El Cine, the fish restaurant with iconic status
In the ever-changing world of Tenerife, it’s a rare occurrence for a restaurant to not only last for 26 years but to achieve iconic status as well.
Yet El Cine, a stone’s throw from the habour of Los Cristianos, has done just that with a formula which is deceptively simple but one which has required a tremendous amount of work and dedication.
If you just happen to stumble on this bar-restaurant down a side alley near the beach, you might at first glance wonder what all the fuss is about. There is nothing grand or lavish about its “interior”. You will simply find a covered area with tables and chairs closely grouped together and a tiny bar with a small open kitchen beyond.
Yet the regular sight of people queuing for a table will give you the best clue ever. How many restaurants have diners waiting to get in at virtually any hour of the day or evening and still come back time after time?
Owner J. Carlos Magdalena and his team abide by a trusted formula – simplicity, cleanliness, fresh healthy products, good service, great prices and a very friendly welcome. Carlos was born on La Gomera and coming from a farming family, was “raised on the field”.
Later, in Tenerife, he worked in the tourism/hospitality industry and learnt the secrets of traditional Canary cuisine and the quality of the products of the earth.
In 1987, he opened El Cine in what was the old cinema of the Los Cristianos fishing village. His adventure began with serving fresh fish, Canary potatoes and Mojo sauces and all these years later, little has changed. Throughout it all, Carlos has retained his passion for the combination of hospitality and cuisine which visitors of all nationalities obviously adore. He has built up a great affinity with his customers and we watched as he greeted many “amigos” with hugs and hand-shakes. “I serve my food with love,” he told us.
The alley-way where people queue to enjoy El Cine has been described as the most famous on the island and no-one seems to mind having to wait for a table. It might only be ten to 20 minutes – or instantaneously if you are lucky or pre-book – but it’s all part of the El Cine experience.
This is very much a fish restaurant. The only meat you will find are chicken wings and there are no desserts. The menu, in various languages, has a dozen items on it. Grilled cuttle fish, grilled hake fillet, fresh sardines, the fish of the day, grilled fresh herrings, all seven euros each. Tomato and onion salad, chips or Canary potatoes for 2.50 euros a bowl. Fried octopus, nine euros. Grilled prawns, eight euros. Fried chicken wings, seven euros. Oh, and bread rolls and fabulous Mojo sauces.
You don’t get fancy plates or cutlery. Your dishes don’t come with garnishes or unnecessary frivolities which you might otherwise not touch. You get what you see on the menu, served in a simple manner, piping hot and without delay.
For our review lunch, we chose the grilled prawns (eight euros) and the grilled hake fillet which were delicious. My bowl of tomato and onion salad was fresh and plentiful, with special olive oil, our rolls were huge and the Canary potatoes absolutely gorgeous in sea salt.
Although everything here is fast-moving (we wondered how on earth the staff cope!), you don’t feel pressurised to eat up and move on. Many parties and celebrations are held here, there are special events and often live music.
You should also be aware that there is one hour free parking at the dock for restaurant visitors. Just request a ticket and this will be stamped at El Cine.
We chose to park further away and enjoyed a walk into Los Cristianos, looking at the shops along the way. Find the harbour beach and walk right to its corner by the harbour crane. You will see a chemist and the alley-way to El Cine is down here, Calle Juan Bariajo 8 to be precise. It literally is two seconds away from the beach. You are unlikely to get lost but if you do, just ask any other local trader and they will point you in the right direction.
It was great to see that Carlos is very much a hands-on owner. You can often find him taking orders and serving customers and he still cooks. At his finca, he grows many of the tomatoes and onions which are used at the restaurant and also creates the Mojo sauces.
Of course, the fish is totally fresh, bought that morning so when the food runs out, that is it. Generally, however, the restaurant opens at 11am every day and aims to close by 11pm. I was surprised to learn that my grilled prawns were in fact from frozen because I could still taste the sea. They are only frozen because of the location they are sourced from. For the fresh fish of the day, you might get sword-fish or tuna, for example. They are cooked on the plancha in the healthiest way possible and you feel a certain virtue for eating such nutritious food.
Because of its iconic status, there always seems to be something happening at El Cine and plenty to see. You can keep up to date on www.barelcine.es and through their social network sites and there is lots of chatter and praise.
Visiting here is a true experience and definitely one to put on your wine and dine list. You can ring 609 107 758 for reservations or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calle Juan Bariajo, nº 8 Los Cristianos Port Arona
From 11:00am to 23:00pm