How Tenerife traded in full English breakfasts for Michelin stars

Tenerife has been upping the ante on its culinary scene
Tenerife has been upping the ante on its culinary scene - Reinhard Schmid/4Corners Images

As a Canary Island resident, I’m proud to say that times are changing on the island of eternal spring. What was once a Full English-vending, cheap-as-chips package holiday destination is maturing into a place for more sophisticated palettes.

It’s a bold statement, I know – but it comes backed by a certain tyre-manufacturer-cum-restaurant-authority, which has awarded the island two more Michelin stars for 2024, bringing the tally to nine. Taste 1973, in the resort town of Playa de las Américas, and Haydée, amid the Renaissance charm of La Orotava, are the latest restaurants to be lauded by its guide. Meanwhile, 20 or so more restaurants have been given the official thumbs-up as Michelin-recommended.

Taste 1973 was recently awarded a Michelin star
Taste 1973 was recently awarded a Michelin star

The vast majority of these take Canarian staples, such as dry-aged fish, and give them a gourmet spin – so it’s out with greasy burgers and in with Haydée’s baby goat wrapped in banana leaves and marinated for 24-hours (a traditional recipe prepped and presented for modern times). Centuries-old Canarian classics such as Ropa Vieja Canaria (literally translated as “old Canarian clothes”, but actually a warming chickpea and pork stew) and Conejo en Salmorejo (rabbit in a garlic and paprika sauce) are universally loved across the eight Canary Islands – but nowhere does them quite like this one.

Haydée's baby goat wrapped in banana leaves
Haydée's baby goat wrapped in banana leaves

While Tenerife’s restaurants pile up the plaudits, its products and ingredients are also drawing international attention. Canarian wines took home nine Grand Gold Medals for their vintages during the 2023 Mondial des Vins Extrêmes contest, which celebrates local wines created in unique terroirs.

In fact, the last few, fast-food-vending decades may have been a mere blip in Tenerife’s long history of satisfying the taste buds. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Canarian wine became quite the thing after Shakespeare featured “a cup of Canary” in two of his works (Twelfth Night and The Merry Wives of Windsor) – the Elizabethan equivalent of product placement.

One of the best ways to get to know the local juice is at the Casa del Vino museum in the coastal town of El Sauzal. Set in a 17th-century mansion, it has tastings and a wine shop selling the best of the island’s 100-plus wineries.

Casa del Vino museum is the place to head for an education of Tenerife's wines
Casa del Vino museum is the place to head for an education of Tenerife's wines - Alamy Stock Photo

Or, you could cut out the middleman and make straight for the vines. Head for Bodegas Monje where neat terraces top a view of the breezy Atlantic, or Cumbres de Abona where you can taste my favourite tipple, the fruity Flor de Chasna red.

Aware of rising interest, Tenerife’s hotels and resorts are vending food-inspired holidays with add-ons such as cooking classes or art and wine workshops (where you can sample the good stuff at the same time as putting a tipsy hand to a souvenir masterpiece). Alternatively, wander the island’s myriad farmers’ markets in search of its most famous food stuff: cheese.

Peruse the myriad of farmers' markets for local cheese
Peruse the myriad of farmers' markets for local cheese - Alamy Stock Photo

At 2023’s World Cheese Awards, tears were blubbed and mothers were thanked for each of the 38 medals awarded to quesos Canarios. You’ve never truly tasted goat’s cheese until you’ve tried the local version, with a little dab of Tenerife’s ubiquitous green mojo sauce on the side.

Four more surprising destinations for food lovers


For such a small island, Malta packs in plenty of Michelin stars – six in total. Three of them are for chefs who cook in its woefully underrated capital, Valletta. Best of all is ION Harbour, where the view across the Grand Harbour is just as good as the seasonal food from chef Simon Rogan. There are cheaper places to have a slap-up meal too, focusing on the island’s unique blend of Italian and Arab flavours that has resulted in dishes such as rabbit stew and lampuki pie, made with just-caught dolphin fish. They’re best at Gululu, found in an unlikely waterside location amid the tower block hotels of the resort town of St Julian’s.

ION Harbour sits on the top of the Iniala Harbour House
ION Harbour sits on the top of the Iniala Harbour House - Annie Mackaness


Thousands of years before Britons embraced boozing on the island, the Minoans gave us Linear B, the language from which the ancient Greek word “gastronomia” is derived. That goes some way to explaining Crete’s rich culinary heritage and a new breed of tourism that’s sprung up as a result: the island’s pies, wines and protected cheeses have even inspired a specialist tour from cultural trip purveyor Martin Randall. For trad cooking done to perfection, make for Ntounias near the town of Chania. Here, the chef recreates the recipes of his mother and grandmother over a wood fire, serving up homemade raki alongside them. Expect snails with rosemary and melt-in-the-mouth lamb.

Nerja, Costa del Sol

What it lacks in glitz, this Costa del Sol town makes up for in paella. Along the busy stretch behind Burriana beach, where marauding toddlers run for the playground and extended families stroll languidly, is the town’s stand-out star: Ayo Nerja. Here, guests sit at plastic tables in a sandy, unadorned yard, patiently awaiting outsized portions of the restaurant’s famously delicious rice dish doled out from gigantic pans. And though Nerja does have its fair share of Full English-serving cafés and Irish pubs, there’s also a thriving tapas scene in the lanes of the Old Town. Most atmospheric is La Tasquita del Sevillano (00 34 951 32 51 19), where two floors of crammed space segues to a terrace with a romantic view over the rooftops.

Paella is a must-try on the Costa del Sol
Paella is a must-try on the Costa del Sol - Getty

Albanian Riviera 

It may be gaining traction in Britain as an affordable beach destination, but Albania has a long history of delicious food – and it’s cheap as chips. The country’s burgeoning riviera is not (yet) a place filled with Michelin stars, but rather a destination to tick off simple local delicacies: mussels harvested from Lake Butrint; beach snacks of freshly-made petulla (fried dough) topped with gloopy syrup; or grilled octopus served in the Ibiza-style surroundings of Sanur Beach House, on the sand in the whitewashed and buzzy beach town of Dhermi. Meanwhile, just inland, a slow food scene is emerging. Around 20 minutes drive from the coast, Agroturizëm Gjepali is a hotel, restaurant and winery with a focus on local ingredients and grape varieties.