The culinary delights of La Gomera

Cuisine that’s an island apart

Talk of different regional cuisines sounds out of place on an island 15 miles wide but, as I coaxed my hesitant little rental car around the precipitous hairpin bends that separate the dusty sun-baked coast from misty interior forests, it quickly became apparent that La Gomera varies wildly over a small area. Island gastronomy mirrors the geography and the rugged remoteness also tends to keep everything firmly off the beaten track and old-fashioned. But in the context of today's trend for simple, fresh, local, organic and free-range food, things have travelled full-circle, with island cookery now highly fashionable.

Naturally, La Gomera's coastal settlements specialise in fish and seafood, with freshly grilled tuna steaks a staple, and generally best enjoyed in bare-bones places on harbours and seafronts, where menus usually vary with the day's catch. As I discovered on arrival in San Sebastián, La Gomera's main town, the Casa del Mar (00 34 922 870 320) on Paseo de Fred Olsen 1, opposite the marina, has what must be the island's largest selection of fish and seafood. It serves an excellent cazuela, a herb-heavy fish stew that takes almost an hour to prepare. It's served with gofio, a wheat, maize or barley flour that's been in the Canarian diet since before the Spanish conquest. Aboriginal Guanche goatherds would take pouches of the stuff into the hills, and use stream water to make dough-ball snacks. These days gofio generally replaces bread and is sprinkled on soups and stews; most rustic bistros have pots of it on every table. Another good basic harbour-side eatery is El Puerto (00 34 922 805 224) in Valle Gran Rey, whose grilled fish platter for two people (€17) is its wonderfully varied speciality.

Inland, other ingredients have traditionally formed the backbone of cuisine. Cress soup is a refreshing mainstay, while chicken, goat or rabbit form the basis of most main dishes, such as rancho canario, a chunky stew. Elsewhere these meats are enhanced by rich, tangy and often garlicky sauces, such as the tomato salmorejo sauce that generally smothers rabbit. Such dishes are best enjoyed in fairly basic upland bars and restaurants, such as El Tambor (00 34 922 800 709), beside the Park Visitor Centre for Garajonay National Park, which protects the laurel forest at the island's centre.

Better still, just beyond the south-western edge of the park in Las Hayas, La Montaña (00 34 922 804 077; efigenianatural.com ) is known for its superb vegetarian wholefood cuisine. Stews are mainly served here, and it's a true slow-food experience. You'll likely have to wait for the ingredients to be picked as well as cooked – while you nibble salads and local goats' cheeses and sup the hearty local wine.

Both along the coast and up in the mountains, many dishes come with papas arrugadas, delicious little Canarian new potatoes left in their skin and boiled dry in salty water, until their dark wrinkles are coated white. They always come with mojo, a local dip, usually served in a pair, with the fiery and peppery red rojo balanced by the soothing, coriander-heavy verde. Their quality is often considered the measure of a Canarian restaurant, so the finest closely guard their recipes: in La Gomera, these include the Marqués de Oristano (00 34 922 141 541) on Calle del Medio 24, in San Sebastián, which dishes up a superb selection of tapas in an 18th-century house and gives local food a gourmet twist: rabbit comes in marmalade; lobster with melon and mint. The Mirador de Palmarejo (00 34 922 805 868) is another top option, though its imaginative local menu needs to compete with the restaurant's novel design: the work of the Canarian artist César Manrique, it's built into the side of a cliff and offers dizzying views of the vast canyon of Valle Gran Rey.

When it's time to leave, there's no shortage of excellent gastronomic souvenirs on La Gomera: Mojo from local delis is an obvious choice, but better still is the unusual molasses-like Miel de Palma or palm honey. This ends up in many island desserts, as well as in the tangy liqueur, Gomeron. The honey is the product of the Gomeran palm, of which only around 2,000 trees remain – each protected by law –which provides sap only every few years. This makes harvesting a real skill and the syrup expensive, though you can get a good deal at the Wednesday or Saturday farmers' market in San Sebastián. But be warned: the honey's fiendish addictiveness (it's brilliant on ice cream) might be the start of an expensive habit: it's hard to find outside La Gomera and near-impossible to track down outside the Canaries. Perhaps leaving you with no choice other than returning to this unusual isle.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Day In a Page

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms