We’re spoiled for choice regarding tapas restaurants in Puerto de la Cruz. So much so that in the years we’ve lived on Tenerife, there are lots of places in Puerto we’ve only managed to try once. La Clave in the older part of the town is one of these.
We last ate at La Clave during a ruta de tapas; a tapas competition when a lot of Puerto’s restaurants put on their thinking caps to come up with creative tapas. I liked its smooth easy style then and we’d vowed to return. That was about two years ago.
La Clave lies on Calle Puerto Viejo amidst a cluster of Spanish rather than Canario restaurants; there’s a difference. The difference was one of the reasons we finally got around to a rematch. The ‘Tapas Y Pintxos’ sign on the front is a dead give-away that La Clave isn’t a typical Canarian tapas bar, the spelling of ‘pintxo’ betraying Basque influences. One look at the interior and the sleek, stylish silver, red and white decór provides further evidence that La Clave is different from the other tapas bars at nearby Plaza del Charco.
However, the blackboard menu at the door had us hesitating. The tapas dishes on it didn’t seem much different from the other bars in the area. Don’t get me wrong, I like the tapas in them; I just don’t want to eat the same thing every time I get a yen for tapas.
When we mentioned to the waiter that we’d thought the tapas bar might have had some Basque tapas he motioned for the chef to join us and a bit of tapas negotiation took place. The end result was an offer to create a Basque tapas platter with seven dishes for €14.
It sounded good to us.
Tapas Treats: The Food at La Clave
Nursing a couple of cervezas in La Clave’s cool interior (in looks rather than temperature) we waited with a bowl of crusty bread, some creamy alioli and a little bowl of tumaca (an olive oil, garlic and tomato mix) whilst the chef created our tapas platter.
That combination in itself was a good enough excuse to make another return visit; the tapas platter nailed the deal.
I love culinary surprises and the chef’s selection of tapas managed to pull off three. The pimientos de Padrón were soft and salty, the serrano ham full of flavour, the cheese drizzled with olive all was marvellously mature and the ensaladilla rusa, chunky and creamy. But these are commonplace in Tenerife, it was the other tapas that really had us making silly ‘mmm’ noises at each other.
A fabada-like salad didn’t look particularly exciting but its herby, spicy sauce had the humble beans performing way beyond their limits; it was a bean salad, but not as we know it. Delicate filo parcels contained a savoury bomb that played quick and easy with the senses, seducing them one moment then dissolving, leaving them crying for more, far too quickly (we could have downed a lot more of them). Possibly (I’m still not sure) best of all were the tortas de camarones, golden shrimp patties. This was the sort of dish that made you want to get down on your knees and worship it.
The tapas platter was the perfect size for a light lunch, especially as there was still room for a tangy mojito sorbet for me and a doorstop slice of sultry chocolate cake with an unusual biscuit base for Andy.
As a way to pass an enjoyable and leisurely lunch, La Clave came up with the goods big time. Definitely a case of ‘felicidades’ to the chef.
La Clave, Calle Puerto Viejo, 18; Puerto de la Cruz; (+34) 634 713 086; open daily 1pm to 10.30pm (closed Monday); tapas platters for two people are €14 – €16.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites plus lots of other things. Follow Jack on Google+