and better than anything I’ve seen in my local supermarket, welcome you as you enter wide-eyed.
La Bodeguita de Enfrente is a picoteo (a term for tapas style restaurants where you go to pick at food with friends). A generous, wooden bar in the main room gives it an ambience that is akin to the Tenerife version of a gastro country pub. Our two-person table (a chunk of curved, polished wood) was opposite the bar and lit by a quirky lamp made from empty wine bottles.
Cuesta de la Villa has a small community of expats, which might immediately have some painting a mental picture. However, the expats in La Bodeguita mingled at the bar with and ate with Canarios. There was total integration. The Canarios themselves were a mix of ages with many being thirtysomethings who exuded an air of confident sophistication.
The menu reflected the integrated mix – written in Spanish but with an English translation that accurately and wittily described the dishes. Pimientos de Padrón were ‘Fried Green Chillies. Running Low on Vitamin C?’ and Gambas al Ajillo were ‘Prawns in Garlic. A Great Anti-Oxidant.’
Following the waiter’s advice we settled on three dishes – campanez (grouper topped with mojo rojo and mojo verde on sweet potato beds), calamari (everyone knows what that is) and ropa vieja de bacalao (a stew of chickpeas, peppers, spices and salted cod), all supported by a bottle of red from their own bodega.
The food itself was a mirror for the ‘traditional but different’ style that characterised La Bodeguita. The campanez had an imaginatively attractive appearance; the mojos’ burnt orange and emerald greens contrasting with the off-white sweet potato. Similarly the sweet, spicy and fishy flavours contrasted and complimented at the same time. The campanez was wolfed so quickly that by empty plate time, I wondered whether three dishes would be sufficient.
I’m a calamari fan but don’t often order it in restaurants as I’m often disappointed by the sanitised version served up. La Bodeguita’s crispy and tender calamari came, as it should, with tentacles and was about as good a calamari as I’ve tried. Its lip-licking batter reminded me a bit of Chinese salt and pepper squid.
By the time we attacked the chunky ropa vieja arrived we were a bit like the restaurant itself, stuffed to capacity. But we managed to devour it all before heading into postres land. La Bodeguita’s home-made sweets were like everything else in the place, irresistible. Andy ordered a slab of tiramisu whilst I went for puding de pasas – a cinnamon flavoured, bread and butter pudding affair topped by cream. Andy has already claimed one of those for our next visit.
As we oohed our way embarrassingly through the devilish desserts and the place buzzed with life and happy chatter, it was impossible not to be infected by the warm and fuzzy bonhomie that flowed through La Bodeguita.
With tantalising food; affable and efficient waiters; cosily comfortable, attractive décor and an atmosphere to warm the cockles of the heart, it’s no surprise that people queue to get in. Eating at La Bodeguita de Enfrente is a euphoric dining experience that has you craving another hit even before you leave – it is dangerously good.
La Bodeguita de Enfrente, Ctra Provincial Cuesta de la Villa 130, Santa Ursula; (+34) 922 302 760; www.labodeguitadeenfrente.net; open daily 6.00pm -23.00 (closed Tuesday); Dishes cost around €7.50 each, Reservations at the weekend are essential.