[Los Cristianos, Tenerife, Spain] La Fresquera

The kitchen here does what it does very well. And what it does is pretty classic Spanish cooking – take good ingredients, cook it simply without too much cheffing about, put it on a plate and let customers enjoy themselves.

There’s excellent bread and a tapa of deep fried pork belly to nibble on before orders were taken. Starters are served tapas style, intended for sharing. That means that the dish will come when the kitchen has decided to cook it, rather than orders coming together. That’s fine so long as you know this and are not waiting for the other plate to arrive before you start yours. No problem for us as we dived into the tomato bread as soon as it arrived. Which was just as well, as it was several minutes before the other one came. In the meantime, we’d scoffed the bread – presented like Mallorcan pa amb oli – toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato just squidged into it. It was lovely. As was the dish of chopitos when it arrived - tiny squid, given perhaps too heavy a coating of the batter and quickly fried. It needed just a squeeze of lemon to set it off.

Fresquera is one of the few places in the area that makes a paella for one from scratch and it’s a usual order for my companion in life. There was something lacking in the flavour from previous visits but it was still a good mix of mussels, clams , white fish, prawns and single giant crevette. And, as with any good paella, it was the rice that was the star.

Shoulder of lamb is my favourite dish here and I find it hard to look further on the menu (although I have enjoyed the suckling pig in the past). The lamb is long cooked on the bone, as a braise, till it’s almost falling apart and is then finished to order in the oven , to crisp the skin. It’s quite fatty of course, but not overly so. It sits on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes and onions which have cooked in the braising liquid and lamb fat to an unctuous deliciousness. A bowl of salad is a welcome fresh and crunchy contrast.

It has to be said that service was slow, even by Spanish standards. It meant that, whilst we might have managed dessert and coffee, over two hours had passed and we’d just lost the will to sit there any longer. So, we got the bill.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold