It’s the answer to the question I’ve been asking a lot of late and every time it’s uttered, my eyebrow involuntarily raises.
The question I’ve been asking is “Where do you go to eat when you have a night off?”.
The people I’ve been posing the question to include some of Tenerife’s top chefs like Juan Carlos Padrón and young Jose Marín.
The reason my eyebrow involuntarily raises is because, well, it’s in the middle of nowhere and hardly anyone has ever heard of it – or at least, that’s what I thought.
Driving out to La Vera, a nondescript barrio of Puerto de la Cruz, we’d already looked up the location of El Duende on Google maps but still managed to drive right past it, so inconspicuous and humble is its outside. So I was right about the first part of my preconceptions.
Stepping into El Duende, it was immediately obvious that its humble, Canarian house exterior was a cloak for its sophisticated and elegant heart. A long dining room in a traditional, closed balcony decorated with original, contemporary oil paintings shone like old gold in the embers of the sunset. A further, intimate dining room ran along the side of the building overlooking the car park and a third, more subdued room where the undersides of the roof tiles were exposed behind their wooden rafters completed the seating options.
Dithering over the small but exquisite-sounding menu, our Job-like waiter suggested we oil the wheels of our decision making with a glass of something long and cool, and by the time the first bubbles of our cava had broken the surface, choices had been made.
First to arrive was the bread basket containing home made olive oil, herb, tomato and white breads along with a small dish containing olive oil, mini crisp toasts and salted butter. Sinking my teeth into the crispy exterior and moist, hot interior of the olive oil bread I was transported to warm summer nights in the Mediterranean and then to their sunrises with the soft, red dough of the tomato bread. To avoid filling up before our courses arrived, I stopped eating the bread, well, apart from a sneaky bite of the herb roll which melted in a green meadow on my tongue.
An appetiser of creamy spinach croquettes raised the taste bar from delicious to wow before our starters arrived and sent the bar orbital.
My grilled scallops in a broccoli and leek cream with crispy hazelnuts and green apple vinaigrette managed to be both light and yet awash with flavour. The fresh scallops yielded with just a stern look and carried the flavours of the ocean on a tide of creamy spring vegetables.
With a bottle of Tajinaste red slipping all too easily down the throat, my main course of chicken fillets and king prawns with wild rice in a Parmesan and sweet PX (Pedro Ximénez) wine sauce arrived. I rarely order chicken in a restaurant on the grounds that it can be bland, but this dish banished all notion of banality in a rich harmony of earth and ocean flavours.
There was no question of still having room for dessert but that’s never been known to stop me, so we opted for the degustación and indulged ourselves on a heavenly medley of four postres which included white chocolate with mandarin, mint and liquorice; fried plantain with hazelnut biscuits, miel de palma and rum; passion fruit with coconut and mint sorbet and a chocolate feast with Amaretto sauce (above).
Real Tenerife’s Opinion
El Duende is a Prince in pauper’s clothing; a foodie’s paradise in which Chef Jesús Gonzalez prepares imaginative and exquisite dishes for those whose palates and purses appreciate the best of ingredients prepared and presented with skill, love and creativity. If you love good food and have a special occasion looming, like say the weekend, don’t miss this precious pearl of a place which counts Ferran Adriá, Prince Felipe and King Juan Carlos amongst its clientele. So much for my second preconception.
El Duende, Roemik Berge, La Vera, Puerto de la Cruz; (0044) 922 374 517; open Wed-Sun 18.30-23.00. Expect to pay around €50 per person for three courses plus an aperitif and wine or push the gastronomic boat out and go for the degustación menu at €50 per person without wine.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+