Gran Canaria! I feel over the coming months I’m going to be ticking off many countries and destinations from my list and today was no exception.
When growing up the idea of Mediterranean beach holidays was simply never a prospect. Summers were at best a trip to see one of my brothers in London or somewhere similar, or more likely a lot of time soaking in the culture of the Edinburgh Festivals. This was no bad thing but there’s a whole swathe of nearby European travel desinations that have totally passed me by.
When my friends Kathryn and Rene – most recently featured as part of my trip to St John but who also were my Royal Oak buddies and joined at the White Horse Oyster Bar – invited me to the island for their wedding celebrations, I was delighted to accept.
Not being one of life’s great planners, I largely turned over organisation of the trip to MJ and regular guest quester Hannah. They came up trumps with an excellent Airbnb apartment which they turned into a welcoming, chorizo and chickpea-filled home prior to my arrival, and a lovely week of weather for our time on the island prior to the wedding day.
Following some light snacking in the apartment, our first major meal saw a gathering of the bridal clan – twelve diners in total – for a trip to Monte Rojo in San Agustin. This was where the happy couple had romantically become engaged, several months prior, so it seemed a fitting place for the festivities to start.
As with much of the island, the place caters for many languages with the menu here available in Spanish, German, Swedish and England. I didn’t feel the need to show off my amazing multi-lingual dexterity so turned to the English section.
This was largely moot, though, as the wonderfully friendly staff soon took us through the daily specials which is where most of the action happened. Across the table we ordered practically all of the specials along with a range of sharing starters. I ordered the fish soup also because I am me.
Starters promptly arrived and had considerable wow factor. Two massive plates of padron peppers were mowed down. The fish soup had the greatest theatre as it was ladled from a tureen at the table.
The soup was absolutely outstanding. A light but deeply flavourful broth was packed with fresh white fish pieces along with mussels, squid rings and clams. It was the standout dish of the evening and one of the best fish soups I’ve been served.
MJ was delighted with her red tuna and even more pleased with the local-style wrinkled potatoes served with a garlicky rouille-type sauce. Garlic was a theme with the aroma becoming a dominating note over the course of the week.
Hannah’s mussels were plump to the point of fatness and served in a deeply earthy sauce not unlike the famously marmite Govan mussels from Guchhi.
Several of us had the local grouper which was lightly prepared in a mountain of garlic to show the simple white fish to good advantage. The accompanying slaw was another standout dish.
Kathryn attempted an absolutely mountainous piece of belly pork which we all had to help with. This showed the versatile skills at work in the kitchen. Rene chose his favourite dish of baby squid and was as impressed as ever.
We were entirely defeated by this extremely substantial feast which packed considerable charm and quality at an extremely reasonable pricetag.
So overall, Monte Rojo set the tone for our week in the Canarian sun. It was an outstanding meal with some dishes that will live long in the collective memory. That fish soup in particular will be the benchmark for the fish soups that follow. I’m not sure it will be bettered but I’d be very pleased to be proven wrong.
Blythe scores Monte Rojo
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 16/20
Today’s questers were: Alex, Amy, Hannah, Isla, Jenny, Kathryn, Lindsay, Miriam, David, Matthew, Rene, Blythe
We ate: an assortment included penne Bolognese, local cornettos, grouper, pork belly, red tuna, mussels, pa amb tomaquet, garlic bread, garlic prawns, fish soup, baby squid
We drank: albarino, beers, water
We wore: action flip flops, white hipster trainers, traditional holiday black, bib shelves, green slacks, rhapsodic blue, and swing wear in a range of ways across twelve diners
Total bill: c. €270
Address: Calle las Margaritas, 9, 35100 San Bartolomé de Tirajana, San Agustin