El Monasterio, Tenerife’s Secret and Best Restaurants
Like many of Tenerife’s most alluring restaurants, El Monasterio doesn’t lie within the boundaries of a tourist resort, it’s located on La Montañeta del Fraile in the municipality of Los Releajos. Luckily it’s only a short taxi ride from the north of Tenerife’s most popular holiday resort, Puerto de la Cruz.
The History of El Monasterio
Not actually a monastery at all, the volcanic cone on which the restaurant sits got its name thanks to a Dominican monk named Fray Antonio.
In 1788 Antonio wanted to build a shrine on La Montañeta de la Luz. To raise the money to do so he travelled around valley on a mule asking parishioners for donations of wine and goats, building up a well stocked bodega and a decent goat herd in the process. Over time he sold the wine for a healthy profit and was able to build a finca and a small chapel.
When he died in 1811, the volcanic cone was re-named La Montañeta del Fraile in his honour.
Nowadays, the finca has been transformed into a series of five restaurants based around a monastic theme and set in 100,000 square metres of gardens. But the religious association hasn’t totally been given over to simply pleasing the stomach. A small ermita still sits on the cone’s summit and every 3rd May locals make the steep walk to its little plaza to celebrate the Fiesta of the Cross.
El Monasterio Restaurants
Much more than a dining experience, any visit to El Monasterio (mesonelmonasterio.es) should include a thorough exploration of its grounds and intriguing nooks and crannies
The first sight that greets diners as they enter the grounds is the Hacienda San Pedro, a grandiose building that looks straight out of a Zorro movie and is a restaurant serving traditional Canarian cuisine of grilled meat and fish dishes.
From there the path gently winds upwards through the gardens passing wine barrels, a wine press and rustic and religious artifacts to the fondue restaurant, a low whitewashed building whose eaves are decorated with strings of dried chillies and corn on the cob. All around shocking pink bougainvillea tumbles across terracotta coloured Arabic tiles. Paths lead beyond tables covered in huge bright yellow gourds to two more restaurants serving traditional Spanish cuisine and a vaulted convent used for functions and weddings. El Monasterio bakes its own bread, which is sold in outlets in Puerto de la Cruz on the coast below, and the aroma of freshly baked bread combined with sheer beauty of this immaculately renovated setting is a pleasurable assault on the senses.
The last building on the path is the Mirador restaurant whose floor to ceiling glass windows may prove too much for vertigo sufferers as it sits right on the edge of the hill. This is the place to come for the most decadent item on any of El Monasterio’s menus; the champagne breakfast. For less than €15 diners can indulge themselves with a feast of fresh breads, pastries, bacon and eggs or salmon, accompanied by aromatic fresh coffees, gland tingling fruit juices and of course cava.
After such an indulgence the gardens provide a romantic setting to walk off the calories and paths weave through cacti, palm fronds geraniums and hanging ferns to duck ponds a small paddock with horses and peacocks.
It seems quite appropriate that an ermita built two centuries ago from earnings made from selling wine and goat meat should still be a shrine dedicated to good food and fine wine.