Bodegita Algarrobo – La Paz , El Botánico
A Very Family Affair.
Across the street from the Botánico Hotel is the small but chic “Bodegita Algarrobo”. The super-friendly Cristobal is the youngest son of an old family of restaurateurs. 35 years back his Mum and Dad founded the Algarrobo Restaurant in La Orotava on the Carretera de La Luz. Old man Manuel Pérez García still eats up there most days and proudly helps out on the busy week ends. The family details here are everywhere: he named the original restaurant after a famous bald actor nicknamed “El Algarrobo” in the ‘70s hit series “Curro Jimenez” on Spanish TV, which is actually the name of a tree which flourishes all over the more arid south of Tenerife and South America.
Cristobal (and Antonio his brother) wanted to expand the family business and had long been looking Puerto-wise to broaden their horizons. The opportunity came when the family were lunching at the Orotava Liceo – that picturesque mansion that sits at the top of the main square, frequented by film crews, tourists and private members. One of the chefs there took the family’s fancy – Christian – an enthusiastic and energetic Uruguayan who was recruited into the family firm and who has collaborated on the special menu served at the Algarrobo, his menu is based loosely on the very well established Restaurant, though Christian has added his own touches. “My signature dish is the ham salad” which resembles a burger, stacked with the freshest salad leaves and tender serrano ham. This was the first of eight superb courses that Cristobal insisted we sample!
The cuisine is local canary food with some surprisingly original features. “Our potatoes are really special” says a beaming Cristobal, and they are! (…read on) Although “papas arrugadas” the typical wrinkled skinned salt-boiled potatoes are available – their variation on them – King Edwards, boiled, breaded and deep fried skinless, are exquisite. There were many such suggestions and helpful comments from Cristobal as we joked about the terrible English translations in their menu. “Oh that was translated by a German” says he smiling, and it contains some howlers! “Stern Egges” – Huevos Estampidos – Little Squid – Chipirrones, “Fresh pike your tastefulness” Merluza a su gusto, and a personal favourite “Jungle on the evening” a sort of Black Forest Gateaux, which had sold out.
Back to the food. How about a selection of delicious toasted open sandwiches? We tried the pork steak and caramelised onions – a perfect brunch item. The restaurant is open from 12 noon to 12 midnight, except Wednesdays and Sunday nights. Another possible brunch item (but gorgeous any time of day I’m sure) was the “stuffed leak with cheese and belly of pork, fritter”. This turns out to be smoked bacon stuffed with leeks filled with cheese – and it is to die for! I mean really, really good. First you’re hit by the smell of bacon as the dish is delivered, then the melt-in-your-mouth combination of thin rashers of smoked ham and leeks is scrumptious, a salty, sweet and soft morsel. Enough said.
Next came the Piquillo peppers stuffed with mushrooms and prawns. They were fabulously over-stuffed and brimming with “tastefulness”.
The “fresh pike” came next. This turns out to be hake, and mounted on a moulded tower of perfectly cooked, seasonally fresh veg. The merluza (hake) was also cooked perfectly and it was all accompanied by those “Algarrobadas Potatoes” that I described. Mmmm… they are good! Coated in bread crumbs and herbs they are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and with the traditional green and red mojo (Canary sauce) they were a great change from the more traditional papa.
Next up, and this was the sixth course we sampled, was the Lamb estofado, an inside-out pie without the pastry. This too was a gold star dish! Served on yet another tower of fresh vegetables (who ever said that good vegetables are difficult to find in Canary restaurants hasn’t eaten here). The lamb was slow-cooked in a red wine reduction, the meat had a mild taste and was extremely tender – the gravy oozed its way through the delicate vegetables that were compressed below.
Without a single space left to fill, the home-made desserts were presented with typical amicable-gusto: and after a certain amount of arm-twisting we accepted a “fig biscuit with chocolate sauce” and a “nougart (sic) parfait”. The first was an ice cream made from local figs – which are renowned for their sweetness and texture, covered by the most amazing milk chocolate sauce. If you share these dishes, as is common place locally as they are usually served with a spoon for each, then prepare for a “dual of the spoons!” The Nougat appeared and was a Turrón mouse covered in more-ish caramel and heavily dusted with crushed toasted corn nuts. Anyone who has tasted that sherbet based sweetie back home called “space dust” will know exactly what I mean when I say it detonates in mini bursts in your mouth in the most indescribable sensation. It’s creamy, salty, sweet and explosive!
Somewhat un-surprisingly, due to the high standard of the food, most the diners were Spanish in-the-know, recognising the name from the more famous parent restaurant. The waiter, to add to the Iberian confusion is also called Christian. He says “Over 70% of our clients are local people, and the rest are mostly resident foreigners. But we do get passing tourist trade too. This week we’ve had the same two English tourists back four times; it seems they can’t get enough of us”. Christian works the evening shift from 4 till midnight and the equally charming Alba works the earlier shift. She comes in from midday.
You can forgive the imperfect English menu when you taste the perfect Spanish food. The wine is also up to par. All the wines are bottled, the local red Arautava (served chilled), was powerfully fragrant, volcanic and rocky, a very smooth dry white Tagineste seco and a sweet (or afrutado) white called Tanganillo. Rioja or Ribera del Duero is also available.
I urge you to become familiar with this excellent family restaurant – before the menu changes!