The setting sun turns the heavens a delicious shade of mauve broken only by thin amber streaks; the exotic fronds from a palm tree are silhouetted against the exquisite dusk sky. The last stubborn golden rays add a deep glow to the polished colonial décor at La Parrilla restaurant in the Hotel Botánico in Puerto de la Cruz, illuminating a single blood red rose on the table in front of me. It’s a scene that is at once both Spanish and tropical; a vista that perfectly captures Tenerife’s split personality.
The attractive appetiser on the table is the finishing touch – a delicate tower of smoked salmon and roe on a tartar bed atop a circular bread base. The sweetly fresh salmon appetiser does its job perfectly by waking up the tastebuds and having me metaphorically rubbing my hands in anticipation of the next course.
Traditional Canarian Salad
Salads in the Canary Islands more than often disappoint me, generally being ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ affairs – plentiful in ingredients but lacking elegance and flavour. The tomato, watercress, goat’s cheese, avocado and oregano salad at La Parilla with spiralling carrot shavings bucked this trend by looking stylish and filling my mouth with fresh-as-a-spring-meadow flavours.
Classic Canarian Soup
Potaje de Berros (watercress soup) is a staple of Canarian cooking, a green, iron rich dish which tastes delicious but often leaves strands of watercress stuck between the teeth. There’s no such problem in La Parrilla, the soup is blended perfectly and finished off with an island of corn bread croutons sprinkled with gofio. The watercress dominated as it should. However, it was ever so slightly salty for my taste.
The next dish promised an intriguing combination of flavours – sea bass and potato in a vanilla confit. Sea bass (lubina) is one of my favourite fishes and this one was cooked to perfection with firm, moist flakes that fell onto the fork with the barest prompting. It was a delicious fish on its own, but dipped in the toffee coloured vanilla salsa and it soared into another league. The delicate vanilla salsa transforms the dish from being excellent to being one of those incredible combinations that linger deliciously in the memory. When I told a friend I’d eaten at La Parilla the first thing she said was ‘did you try the sea bass in vanilla sauce… WOW.’
Nothing was going to match the sea bass but top marks to the culinary climax of a postre of bizcocho (sponge cake) and figs complemented by a cascading toffee and Malvasia sauce. If Picasso made desserts, it would look like this. The sponge was light as air and the sauce was sweet and rich, but not overpoweringly so. It acted as a fitting denouement to one of the most sophisticated traditional Canarian meals I’ve had the pleasure of tasting.
La Parrilla restaurant is described as offering Spanish and regional cuisine in an Andalucian setting. Whilst this isn’t incorrect, it paints only half a picture. The views from the restaurant’s windows add a warm, tropical touch to a restaurant that is ideal for a romantic liaison or a special meal. The food might be influenced by Spanish and Canarian gastronomy but the hand at the culinary helm, head chef José Marín, has perked them up with a contemporary zest.
It’s Canarian cuisine but not as we know it.
La Parrilla Restaurant, Hotel Botánico, Puerto de la Cruz; +(34) 922 381 400; Avda. Richard J. Yeoward, 1; open 6.30 to 10.30pm in winter and 7.00 to 11.00pm in summer
Buzz Trips ate at La Parrilla restaurant as guests of the Hotel Botánico and although my hand did the typing it was the tastebuds that were dictating.