Is there a more enjoyable way of socialising with friends whilst eating great food than sharing tasty tapas dishes in a lively restaurant? As it happens, there is; following an official “ruta de tapas” (tapas route) on Tenerife.
Taking part in a tapas route on Tenerife
Often there's a theme to tapas routes on Tenerife, usually involving a speciality of the area where they're held. Recently we followed a potato themed tapas route in historic La Orotava, one of Tenerife's most picturesque towns. My sister and her partner were visiting Tenerife, so it was the ideal opportunity to show them around La Orotava whilst introducing them to its gastronomy.
As well as being home to colonial mansions, sub-tropical gardens and grand churches, La Orotava has excellent independent shops which stock the sort of fashion you wouldn't find on a typical British High Street. Subsequently our progress along Avenida Emilio Luque Moreno was slow as we window-shopped our way to the first restaurant on our list.
Part of the fun with tapas routes is that although the passport gives you an idea of what each tapas is, you never know for sure what it will look like until it arrives in front of you. In this case a tapa called bunduqah relleno, at the first stop on our list, unexpectedly turned out to be a Canarian variation of a Scotch egg, albeit one perked up with wonderfully spicy seasoning.
After we devoured the Canarian Scotch egg, we took a leisurely detour past Orotava's famous Casa de los Balcones, with its beautifully intricate tea wood balcony, and through the immaculate Italian styled Victoria Gardens to get to the next restaurant where we enjoyed a substantial brochette of tender beef, pork and chicken intermingled with grilled vegetables.
From there it was a short walk to a stylishly modern tasca where, at a chunky wine barrel table below a row of hanging jamón Ibérico, we were presented with the most creative tapa of the day, cappuccino de papa. The frothy tapa looked as sophisticated as the tasca's décor and was unlike any cappuccino I've ever tasted; no surprise given its ingredients were potato, carrots, chicken and a secret salsa. It was unusual, different, delicious and a real talking point. One of the things I particularly like about tapas routes is they give chefs the chance to really show off their creative talents.
By the time we ate our fourth tapas, two hearty potato croquettes with minced meat centres, we were close to full. However, there was one more tapa on our list and none of us wanted to give it a miss. It was unusual for a tapa on one of these routes as it was a dessert - a sensational lemon and retama honey cheesecake on an almond biscuit base served with coffee. It looked so good the people at the next table immediately ordered the same.
Coffee and cake, the perfect way to end a meal, even when the meal had involved five different restaurants.
Four of us spent the afternoon eating tapas, drinking and generally enjoying exploring La Orotava and it cost only €40. The memory of an afternoon spent sharing the best of local food with family and friends, however, was priceless.
How a tapas route on Tenerife works
The idea of a ruta de tapas is participating restaurants compete to create the best tapa, meaning those who follow one of these tapas routes get to try a selection of creative tapas of the likes they wouldn't normally find on any traditional tapas menu.
You pick up a tapas passport at one of the participating restaurants (there's usually a poster displayed in their window) or at the nearest tourist office. This passport lists the restaurants involved as well as the tapa they've created specially for the competition. You pick which tapas you like the sound of, set off on the route and have your passport stamped by each restaurant as you go. Once you've notched up a certain amount of tapas (usually ten), you're eligible to vote for your favourites. As a bonus, your passport also gets entered into a prize draw.
Tapas routes on Tenerife are an excellent opportunity to eat a selection of wonderfully imaginative tapas dishes whilst trying out new restaurants; we often return to a restaurant where the tapa has impressed us. They are also incredibly good value; each tapa and drink (wine, beer, water or soft drink) costs around €2.50. In short, tapas routes are a budget friendly way to have fun and eat great local food in the process.
Where to find out about tapas routes on Tenerife
There are lots of organised tapas routes in various parts of Tenerife throughout the year. To find if there is one near where you are staying ask at the nearest tourist office or cultural centre.