The Casa del Caminero is so not what I expected to find in a small, quiet town like Tejeda in the hills on Gran Canaria.
It was recommended to us by Fina, the owner of the Fonda de la Tea, and we’d expected a traditional Canarian establishment with a menu of hale and hearty fare.
What we got was an artist’s studio/gallery that was also a shrine to good food and fine wine.
Casa del Caminero; Arte, Queso y Vino by Armando Gil – owner, artist and chef.
The entrance to Casa del Caminero is comfortably unfussy. The decór and furnishings almost seem random and casual, but in that artistic way where objects that you wouldn’t think would get on well together look stylishly bohemian rather than mismatched.
Stark white walls are given a cosy, colourful glow by soft, scarlet lampshades and Armando Gil’s paintings adorn the walls and furniture. Again, some look casually placed. One work of art leans against the wall on top of what appears to be a retro computer table. At first it looks as though it was absently dumped there but the meandering ebb and flow of the painting seems complimented by the leaves of the plants in vases directly in front of it.
Armando meets and greets us, making sure we’re sorted with a generous glass of a smooth local red before he darts away to finish the dishes he’s preparing for his other guests. There are only a handful of tables but most are taken. One by a group of hikers like ourselves, the other by a party of locals, including Fina. It says something that she’s eating in the restaurant she recommends to her guests.
We sip our wine and contemplate Armando’s artwork whilst he sees to other diners. The paintings have a quality of the Far East, a bit like batiks we saw in Sri Lanka. Armando tells us later that they’re Asian scrolls and should be ‘read’ from left to right or top to bottom depending on whichever one you’re contemplating at the time.
There’s no rush, The Casa del Caminero is the sort of place where you simply sit back, relax and let the atmosphere flow over you.
When Armando returns he tells us what he’s bought in fresh that day and we go with his suggestions.
First up is a thick and creamy calabacín soup (pumpkin) which is a perfect warmer for a coolish night in these hill towns. Its colours also fit in nicely with the general décor. The soup’s flavour has a comforting affect on the taste buds, as though they gave them a nice little hug on the way past. Good, honest home made soup.
For the main course Andy had pan-seared tuna which came in chunky wedges accompanied by ratatouille whilst I had a simply fried pork chop that was perked up by olive oil and peppers.
They weren’t sophisticated dishes but they were tender to the touch with wonderfully fresh flavours.
Dessert was an original concoction of Canarian bananas and local sponge cake in a honey rum sauce. Armando hadn’t been shy with the rum and the pieces of cake lay in a drunken stupor on the plate. It didn’t work 100% for me, the rum overpowered, but I could see its potential.
After the meal was done and dusted, Armando showed us his current collection. It might sound odd that the chef gets out his etchings whilst there are people still finishing their meals, but it’s all part of the wonderful quirkiness of Casa del Caminero.
I don’t profess to knowing anything about art but I appreciate it even if I don’t understand it. Armando’s Asian scrolls aren’t necessarily meant to have any meaning. They are creations from within Armando’s mind and as such have no ‘reality’. An artist’s version of computer programming code perhaps that can appear like gobbledygook to the uninitiated but can be read by those who understand such things.
The longer I looked the more the paintings revealed their secrets. I saw fallen autumn leaves, fire breathing dragons, Japanese fighting fish, troubled souls and lovers locked in passionate embrace.
Did I mention there was a lot of rum in the dessert?
It was one of the more unusual ways to end a dining experience. I love dining with a difference.
Casa del Caminero; Avenida de Los Almendras, 5; +34 609 166 961; 3 course meal for two €35; open Midday to 5pm & 7 to 9.30pm Monday, Thursday and Sunday; 11am to 5pm & 7pm to 1am Friday and Saturday; closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+