It’s Friday. If ever there was a day specially designed for a long, lazy, indulgent lunch, it’s a Friday.
It’s Spain – Gran Canaria to be precise. If ever there was a place designed specially for a long, lazy, indulgent lunch it’s Spain.
Mix them together and you’ve got a recipe for a lunch that stretches all the way to sunset.
This particular Friday we were about to while away the hours enjoying a school dinner at the Hotel Escuela Santa Brigida. But this was no school dinner like days of yore. For a start there were no weird concoctions misleadingly labelled ‘custard’ that looked as though they had been concocted by the eccentric chemistry teacher with missing fingers and electrified hair (maybe that was just my school).
The Hotel Escuela Santa Brigida lies a short drive from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Originally built in 1890, the hotel has 40 rooms, lush grounds and restaurants where would-be Ferran Adrías learn their trade alongside top chefs. The training element means that the menu is constantly full of surprises as young chefs do their best to impress with their artistry and gastronomic skills. The result is cross-cultural culinary experiments such as Canario-Japanese fusion. Subsequently, the Escuela Santa Brigida is popular with politicians, businesspeople and gastro fans as well as those savvy visitors who know how to properly research ‘best restaurants’ before they travel.
On a Friday afternoon the hotel’s Satautey Restaurant exudes an ‘end of the working week’ vibe; Time to loosen the tie and unbutton the shirt. Outside, a post-work tapas party spills out from one of the hotel’s cosy bars into the grounds. A ‘post-work’ tapas party – what a fantastic idea.
The restaurant’s décor is fresh and stylish; a posy of flowers on each table adding a colourful contrast to the crisp, white linen. The menu is mouth-watering interesting (Canarian favourites mixed and matched to sound original and enticing) and has a degustación choice. This ‘taster’ option is a great way to try a lot of different dishes and we tend to go for whenever we can.
The waiter advises about the wines; 80% are home-grown Canario. We take his advice and opt for La Higuera Mayo Tinto – a smooth, hearty red with flavours that taste of berries borne of volcanic soil.
First Course – Quesos Canarios
As we chat about Gran Canaria’s lesser known (in the world of tourism) rural and northern parts and generally enjoy a sobremesa with our guide, Armando, the first offering is brought to the table – a slate decorated with a selection of Canarian cheeses. In taste terms it’s impossible to choose between creamy, flavour-filled offerings from Gran Canaria, El Hierro and Fuerteventura although the latter’s El Pastor Isleño Majorejo may just about shade it. As well as the cheeses there are crispy gofio twirls, almogrote, tomato marmalade and avocado oil. This savoury slate plate alone would have me raving about a restaurant.
Second Servings – Hot Tapas
Another slate arrives crammed with mini pyramids. The golden, crispy cherne (grouper) croquetes, chorizo de Teror in pastry parcels and black morcilla de Teror look good enough to eat… and eat… and eat. The croquettes actually taste of fish (often croquettes can be too potato-y), the Teror chorizo parcels dissolve in the mouth with a satisfying crunch and the morcillas remind of mini Scottish black puddings.
Round Three – Cabra
By the time the cabra (goat) arrives, we’re struggling. Even though it’s beautifully tender and looks attractive, garnished with parsley and sitting on a bed of glistening carrots, the cheese and tapas has taken care of the best part of our appetites. We don’t do it justice and pick at it without much enthusiasm.
The Final Flourish – Delectable Desserts
That we should try to squeeze in a dessert is down to gluttony, that we should try to shoehorn in a dessert that consists of a selection of sweets is just outrageous gluttony – but in our defence the food is so good that it’s a sin to give them a miss. That’s my excuse anyway for why, with stomachs satisfyingly swollen we are faced with apple tarts, chocolate in cream, lemon meringues, San Marcos cake, lemon foam and something that may or may not be called tarta sachi.
As we battle post-lunch torpor with a shot of strong coffee accompanied by honey rum liqueur we realise over three hours have passed since we first sat down. Three hours of picking, drinking chatting and generally having a good old time. Three hours in which Friday afternoon is in danger of becoming Friday evening.
As long, leisurely lunches go, I reckon you could call this one a resounding success.
Hotel Escuela Santa Brigida; c/ Real de Coello, 2; +34 92 84 78 400; www.hecansa.com; a 3 course menu del día is €18.90, the degustación is €26.25; special dietary menus are available on request.