The last time I was really surprised by a tapas dish was on one of Tenerife’s tapas routes when I bit into ravioli sorpresa to discover that the little square of pasta was filled with space dust. Raviola that snaps, crackles and pops was definitely a surprise and no other tapas dish on Tenerife has come close to having the same impact”¦that was until the restaurant speciality was placed in front of me at Tasca el Olivo in Puerto de la Cruz.

Although tapas is readily available on Tenerife, with many Canarian and Spanish restaurants including a tapas section on their menus, specialist restaurants dedicated to the art of el tapeo are still relatively thin on the ground; Tasca el Olivo on Calle Iriarte in Puerto de la Cruz is one of them.

The interior of the tasca has an inviting, rustic ambience with intimate polished wood booths and an incredibly narrow spiral staircase that becomes more difficult to negotiate post-meal after the waistband has increased a couple of notches. It’s a wonderfully cosy environment for whiling away an afternoon picking at tapas dishes; however being a people watcher I chose to sit at one of the tables on the street.

The menu offers a choice of montaditos, salads, tablas of chorizos, Serrano ham, cheeses and pates. Best of all is the imaginative picoteo section featuring a mix of familiar tapas dishes as well as el Olivo originals that are a marriage of Canarian ingredients and Mediterranean cuisine.

First up was an avocado and tuna salad. Generally speaking I don’t find salads on Tenerife particularly adventurous and this was no exception. There was nothing wrong with it, but the most exciting thing about eating it was when a car came careening down the hill, misjudged the corner, screeched across the road and crashed into a street bollard with an explosive bang. It was a very Canarian RTA in that there was no-one else involved; the driver had managed to manufacture an accident out of nothing. It livened up the salad no end.

The second tapas dish was much more to my liking; crispy croquettes filled with a savoury mix of potato and fish and accompanied by a scoop of Russian salad. Being Scottish anything fried is always likely to be a winner.

By the time the third dish arrived I could see a pattern developing; each was getting progressively more interesting. The tricolour design of green mojo, red mojo and local honey drizzled across lightly grilled cheese looked pretty as a picture and the savoury sweet combination of honey, mojos and cheese hit it off with the taste buds big time.

The grilled cheese was good but the ferrerro Canario that followed was even better; morcillo (Canarian black pudding) coated with chopped almonds and herbs and drizzled in honey was simply a tapas triumph.

Back to traditional for the penultimate round ““ pimientos de Padrón. If you’ve never tried these green peppers fried in olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt then you’re missing out on a classic tapas dish. What makes them even more appealing is that as well as being delicious they’re tapas with attitude; one in ten can pack a picante punch. But not apparently if they’ve been grown on Tenerife. If you fancy playing culinary Russian roulette check to make sure the pimientos de Padrón hail from La Palma. On this occasion I didn’t have to ask. As the waitress placed the bowl of peppers in front of me, a waiter serving another table gesticulated in my direction.

“Be careful,” he warned. “These are spicy ones.”

As it happened some did prompt a reaction akin to a dusky beauty wearing stilettos doing the tango on my tongue, but as a Rusholme vindaloo veteran it was nothing I couldn’t handle; they were some of the best pimientos de Padrón I’ve tasted in a long time.

All that I knew about my last choice was that it included octopus, the name pulpito al Olivo didn’t give much away, but it had been recommended by the waiter. When it arrived it turned out to be one of the most bizarre concoctions I’ve ever seen.

The morcels of octopus lay on top of layer of creamed potato sprinkled with paprika ““ basically it was octopus and mash and it was delicious. Amazingly the potatoes complimented the tender octopus perfectly. It was a wonderfully surprising denouement to an imaginative tapas meal with a difference”¦and they didn’t even charge me extra for the street entertainment.

Tenerife Magazine’s five star rating for Tasca el Olivo

Décor ““ 4 stars. Delivers exactly what you’d expect from a stylish Spanish tasca. Looks great and has a lively ambience.

Menu ““ 4 stars. Impressive range of choices with classic dishes to suit the traditionalists, but also a few imaginative offerings to excite foodies with adventurous taste buds.

Food – 4 stars. Dishes taste as though they’re all freshly cooked and prepared with TLC. Some work better than others.

Service ““ 4 stars. The waiter warning me about the pimientos typified the staff’s genuinely friendly and attentive approach.

Where when and how

C/Iriarte1, Puerto de la Cruz. Open 12.30 to 3pm and 7.15 to 10pm every day. Reservations 922 38 01 17 / 677 50 99 88

Prices
Tapas dishes are on average between €3 and €5. The Tasca has an extensive wine list and also a interesting range of Spanish beers chosen especially to make the tapas taste even better.

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