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If you’re going to spend time in a village populated by cave dwellers, it seems appropriate to eat lunch in a cave.
We’d been showing visiting travel writer Kirsty Fergusson one of our favourite walks in the Anaga Mountains and, with perfect timing, arrived at the troglodyte village of Chinamada at lunchtime.
The village has one restaurant, La Cueva, which is, as the name suggests, partly set in a cave.
Eating underground sounds intriguing but only a small part of the restaurant is actually inside the hillside it backs on to. Nevertheless, it’s still an unusual lunch venue and Chinamada lies in the sort of location that makes you gasp involuntary, especially when the bruma gods are on holiday and the Anaga peaks are exposed in all their dramatic glory.
La Cueva is a Tardis of a restaurant, probably thanks to the whole cave thing going on. There are three dining areas – an outdoor terrace; a sort of halfway house section that is bright and airy and a smart and dark interior (where the cave part is located).
Northern Europeans tend to pick the sunny terrace whilst Canario diners head for the shady interior. We’d just spent a couple of hours under a hot sun so the bright, covered halfway house section suited us just fine.
At 1.30pm on a Saturday La Cueva was packed with an eclectic mix of customers. Visiting and local walkers were dressed in sensible, comfortable clothes whereas some city dwellers from Santa Cruz and La Laguna looked as though they were set for cocktail hour in a sophisticated urban bar rather than a rural retreat. One girl wore killer heels, that shot her way above her normal altitude, matched with a mini leopard skin dress so tight that it might actually have been body paint.
La Cueva’s menu is traditional Canarian hill fare so we opted for a selection that included some favourites from the rustic Canarian cuisine scene.
Hearty Canarian Nosh: The Food at La Cueva
Knowing how filling Canarian country cooking can be we settled for two starters between the three of us; fresh goats’ cheese and, a must for anyone being introduced to local specialities, gofio escaldón.
The goats’ cheese was queso fresco and was creamy with subtle flavours. Andy and I find queso fresco a wee bit bland, preferring semi-curados that hit your tastebuds like a cartoon Tasmanian devil. However, La Cueva’s cheese came with a dollop of jam which perked up its character.
Gofio escaldón isn’t the sexiest of dishes and La Cueva’s was no exception. I don’t think we’ve ever had two escaldóns that looked the same. The last one we ate was smooth and creamy whereas this was thick with chunky peaks. Escaldòn is stock mixed with gofio (toasted cereal flour that dates back to Guanche times). This one was made with vegetable stock and had shredded meat mixed in. It’s difficult to describe escaldón’s flavours – a savoury paste that tastes like veg stock mixed with cereal flour and meat. This was a particularly good one; some locals claim La Cueva’s escaldón is one of the best on Tenerife. It is also very filling; good peasant food, ideal for working in the hills.
For mains we ordered a meat heavy mix; albóndigas (meatballs) which were very meaty and lightly spiced. They were also quite dense. Six didn’t seem a lot but Kirsty struggled to get through them even with us assisting. Andy went for the ropa vieja which translates as old clothes – not a name that’ll have English speakers clamouring to order it. This is another one of those dishes that varies depending where you have it. Andy’s old clothes were obscured by chips and were a real mishmash of sweetcorn, peppers, carrots, onions, potato and shredded meat. It wasn’t the best. My cabra (goat) was tasty enough but some chunks were on the fatty side.
Overall the food was a bit on the hit and miss side. But it was authentic, different and there was a great atmosphere about the place. We enjoyed our long lunch a lot and would definitely recommend a visit. Feel free to wear whatever you want, but a word of warning if you decide on a figure-hugging animal print dress. After some hearty food at La Cueva it might not look quite so flattering when you leave as when you arrived.
Restaurant La Cueva; Chinamada, 14A; Anaga Mountains; (+34) 922 690 076; raciones average €7; open 11am to 7pm Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday; 11am to 10pm Friday & Saturday; closed Monday & Tuesday.
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