Eating at Casa Efigenia on La Gomera, conveniently located at the edge of the hamlet of Las Hayas and mid-way along the splendid Igualero to Vallehermoso walk, is more of an experience than a lunch. A Gomeran institution in its quiet, leafy corner since the 1970s, there’s nowhere else quite like it.
Everything about Casa Efigenia is a product of the mountains, from the furniture which graces the dining room of the 300 year old house and is fashioned from the mountain wood of their surroundings to Efigenia herself who grew up ‘amongst the vegetables and the allotments’. Every day, Efigenia oversees the kitchen which produces the same menu week in, week out. It’s a menu that faithfully reproduces the traditional mountain food of La Gomera and that has been feeding the farmers and their families for generations. Everything in Casa Efigenia’s kitchen is grown locally, organic and natural and the dishes are made fresh every day.
Arriving at Casa Efigenia from Cercado via the beautiful Barranco de Las Lagunetas, the restaurant is half hidden in the woods behind a proud row of eucalyptus trees. A small outside dining area is set within a colourful and scented garden where a handful of early birds can enjoy the afternoon sunshine. Inside, beneath the wooden, beamed ceiling with its tea light chandeliers, and surrounded by strings of dried corn husks, two long communal tables provide the seating. This is not the place to come for an intimate table for two.
Efigenia greets all her guests personally and invites them to take a seat wherever they like. There are no menus, no house specials and no choices to be agonised over, except whether you want wine, beer, soft drinks or one of her home made lemonades sweetened with the Miel de Palma sap of the palm tree which finds its way into much of the set menu. Simply order drinks and sit back to enjoy your rustic surroundings.
First out of the kitchen is the almogrote paste with a basket of bread. Made from local cured, smoked and pungent cheese mixed with some of Efigenia’s home made mojo rojo, it’s addictively good and sets a trap that few escape – eating all the bread smeared with almogrote before the main courses arrive. Big mistake.
The main meal comprises three dishes. There’s a large bowl of escaldón which is a thick paste of the milled and toasted corn flour called gofio which has been produced on all the Canary Islands since before the Spanish conquest. The gofio is mixed with onion and stock and served with more of the piquant mojo rojo. Alongside is a large, steaming bowl of puchero – a country stew of potatoes, sweet potato, onion, tomato, spinach, carrots, pumpkin and chickpeas seasoned with saffron, garlic and cumin. The final of the trio is a bowl of fresh garden salad including lemon pears and papaya, dressed in a finger-licking dressing into which that astonishingly versatile Miel de Palma has made its way.
For first time visitors, the smiling waiter helpfully spoons a large dollop of escaldón onto one plate and drizzles it with a generous helping of mojo before then piling a man-sized portion of puchero and a green mountain of salad, thus illustrating two things; you’re supposed to eat everything together and you’re expected to eat ‘heartily’.
When you finally wave the white flag of your paper napkin over the undefeated remains, a piece of Efigenia’s leche asada arrives, a light and airy lemon and cinnamon flavoured milk pudding drizzled in…that ubiquitous Miel de Palma.
Now sated to within a notch of your belt running out, I can guarantee that the second half of the hike to Vallehermoso will be twice as hard as the first leg was, despite the terrain being easier. But even when you’ve notched up 20 kilometres of demanding La Gomera walking, you still won’t feel hungry. That’s when you’ll know for sure, you’ve been Efigenia’d.
Casa Efigenia, Las Hayas, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera; tel:(+34) 922 80 42 48 , mobile:(+34) 659 807 458; firstname.lastname@example.org; open every day from 9am to 7pm; set menu €10 per person.
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+