I often ramble on about the great eateries on my island home, we have a huge variety of international restaurants and bars, and an abundance of excellent bars and cafés serving local food of one kind or another, but I don’t, in these difficult times, often have the opportunity to eat in a restaurant which would come under the “fine dining” heading.
How can I put this? I love food! I don’t consider myself to be “a foodie,” but I might come close, and I’ve missed the subtleties and innovations of dining somewhere special, so when gfhoteles offered me dinner in their restaurant La Laja in the Costa Adeje Gran Hotel I jumped at the chance.
First, a word of explanation; I’ve stubbornly and intentionally kept this blog fairly low-key because I am very jealous my independence and integrity (long story for another time), and I wasn’t totally sure how accepting invitations fitted into that vision. After spending the past year observing how bloggers for whom I have a lot of respect deal with invitations, links, advertising, etc I think I’ve worked out the way to go.
Invitations which are worded like this from gfhotels are okay: “You can write about your opinion, you can Tweet it, Facebook it or whatever, and you can say whatever you want. If there are things you don’t like we will find your feedback useful, and we encourage you to write as you find, or to write nothing at all if you don’t want to.” That sold me, plus there was also the opportunity to meet fellow blogger, Cailin O’Neil, who was here to write about the variety of Tenerife.
The Costa Adeje Gran is one of those very posh-looking establishments in the up-market Costa Adeje area, not somewhere with which I am especially familiar. Living here, many of us tend to ignore the tourist resorts, which is almost certainly our loss. We tend to lump everything together as a “concrete jungle,” as do many writers and travel pundits. Generalizing is always a mistake. Sure, there is a tacky side to Tenerife, there is a tacky side to Monte Carlo, and it doesn’t mean that there is nothing of quality to be enjoyed. Certainly Adeje Town Hall has been pulling out the stops to present the municipality as the classier face of the island’s tourism, and it’s obvious that in the Costa Adeje Gran, as in some of the other finer hotels in the neighbourhood, they’ve found willing collaborators.
Calin and I arrived at the hotel’s main foyer, but there is a separate entrance to the restaurant. Still, it was interesting to observe the quality of the surroundings and the well-dressed clientele. The lobby is huge and very impressive, and you can actually see the bottom of the swimming pool from beneath – very innovative but unfortunately it was evening, of course, so we didn’t get to see swimmers! We had a warm welcome from Kathrin Jansen, and she gave us a peek at the main hotel dining room before going over to the restaurant, and the aroma made my mouth water. My anticipation mounted – if that was the ordinary dining room, what was La Laja going to be like?
What we entered was an elegant restaurant, with a strong Canarian connection, not minimalist, but something along those lines, and warmer and chic in the modern way. This hotel belongs to a local group, gfhoteles, which has three more hotels on the island, and the walls of the restaurant’s reception area are lined with old, sepia photographs of Canarian life, including some of the family who began the venture. Fascinating for me – I would have gone just to see those!
We were shown to a stylishly-set corner table, and greeted by waiters who all had that knack of being both friendly but deferential, which is a sign of good training. I have no complaints about the very friendly service in any of the places I like (I won’t go if service is bad), but it goes without saying that a restaurant of this quality needs something more, and that was the first box ticked. The area is divided into what I can only describe as nooks, with two or three table in each, and a longer section, all fashionably decorated.
Chef Pablo Aznar came out to have a word and talk us through the menu, my mouth watering at every syllable! Pablo is from Zaragoza but has worked inTenerifefor eleven years now. Something life has taught me is that if you can get chance to talk with a chef or cook before you eat you get a sense of how good the meal is going to be, because when they talk with love and passion, as Pablo did, then all of that love and passion goes into their cooking. The anticipation mounted.
He explained about sourcing the best ingredients, and when he talked about receiving phone calls directly from the fishermen, telling of their latest catch and asking if he was in the market for whatever it was, there was no question in my mind that my choice was going to be fish, and then I spied the word “cinnamon” on a fish course, which clinched it! He recommended his lasagne de pulpo for a local touch and a very Canarian desert of bananas and gofio ice cream. Phew, decisions made I could concentrate on the enjoyment!
Ordering done, and menus handed back, fresh rolls and flavoured butters arrived. It was late by my dining norms, so I forwent those, but have it on good authority from Cailin that they were delicious. This was a taste of things to come. I had been prompted by curiosity and recommendation (rather than a “Wow, that sounds good” feeling) to try the pulpo lasagne, so it was delightful to find that it easily surpassed expectations, it was tasty, slightly spicy but not too much and very melt-in-the-mouth. I also had a slight reservation about pasta as a starter, but it wasn’t at all heavy and the portion was perfect, satisfying but not too filling! I began to feel as if I was floating!
For a split second, I regretted my choice of cod in a cinnamon reduction when my companions’ filet steaks arrived. The presentation was charming, the steak in a little dish to collect the jus, and elegantly flambéed at the table. That reaction passed the moment I popped a morsel of the cod into my mouth though. It was heavenly. High expectations this time were quite justified, happily.
When my dessert came, I was pleased that I’d passed on bread and on red meat. It was quite yummy – though I did covet Kathrin’s chocolate confection too! My only regret is that I couldn’t try more than a glass of wine to accompany this feast, since I was driving, so I can’t comment on the wine cellar.
Conversation over dinner turned towards why more locals don’t sample the dining opportunities local hotels offer. In New York or in London or other European cities it’s quite normal to patronize a restaurant situated in a hotel, but here there is reluctance, and I hold up my hand. For me I think it was to do with hotels being sited in tourist resorts, and the attendant problems, parking for one, but nearby La Laja there is ample parking. I think that there is also probably a kind of snobbery (for want of a better word), in not wanting to mix with tourists. Again that isn’t a problem with La Laja. The hotel’s clientele is clearly not of the beer belly and sunburn brigade, but judging by those I saw, altogether more sophisticated and elegant. On the other hand, there is no need to be put off by the prices, which, at around €9.50 for a main course of high quality is only a little more than some very average restaurants.
Do I have any critique? It seems fussy in the face of such scrumptiousness, but I would have like vegetables with my main course. I’m a big fan of veggies, though no way vegetarian. I did note on their New Year menu that they have vegetarian options – more about that later!
We, ex-pats, need, I think, to accept that there is a new kind of tourist attracted to the islands now, and why, on earth, should we not avail ourselves of the excellent facilities and opportunities that brings for us too?
Thanks to La Laja for a memorable meal, and apologies all round for the quality of the photos, which is well below the standard I aim for. I think I was too aware of not using the flash so as not to annoy other diners, but I just hope the pix of the food are enough to whet your appetites if you live in Tenerife!