Mallorca’s Finca Aubocassa Marks 20 Years of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Leave a comment
Eat / Mallorca extra virgin olive oil

As celebrations go, the one to mark the 20th anniversary of Aubocassa Extra Virgin Olive Oil was one I shall remember for a long time – and not just because Mallorca’s autumn weather was particularly fine that day. I’d been meaning to visit Finca Aubocassa for some time, so an invitation to one of two events held to mark the anniversary was the perfect prompt.

Countryside around Finca Aubocassa

Rural tranquillity at Finca Aubocassa

Finca Aubocassa is not far from Manacor in the east of Mallorca and is a typical example of a Mallorcan country house, or possessió, with land given over to farming. The estate dates from the 12th century and had a succession of local owners before it became the property of Palma de Mallorca’s noble Despuig family, who built the Renaissance chapel standing in front of the house. Later, under the ownership of the Verí family, the estate became one of the area’s most productive working farms, with winemaking an important activity.

 

Evidence of a fruitful agricultural past still remains. The cellar is a reminder of the days of wine production; shady pastures and pens reveal that livestock was raised here, and almond, fig, and carob trees abound.

Liquid gold

But it was the revival of the olive groves that has made this finca famous today. In 1998, the owners of Bodegas Roda (on the Spanish Peninsula) and this estate in Mallorca, produced their first extra virgin olive oil here – named Aubocassa. Their cultivation of olives is done with respect for the soil, the flora, and local fauna, with minimal use of fertilizers and chemicals. The company embraces both tradition and innovation in the production of its two types of extra virgin olive oils (the original Aubocassa and later addition L’Amo Aubocassa).

Bodegas Roda’s general manager, Agustín Santolaya, and Tiffany Blackman – who looks after the Mallorcan estate – welcomed around 100 guests to Finca Aubocassa for the first celebration of the 20th anniversary. I was there with other members of the media, chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers, sommeliers, event organisers, and others.

Our finca tour

Armed with a megaphone, the charismatic Agustín gave us an informative and entertaining introduction to the estate, its history, and a commentary on the whole process of making Aubocassa’s extra virgin olive oils. We began the event on the large terrace in front of the house and made our way around the finca to the olive groves, where we watched part of the olive-harvesting process in action. Agustín told us that the harvested olives used to be taken to the co-operative press in Sóller but, in 2015, Finca Aubocassa inaugurated its own press – one that’s unique in Spain. These days the olives go straight from harvesting to pressing – you can’t get much fresher than that!

 

From the groves, we walked through the building housing the press and were able to see the precious juice of the olives as it was extracted. We learnt that it usually takes between eight and nine kilos of olives to produce a litre of Aubocassa. The aroma in this building was mouthwatering, giving us an appetite for the picnic lunch that awaited us.

The words ‘picnic lunch’ hardly seemed adequate to describe what we all sat down to. Two long attractively decorated tables, with crisp white linen, were set out in an olive grove; the delicious aroma of grilled meats drifted from the caterers’ BBQ nearby. Olive oil and wines from Bodegas Roda (Rioja) and La Horra (Ribera del Duero) – for which Agustín Santolaya is also responsible – flowed. Birds sang. It all reminded me of those dreamy Mediterranean scenes you see in films, where everyone sits down at a long table to share food, wine, and conversation after the olive or grape harvest is finished. The difference here was that we guests hadn’t had to do any work for our lunch!

 

Congratulations to Finca Aubocassa on 20 years of producing the award-winning Aubocassa extra virgin olive oil. Made from 100% arbequina olives, it captures the essence of this wonderful estate and the island of Mallorca in every luscious drop.  Both Aubocassa and L’Amo Aubocassa (made from arbequina and picual olives) carry the Denomination of Origin Oli de Mallorca.

Fancy a visit to Finca Aubocassa?

It’s possible – and highly recommended. The estate has recently inaugurated its Olive Oil & Wine Bar – open to all, where you can taste the oils and wines from Bodegas Roda and Bodegas La Horra.

In addition, Finca Aubocassa offers an olive-oil tourism experience: a tour of the finca and olive groves, visit to the press, and tasting of olive oil for 15€ per person; for an additional 15€ you can add a wine tasting to the experience. It’s essential to book if you want to enjoy one of these oleoturismo experiences: phone +34 971 100 388. And don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish: Tiffany Blackman is American.

Tiffany was my guest on edition 19 of ‘Table Talk’ on Mallorca Sunshine Radio; listen to the interview about Finca Aubocassa here.

