Back in the 1970s, Perry Como’s 40 Greatest Hits LP was often on the turntable in our house.

‘ve always loved a bit of cheese, and Mr C’s album was prime Cheddar, packed with upbeat earworms that still pop into my head, four decades on, and none more frequently than Magic Moments, go on, you know it: Magic moments, Memories we’ve been sharin’…

It came to mind as I checked into the glorious Ritz-Carlton Abama, in Tenerife last November.

That dreary month in Ireland is the start of high season on the Island of Eternal Spring, with average temperatures in the low 20s – perfect for al fresco dining, a spot of sunbathing and a magic moment or two. I was there to explore the island, and experience Marriott Bonvoy Moments, a new travel programme that allows members to earn points and redeem accumulated points on money-can’t-buy experiences worldwide, including VIP access to world-class events in sports, arts, culture and entertainment.

The Ritz-Carlton Abama is the perfect venue for Culinary Moments, as it has two Michelin star restaurants, the one-star Japanese fusion Kabuki; and the two-star M.B., the vision of Basque chef Martin Berasategui, who has accumulated an astonishing 12 stars to date.

But first, lunch. After a brief recce of my expansive villa, I made use of its complimentary electric buggy to pootle to El Mirador, one of the hotel’s many dining venues, where I savoured a sumptuous lobster lunch, and the stupendous views of distant La Gomera, the smallest Canary Island and Christopher Columbus’s last stop en route to the New World. The deep channel between the two islands is a feeding ground for migrating whales – they feast on giant squid – so the mammal-spotting opportunities are legion.

El Mirador has an adjacent pool for postprandial lounging, but I hadn’t time to linger as I was off to experience my first Moment: a sushi masterclass with Kabuki’s David Rivero, a dashing Spaniard, who previously worked in Dublin under Dylan McGrath. Kabuki’s interior is a paean to Japanese design with a monochrome palette softened by a wood-batten wall echoing the laths of a Japanese screen door. David talked my companions and I through the sushi-making process, dropping in priceless practical hints as he deftly sliced and rolled bite-size mouthfuls of delight, which were promptly devoured.

Much of the produce used in the hotel is locally grown, including the avocados, and bananas – a banana grove abuts the hotel’s grounds – which adds to the flavour profile and vastly reduces the carbon footprint of one’s meal.

Then it was time to return to my Suite Villa to freshen up in advance of another Moment; a cocktail workshop. All of the accommodation at the Ritz-Carlton Abama is luxe, but the villas are very special. Mine was enormous, with a bedroom, living area, two sun terraces, both with sea views; and a huge bathroom and separate shower – not to mention the Nespresso machine, mini bar, Asprey toiletries, huge bed and acres of wardrobe space. Heaven.

Back at Kabuki, on its terrace, genial mixologist Mikhail gave us the history and construction behind three cocktails, two of which were a twist on classics, and Mikhail’s award-winning In The Paradise, a lush tequila-based tipple that was unanimously voted our favourite.

Heady from the booze and the heart-stopping scarlet sunset, we trooped into Kabuki, excited for the impending feast that lay ahead. Kabuki – which references Japanese theatre, and plays on the idea of food as theatre – is the first Spanish restaurant serving non-Spanish cuisine to achieve a Michelin star. And it quickly became clear why, as David and his team served our table with a succession of exquisite dishes, including those we had been privileged to see him create during our Moments experience. Each dish was standout, and plated on specially imported Japanese crockery, which added to the authenticity and visual spectacle of what was a sublime dining experience. Magic, even.

Next morning, we were up before dawn to enjoy yoga with Yana, and a lavish sunrise breakfast on the pool terrace of the Imperial Suite, located on the 10th floor of the Citadel – the hotel’s main building.


Gemma enjoying the sunrise

The rest of the morning was spent exploring Tenerife, which is the most diverse of all the Canary Islands: the south is quite dry and arid; the centre of the duck-shaped island is volcanic; while the north is lush and fertile, with abundant forests. This unusual mash-up of climates and ecology on such a small island makes Tenerife an endlessly interesting destination for the intrepid traveller.

Our first stop was Mount Teide National Park, an amazing volcanic landscape dotted with striking rock formations, with the eponymous mountain at its centre. It’s the highest peak in Spain, and it was christened Teide – hell – by Canary Island aboriginals, who believed the devil lived within. There’s a cable car up, but to climb the final ascent, you need a permit. It’s unnecessary to summit, though, as, having disembarked the cable car, a 20-minute walk brings you to a viewing platform from which the entire moon-like landscape is visible in all its black, sulphurous glory. Go early, as it gets very busy.

There’s much more to explore in the national park, including a plain dotted with pumice, which due to its similarity to the moon’s surface, has been used by the European Space Agency for testing prototypes; while on the Roques de Garcia circuit – amazing terrain for hikers – we encountered breathtaking, banknote-worthy rock formations such as the Roque Cinchado (it was on the mil peseta note).

Back at the Abama, lunch was at the Beach Club – a gorgeous spot perched above the beach, reached by hotel funicular. Its Canarian potatoes are a must-have: in a quirky take on the classic, the wrinkly spuds are dipped in squid ink, giving them a crusty coal-black exterior, and a floury middle. Divine.

The Beach Club is the perfect spot to linger over lunch but I had a date with a very special Moment: a masterclass with Martin Berasategui, the most famous Spanish chef of his generation, who learnt his trade in his mother’s fish restaurant in San Sebastian, and 10 years later won his first Michelin star. All the Culinary Moments one can bid for are unique, but it is a rare privilege to be allowed into the kitchens of a revered chef, have him show you how his signature dishes are constructed, and be allowed to participate!

For all his laurels, Martin is an unassuming man, who is fiercely proud of his Basque heritage, and utterly dedicated to discovering and exploring the nuances of every ingredient in his kitchen. My attempt at ravioli garnered praise, and later that evening, in M.B., as my companions and I were served our 15th course of 20-odd, fresh pasta ravioli stuffed with truffle, I wondered if my pasta effort had made it to the pass. Perhaps not. The tasting menu at M.B. is a symphony to excellence, and replete with unexpected flourishes, foams and mists galore. Our almost five-hour culinary adventure ended with a bow from the man himself and I waddled back to my room to dream of truffles, foie gras and wagyu three ways.

Breakfast – yes, I somehow had room – at dreamy El Mirador was followed by a peerless massage at the Ritz-Carlton Spa, and sadly checkout. Freezing Ireland beckoned. But, to quote Mr C – Time can’t erase the memory of these magic, moments, Filled with love! (And sunshine. And food… oh, the food…)

Getting there


At chef Martin Berasategui’s kitchen masterclass

* A stay at The Ritz-Carlton Abama, Tenerife is from €225+ taxes per room per night for a Deluxe Room Resort View. See

* Marriott Bonvoy Moments is an experiential marketplace where the 133 million members of the global travel programme can pursue their passions by bidding their points for money-can’t-buy, exclusive experiences.

* Each Moment is exclusive to members and can only be accessed by using points. To enrol for free or for more information, visit Travellers can also connect with Marriott Bonvoy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

NB: This feature originally appeared in The Sunday Independent.

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