I’m sure it seems terribly pretentious when we’re in restaurants on Tenerife with visiting friends when the waiter asks if we want the English or Spanish menu and we always, always ask for the Spanish menu.
But there are a number of reasons why if you can understand Spanish even a bit you should follow suit.
Okay for a start there’s the obvious; it’s a good way for picking up basic Spanish words and cooking terms for anyone who wants to learn the lingo. But there are a few other, more practical reasons.
Most menus have been translated into English by someone who doesn't speak it as a first language and that can lead to some, let’s say, misunderstandings.
Apart from smile-raising mistranslations, getting it wrong can lead to culinary disappointment. One time in Regulo in Puerto de la Cruz, Andy got excited by the inclusion of fish pie on the menu. She had visions of the sort of pie we cook up at home courtesy of Rick Stein’s cookbook with three types of fish, prawns and mussels in a lip-smacking sauce topped with creamed potatoes. She was gutted when a cold, fish terrine was placed in front of her.
Just last week we were in a restaurant with my sister and her boyfriend and she fancied the sea bass on the menu. Sea bass is a fish which regularly falls foul of mistranslations. In this case a quick check of the Spanish menu revealed it was actually sama, a local fish. Often it’s the dorada fish that is described as sea bass, but it’s a wee liar; dorada is bream. What we know as sea bass is actually called lubina here.
However apart from risking disappointment, the best reason for always asking for the Spanish menu is that you might be missing out if you don’t.
Recently we ate at La Casona in Puerto, again with my sis and her boyfriend. The Spanish menu included a ‘combinado’ section which was mysteriously absent from the English menu. If you’ve never come across combinado menus, you’re missing out on a Spanish style of food presentation that would have Gordon Ramsey turning the air blue.
Combinados might have the serious chefs holding up a crucifix to ward them off, but they’re quite good fun and perfect for anyone having an attack of indecision, especially if they like their food quite simply prepared…plus they are incredibly cheap, usually well under €10.
So asking for menus in Spanish on Tenerife might sound pretentious, but at least you can be sure of what’s going to be on your plate when it arrives.