Jan Edwards ©2018

Mallorca’s Michelin Stars for 2019

Leave a comment
Chefs / Eat / Michelin

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018 was an important date on the Iberian gastronomic calendar. It’s when the Michelin Guide for Spain & Portugal 2019 was launched at a gala event at the Pavilhão Carlos Lopes in Lisbon. Seven of Lisbon’s chefs with Michelin stars prepared the dinner for the distinguished culinary guests – but the event was really all about announcing the new stars for 2019.

https://espacioprensa.michelin.es/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/GUIA_2019_01.jpg

Reminder of Mallorca’s stars for 2018

For 2018, nine restaurants across Mallorca were awarded a total of ten stars: Zaranda by Fernando P Arellano at the 5-star Castell Son Claret hotel in Es Capdellà was again the only Balearic restaurant with two stars.

This summer, Mallorcan chef Tomeu Caldentey – whose restaurant Bou (formerly Es Molí d’en Bou) had held one star since 2004 – said goodbye to his star when he closed that restaurant to replace it with a new one, offering a concept of more affordable dining. “We liberate ourselves from golden shackles and simplify the format in the search for truth,” Tomeu Caldentey says on his website. The term ‘golden shackles’ is an interesting one, don’t you think?  Michelin stars do have both advantages and disadvantages and Tomeu is one of a number of chefs who have relinquished their star(s) for one reason or another over the years.

Just this past week, the news broke that Álvaro Salazar – the young chef at the one-Michelin-star Argos (La Goleta Hotel in Puerto Pollensa) – had left the seasonal restaurant Argos to open a new restaurant at the 5-star Park Hyatt Mallorca in Canyamel in March 2019. Perhaps that hotel hopes to have a Michelin-starred restaurant for 2020…

Michelin stars for Mallorca 2019

Thirty new Michelin stars were announced tonight for restaurants across Spain (26) and Portugal (4). Sadly, the publishers of the famous red guide didn’t award any new stars for Mallorca or her sister islands.

However, the following seven restaurants in Mallorca have retained a total of eight stars for 2019:

Adrián Quetglas, Palma de Mallorca– 1 star
Andreu Genestra, Capdepera – 1 star
Es Fum, Costa d’en Blanes – 1 star
Es Racó d’es Teix, Deià – 1 star
Maca de Castro, Alcúdia – 1 star
Marc Fosh, Palma de Mallorca– 1 star
Zaranda, Es Capdellà – 2 stars

Congratulations to all of these restaurants and good luck for 2019!

Jan Edwards ©2018

Foodie News and Events from Mallorca

Leave a comment
Eat

 

Here are further details of some of the news and events from Mallorca’s world of hospitality and gastronomy, mentioned in my ‘Balearic Bites’ features this week on Mallorca Sunshine Radio.

Cooking the Books

Acclaimed British baker Justin Gellatly in the kitchen of mymuybueno Cookery School earlier this year

Justine Murphy of the multi-division business mybuybueno has cooked up a new idea for food lovers in Mallorca: the Cookbook Supper Club. The idea is that attendees gather together to prepare, cook, and eat supper (and clear up afterwards), creating an ambience much like that of a supper party at home cooked with friends. It’s a chance to be inspired by different chefs and put recipes from the month’s chosen cookbook to the test, alongside other keen cooks in the mymuybuenocookery school open kitchen in the heart of Palma.

Each month the price will change depending on the ingredients and recipes used. The Cookbook Supper Club will be for a maximum of ten people and take place on the last Thursday evening of each month.

The Cookbook Supper Club launches on Thursday, November 29th at 7pm, when attendees will cook and eat six dishes (including dessert of sweetened sticky rice, mango, and sweet coconut cream) from David Thompson’s cookbook Thai Food. The price for this inaugural event is 20€ a head. Take your own wine; Justine suggests a Riesling or similar would be most suitable. To book, email info@mymuybuenocookeryschool.com

A Ma Maison celebrates 7th anniversary

Two years ago, The Boss and I attended the 5th anniversary of the charming Tunisian restaurant A Ma Maison in Palma’s Santa Catalina district. The restaurant owner Saloua was a wonderful hostess – even donning a belly-dancing outfit and shaking it all about for part of the evening!  Two years on and it’s time to party again. A Ma Maison celebrates its 7th anniversary on Saturday, 24th November, with another ‘do’.  The event includes an open bar, Tunisian buffet, and lots of fun. Paul Martin – a talented Mallorca-based singer who gigs at several restaurants and hotels throughout the year – will entertain, so there will be dancing. A raffle with great prizes is also on the agenda.

Saloua is using this event to raise money for a Christmas lunch for 600 children in need on the island of Mallorca. Only 60 tickets are available for this anniversary party in Palma on the 24th, so it’s best to book now as they are selling fast. Tickets are 60 euros each and 10 euros from each ticket sold will go to Saloua’s Christmas lunch for kids in need. Book your tickets by calling on +34 971 919 697.

Tess de Mar introduces menú del día

Tess de Mar restaurant in Campos PHOTO COURTESY OF SA CREU NOVA ART HOTEL & SPA

Sa Creu Nova Art Hotel and Spa in the Mallorcan market town of Campos has closed for the winter break, but its two restaurants are still open for business. The Mediterranean restaurant Tess de Mar has launched a weekly-changing menú del día – a set three-course menu with a choice of starter and main courses and one dessert.  The menu at Tess de Mar is designed to be nourishing, balanced, and good value at 19€, excluding drinks.

