YOU KNOW you’ve hit the jackpot in Tenerife when they serve you a ramekin of air-whipped gofio at the end of your meal, instead of one of those synthetic ice cream-in-a-lemon horrors. Gofio is Canarian peasant food made from roasted grains.
In its raw form it tastes like seasoned wallpaper paste and the dessert at Pampa, a lively Argentinian restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, Abama resort, was alarmingly similar... yet strikingly different.
Despite the addition of honey and almonds, a skilful chef can only work so much magic but as the manager, Daniel, said, “We love to make our food special because we want you to remember the experience.”
Well, he succeeded, because tradition-with-a-twist is my holiday sweet spot. Their steaks were divine but the reinvented gofio mousse still makes me smile.
I spent three nights at this luxury hideaway with my mum, Babs, who was celebrating her 75th birthday. Sandwiched between banana plantations on the west coast of the island, playfully book-ended by the Atlantic Ocean and the dormant volcano Mount Teide, the Abama strives to be extraordinary.
I was eager to visit as I’m a huge fan of Tenerife, and have been since my family first travelled to the island almost 30 years ago. It’s undergone many changes, not all them good. Numerous ugly developments are my biggest bugbear.
Now however, it’s going upmarket. Leading the charge for high-end holidays is the Ritz-Carlton, Abama, which dispels any out-of-date notions about the island in one classy swoop. It’s a great base for exploration but only if you can bear to leave the luxurious bubble and seek out Tenerife’s treasure. Avoiding busy tourist hubs such as Playa de las Americas, you can find delicious Canarian food (Cafe Venezuela, in Las Galletas for arepas, or Jamon Jamon, in Playa San Juan for tapas), architectural delights (the Candelaria cathedral) and stunning nature (the pine forests en route to the Teide crater), if you try.
But for those who want to be pampered and forget that the real world exists, the Abama delivers.
The hotel, designed by Chilean architect Melvin Villarroel, pops thanks to its Moorish red hue. The colour is symbolic of volcanic Teide, but the main citadel with its curved lines and verdant landscaping are inspired by soothing Chinese teachings. So far so zen.
From the chilled champagne we were offered on arrival, to our gorgeous king-size suite with ocean views, through to the beautiful thermal spa, koi carp pond, seven pools and private beach, we enjoyed a Tenerife experience like no other.
I especially loved the Iberian ham, bread and Canarian mojo that greeted us in our room. In the early 1990s, when I was a tour guide on the island, their idea of bread was a wheaty rock you could break your teeth on.
The hotel, which opened in 2005 and was taken over by the Ritz-Carlton group in 2007, has elevated the island’s culinary experience with the addition of two Michelin-starred restaurants – the only ones in the Canaries. Basque chef Martín Berasategui runs the two-starred MB, while the one-starred Japanese fusion at Kabuki is overseen by chef Ricardo Sanz.
The tiny bay reached by funicular was my favourite hang-out. Tenerife is hemmed by black volcanic sand but here they’ve pulled out all the stops and imported luxury golden sand.
There’s a breezy cafe brushing the shoreline serving the freshest seafood.
The hotel is family friendly (shallow pools and a kids’ club) but also caters for grown-ups. There are ten restaurants, three bars and an adult-only pool area at the Mirador bar. The green Abama “train” is a convenient way of touring the complex but more than once staff in golf carts asked if we needed a lift.
I should also mention the private Tagor villas, the 18-hole golf course, tennis academy, gym, excellent room service, designer boutiques and stunning fresh flower displays. But it was their attention to detail that really impressed. When the staff discovered that Babs was a fan of the traditional Canarian barraquito coffee (made from condensed milk, espresso and “43” liqueur) they prepared a late afternoon treat.
Sipping our made-to-measure beverages in the quiet Persian gardens, listening to the fountains gurgling and basking in late afternoon sun, the ever-youthful birthday girl turned to me and said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
And she was right. It was extraordinary.
Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) flies from Edinburgh to Tenerife three times a week in the summer, from around £120 one way.
Ritz-Carlton, Abama, Guía de Isora, Tenerife, (tel: +34 922 126 000, www.abamahotelresort.com); B&B room rates start from e225.