The Elska Kitchen

Tucked discreetly around the corner in Sector B, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean towards Arrifana, sits The Elska Kitchen. A seemingly unlikely spot for such a bohemian marvel until you become familiar with Sector B in Vale da Telha – then it quickly becomes apparent the café is situated exactly where it needs to be.

As you enter, the warm, eclectic vibe draws you in. Speaking with one of the owners, Kerensa, I learn nearly all the furniture in Elska has been upcycled by her husband Steppe and the rest has been completely handmade by him. Their ethos is low waste, with respect for the community and the environment. Their aim is to ‘join the global growth of conscious kitchens’, ensuring food waste and disposable plastic is kept to a minimum. The café/deli has a flexitarian theme, meaning it is predominantly plant-based with the occasional ethically sourced meat dish, making it more ‘flexible’ than a vegetarian diet.

Elska means ‘love’ in both Icelandic and Swedish. Kerensa is half Swedish and Steppe half Icelandic. The common word that brought them together translates seamlessly to their passion – The Elska Kitchen. They met while working in the film industry and moved to Tenerife just after Steppe had been working at Jamie Oliver Restaurants. Helping to set up and train staff was a natural progression from being assistant director for years, as his logistical mind worked perfectly in this environment. 

Tenerife was a great experience; however, they were looking for more of a community feel and, as Kerensa’s sister already lives here in Monchique, they decided the Algarve would be the perfect place to bring up their three children and start a new venture.

Their first chef was straight out of a Jamie Oliver kitchen. The head chef now, Maria (@idofoodbcn) is originally from Venezuela, and is equally passionate as her predecessor. Her experience comes from owning a Mediterranean-style restaurant in Cambodia, and then becoming a consultant to restaurant owners in Barcelona, helping them to create successful restaurant concepts.

Maria’s cooking is heavily influenced by her time spent in South East Asia.

Her dishes are bold, and she delivers honest, hearty cuisine, confidently and unpretentiously turning locally sourced and mainly organic ingredients into fresh and indulgent food. The menu changes daily, keeping the intrigue and excitement, which encourages a very loyal following with locals and a prize find for enthusiastic tourists. 

I listen to Kerensa multitasking while I wait to talk to her. She isn’t showing any sign of stress, despite the coffee machine not working for an hour since opening time. Her down to earth and personable manner immediately puts customers at ease. Even without their morning coffee fix, many are choosing to stay because the menu and atmosphere offers much more.

The Elska Kitchen is an upbeat bohemian cultural hub, where digital nomads, families, surfers, tourists and mums with little ones happily pass their time. It seamlessly caters for all walks of life. The vibe reminds me of a backpackers gathering, where people share ideas, stories about travel, work, and surfing, while enjoying the experimental and ever-impressive food.

Always aiming to collaborate with locals, Kerensa and Steppe recently joined forces with The Cookie Girl aka Helen, who is originally from New Zealand and serves up decadent desserts. Her carrot cake – something of a local delicacy – and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes remind me of an award-winning bakery in NYC called Magnolia. Helen offers gluten-free and vegan options as does Elska’s main menu. 

Striving to ensure constant support for the local community, Elska offers ‘pop-up’ nights, allowing a space for local chefs to showcase their food. The Lebanese nights are definitely ones to look out for.


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