Costa Rica

When you’re on the road for a prolonged period, hunger is the driving force of many an unexpected adventure. The aroma of sizzling meat or a waft of heady spices is usually enough to send us wandering aimlessly down side streets and peering through doorways to find its source. But not all foodie treats are as hard to find.

Finally arriving in the small beach town of Santa Teresa on the southern tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, after a daylong series of minibus, taxi, ferry and public bus rides, we were exhausted, grimy and famished; a state which is rarely conducive to long strolls around a new town looking for sustenance.

We had booked into a small hostel called Kokua, which was popular among surfers, and didn’t hold out much hope of finding anything to eat nearby. But when we wandered out into the garden to seek dining advice among the lithe and tanned guests, resident Italian chef Andrea was firing up the stove in a rustic outdoor kitchen.

Andrea – a die-hard surfer – had been a regular at the hostel. Last year, he asked the owners if he could turn part of the spacious communal garden into a kitchen, and soon after, El Quincho was born.

And so it was that in a garden in the back of beyond, somewhere in the wilds of Costa Rica, we feasted on fresh bruschetta drizzled with Italian olive oil, homemade pasta with tangy tomato sauce, and delicious handmade beef burgers layered with fresh tomatoes, crisp lettuce and crunchy pickles, all cooked by a trained Italian chef.

We quickly forgot about the horrors of the journey and obeyed a sign on the bar, which read: “Eat good food with good friends.”

Despite, or perhaps because of its surfing credentials, Santa Teresa has become something of a foodie haven. In between and after surf lessons (during which we were battered by the wild Pacific) we dined at an endless line-up of restaurants, bars, beach shacks and hole-in-the-wall eateries that rarely disappointed.

But nothing tasted as good as the food we ate on that first night, when we thought all hope of a decent meal was lost, but found food and friendship around a makeshift kitchen made from driftwood and camaraderie. Sometimes, serendipity smiles on those who expect it least.