The Spanish National Strike completely screwed up our lunch plans to eat chicken cooked over a volcano at Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote.
The park wasn’t closed but, with some staff on strike, access was limited resulting in a long queue of confused traffic ruining the normally impressive volcanic vista. The choice was an hour’s wait or give up on volcano flavoured chicken and head onwards in the hope of discovering somewhere quaint for a bit of tapas. We chose the latter, passing through an angry terrain devoid of even the smallest hamlet and then through Tinajo, which didn’t seem to offer anything promising. Eventually we arrived at the sleepy fishing village of La Santa on the north coast.
The main street had a couple of restaurants that didn’t really ring our bells – on the terrace of one of them a workman was painting the façade as diners ate. Not considering paint fumes to be much of an appetiser we headed away from the main drag and discovered Restaurant Verde Mar up a side street.
An artistic yet rustic interior and a menu that included traditional Spanish and Canario dishes combined with some imaginative offerings, like sea bass with a Thai and lime glaze, drew us in.
As well as displaying some interesting works of art, the sunset coloured dining room also had some distractingly eye-catching photographs of Lanzarote – absolute stunners. Their composition was such that I wasn’t sure whether they were photographs or paintings. They turned out to be the work of the Verde Mar’s waiter and seriously talented photographer, Vincent Cooke.
The artistic bent in Verde Mar’s décor was also reflected in the food created by English born chef Dave Redford, who clearly likes to get creative in his kitchen. Our selection of tapas dishes included a salad of two goat’s cheeses (fresco and semi-curado) with avocado and tangy apple; crispy fish cakes in Thai coconut sauce on wilted spinach, and grilled sardines drizzled with mojo rojo and mojo verde which made them look great as well as boosting their flavours.
Tapas dishes in the Canary Islands generally tend to not vary much from one traditional restaurant to then next, so a menu offering something different is always an interesting find.
Given that it was located up a side street in a town that looked as though dozing was as close to waking up as it gets, it was a surprise to find a place with such a bohemian feel to it. The restaurant’s two chefs (Andre Delalez is the other) are given free reign to experiment with local produce that includes fresh fish straight from the harbour a handful of yards away.
The village and Verde Mar’s proximity to the solitary Club La Santa complex probably means that it can afford to try more imaginative menus out on the international athletes who stay there than if it was simply a remote fishing village. Catering for a sporty clientèle also means that there is an awareness of different dietary requirements, so gluten free and vegetarian meals are available.
On a hot, lazy afternoon in Lanzarote, Verde Mar turned out to be a most pleasantly chilled-out venue for a tapas lunch with an art and photographic exhibition thrown in as a bonus. Missing out on eating chicken cooked over a volcanic with bus-loads of other Lanzarote visitors didn’t seem quite such a loss.
Verde Mar; Señora Encarnación 2; La Santa; +34 928 840 858; www.verdemarlasanta.com; main courses from around €14; open Mon – Saturday from 12 noon till late