When we descend on pastures new one of the first things we do is check out the local restaurant scene, clocking what’s on menus and compiling a mental tick list of things we’re going to try.
In El Hierro this didn’t happen initially. For some of the time we had a very good friend with us. She’s top company and great fun and is also a pescatarian with an assertive view on what she’ll eat and not eat, subsequently she struggles to find things on menus that rings her bell, especially on traditional Canarian menus. So, for the first part of the week at least, our exploration of restaurants on El Hierro was a bit limited.
Restaurant El Sol de España
One of those godsends of a restaurant. Close to our apartments (Los Verodes) in Frontera and always open. A delayed ferry crossing meant we didn’t check into our apartment until 10.30pm and didn’t go out to eat till after 11pm. The good people at El Sol de España didn’t bat an eye – home-made burgers and French fries in a quiet El Hierro town at 11.30pm. We went back twice. The first time for a lunch of arepas (Venezuelan fried and filled corn pancakes) and a mountain of papas locas (crazy potatoes) that the waitress talked us into. The second time was for some local tapas – carne fiesta (spiced pork), wonderful El Hierro cheese and savoury sausages. Portions were always too big but the food was too good to leave any. Good value, a varied local menu and always filled with locals. We liked it a lot.
Restaurant El Sol de España; C/ Belgara, 1; Frontera; Tel +34 922 55 60 89
Tasca El Secreto
After we picked our friend up from the Puerto La Estaca we stumbled across this gorgeous looking restaurant in Valverde, El Hierro’s capital. It was more bohemian than we expected to find on such a small island and we initially walked around El Secreto as though in an art gallery. The traditional menu was reeled off to us rapid speed by the owner. With half the items being forgotten as they shot by, we plucked three dishes out of her F1 speed words; croquetas caseras (home made chicken croquettes), huevos rotos (eggs, French fries and chorizo) and gambas revueltos (scrambled eggs with prawns). If we’d been staying in Valverde this would have been a favourite haunt – for lunch, dinner or just hanging out.
Tasca El Secreto; C/Quintero Ramos, 2; Valverde; Tel +34 922 550 658
By dinner, traditional restaurants were off the menu. You could argue that a pizzeria is a traditional restaurant in the Canary Islands as every decent sized town has one and Vulcano has more of a South American vibe than an Italian one. The pizzas were big and tasty and the waitress extremely friendly. Vulcano is typical of a lot of the restaurants we saw in El Hierro – part bar, part restaurant; which gives them a relaxed and casual atmosphere.
Pizzeria Vulcano; C/ Cruz Alta; Tigaday, La Frontera
The most enchanting of walks above Las Playas took us to El Pinar for lunch. La Zona is a bright and modern Venezuelan cafe that serves hamburgers, hot dogs and Venezuelan goodies. We opted for arepas whilst the owners sorted out a taxi – they just did this voluntarily when we asked about a taxi number. Taxis in El Hierro are few and far between and one had to come from Valverde to take us back to our car at Isora. One of the things that we noticed was that carne mechada arepas (spiced meat) and mojos (Canarian sauces with a bit of a kick) in El Hierro weren’t as hot as in other Canary Islands. La Zona also has free wifi.
La Zona; C/Travesía del Pino, 22b; El Pinar; Tel +34 922 558 986
Another pizzeria but one that does pasta as well. Il Pomodoro also has more of a South American atmosphere than an Italian one with a design that is quite tropical. On the night before Valentine’s Day, Il Pomodoro was empty apart from us. As it’s a big restaurant this drained it of atmosphere. Like everywhere else on El Hierro, the staff were extremely friendly. Andy’s prawn and mushroom was freshly made, rich and very tasty but my calzone fuerte didn’t seem to have anything strong about it. Our non-meat eating friend, after telling the waiter she didn’t eat meat, ended up with a meaty-filled ravioli in cheese sauce. It was an interesting restaurant with quirky décor but by then I’d had enough of snack foods.
Il Pomodoro; Merese, 45; El Golfo, Frontera; Tel +34 922 559 429
After saying our goodbyes to our friend at the port, we headed straight to Bimbache in Tamaduste for a traditional lunch and a dish I’d been itching to try since setting foot on El Hierro – lapas. Tamaduste is a quiet little coastal village with a picturesque bay; oddly the village’s restaurants aren’t around the bay but in the back streets. Bimbache has a classic design and felt like the most upmarket restaurant we’d eaten at on El Hierro. Lunch consisted of the sought after lapas (limpets in a parsley or coriander, lemon and garlic sauce), croquettes and aubergine with melted cheese. The croquettes were overdone and the lapas, although flavoursome, were slightly chewy. Best was the aubergine and cheese which, ironically, our non-meat eating friend would have loved. It felt good to get some truly local cuisine into our mouths.
Restaurant Bimbache; C/ los Cardones, 7; El Tamaduste; Tel +34 922 969 014
Restaurant El Guanche
Valentine’s night and everywhere was packed in Frontera and all the menus were special Valentine ones. We took the plunge at El Guanche, being escorted to a dimly lit back room where a diminutive singer with a wet-look perm, who looked as though he’s time warped from the 1980s, crooned Spanish songs of love. The ceiling was decorated with heart mobiles whilst heart images were projected onto the walls. We’d planned to give the Valentine menu a wide berth but when the smiling waitress told us it was five courses with a bottle of Campo Viejo wine for €30 per couple it was too good a deal to refuse. What followed was a wonderfully surreal evening with an imaginative menu consisting of montaditos with cheese and red peppers; a zingy cheese, orange and strawberry salad; pineapple rings sandwiching creamy rice and topped by prawns; tender beef fillets in a caramelized onion sauce with mash potatoes and a choice of desserts. It was fabulous; we loved it.
El Guanche; C/ Cruz Alta, 1; Frontera; Tel +34 922 559 065
Don Din 2
Or Don Din Dos, which sounds silly the more you say it. This was one of the restaurants in El Hierro that we really wanted to try. We finally managed on our last night (except it wasn’t but that’s another story) with a couple of friends from Valverde who’d been a great source of useful information during our stay on El Hierro.
From the moment we’d spotted it on menus around El Hierro we’d wanted to try queso caldo. Andy won the toss up for that and it turned out to be exactly as it sounded – savoury cheesy soup. I started with another local dish, sopa de barasa, which was more like a stew with the main ingredient being barasa; a wild, green plant (I still don’t know exactly what).
Main courses were more in line with other islands, although at Don Din 2 they veered slightly from the norm; chicken came in a cerveza sauce and the beef was actually bull in a light curry sauce. One that was different was peto – a white tuna you don’t normally find in Canary Island restaurants outside El Hierro. Don Din 2 was exactly the sort of place I’d had in mind when we arrived on the island.
Don Din 2; C/ La Corredera, 5; Frontera; Tel +34 922 556 148
An honorary mention has to go to Mirador de la Peña in a dizzyingly stunning location high above El Golfo. We didn’t eat here because we passed it in a state of the utmost grubbiness after a long day’s hiking. The César Manrique designed restaurant just looks delicious with a menu to match. Prices are understandably a bit higher than other restaurants but a three course special menu (with three choices of starter, main and pud) is only €14.
Not eating there also gave us a good excuse to return to the island at the end of the World.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+