Fera Business & Lifestyle Events

Dining area, Fera

One corner of the dining room at Fera

After celebrating its first anniversary recently, Fera Restaurant and Bar in Palma has announced that it will host a monthly networking Fera Business and Lifestyle Event.  These will include a lunch and masterclass – presented by an expert sharing their knowledge of business and lifestyle topics, trends, and opportunities.

Launch date is Tuesday, November 20th from 1pm. The first masterclass is entitled Discipline and Management and will be presented by Pablo Mielgo, director of the Balearic Symphony Orchestra. The cost is 60€ including IVA, for the masterclass, three-course lunch and wine. Contact Fera Restaurant and Bar in Palma to book your place.

Food Passion in Port Adriano

Port Adriano in Mallorca’s southwest is a tempting place to eat out this November. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout November, eight restaurants in the Philippe Starck-designed superyacht marina are taking part in the initiative Food Passion in Port Adriano. Each restaurant is offering a special tasting menu for lunch or dinner, costing between 16€ and 18€. Participating restaurants are coast by east, UMI, Ristorante Giuseppe, Bruno, Vino del Mar, La Cantina, El Faro del Toro, and La Oca 2. Find out more (including the menus) here.

Jan Edwards ©2018

Tess de Mar: a Great Reason to Visit Campos in Mallorca

Leave a comment
Eat / Sleep

Campos. This market town is probably not on most Mallorca visitors’ top-ten list of must-see places, but I’d like to suggest three reasons why Campos – in the south of the island – is worth visiting. And these reasons share the same address. The restaurants Tess de Mar (Mediterranean cuisine) and the Japanese omekase restaurant Kairiku are both within the super-stylish boutique 5-star Sa Creu Nova Art Hotel & Spa, right in the heart of Campos.

Daytime view out to the terrace PHOTO COURTESY OF SA CREU NOVA ART HOTEL & SPA

The hotel side of the operation closes for a winter break on Friday, November 2nd, but its two restaurants have a separate street entrance and will remain open to the public until the end of the year. Kairiku closes on December 29th and Tess de Mar is open until January 1st, 2019. Great news if you love good food.

The street in which the hotel and its two restaurants are located is lined on both sides with trees and vernacular terraced housing. Some of the houses are old and shabby and a few appear to have been abandoned – awaiting someone (probably a foreigner) to buy and restore them. It would be difficult though to do a more impressive renovation than the one that resulted in Sa Creu Nova Art Hotel & Spa. Come after dark and the building appears like a mirage – its impressive exterior tastefully illuminated. It looks just as stunning in daylight.

Tess de Mar

Argentinian chef Juan Ocampo has been at the helm of the Tess de Mar kitchen brigade since the hotel opened; he previously worked in glitzy Dubai. The chef has a zero-kilometre philosophy regarding fresh produce and works with local farmer Don Antonio. Juan’s signature cuisine is creative, flavourful, and delicious; I highly recommend it.

On Thursday evening we went to a special one-off dinner event at Tess de Mar, entitled La Nit de les Garnatxes – Night of the Grenaches (or Garnachas). The evening comprised a five-course dinner paired with wines from Celler de Capçanes from Tarragona for a cost of 45€ per person (including the wines!). What fascinated us was that each of the wines we had with dinner was made from 100 per cent grenache grapes, using exactly the same method and in the same bodega. But each well-paired wine was different.

“It’s all down to the terrain,” Anna Casabona explained to us, when we asked her the reason for this. Anna is the sommelier from the winery Celler de Capçanes and was on hand at Tess de Mar to explain the wines. Apparently, the vineyards cover areas of differing terrain: limestone, sand, slate, and clay. What a difference a terrain makes.

Each of the wines we had was named for the terrain in which the grapes grew: Calissa (limestone), Panal (sand), Licorella (slate), Argila (clay). The bottles for these four wines are wrapped in paper, illustrated in the style of a comic. We also had a dessert wine – made from over-ripe grenache grapes; I rarely drink dessert wines, but this one was delicious and worked exceptionally well with Juan’s dessert.

Our dinner began with delicious warm home-made bread and whipped butter and a tasty appetizer of coca with anchovy. A promising start. It ended with a selection of petits fours and good coffee. The Boss and I marvelled at the amount of flavour that each course delivered – the mark of an accomplished chef.

Service in Tess de Mar was professional and friendly, led by the charming Portuguese maître d’ Filipe Silva (who speaks very good English, if you don’t speak Spanish). The whole La Nit de les Garnatxes experience was a real pleasure and we talked about it for most of the 40-minute drive home. Yes, it’s worth the drive…

This Friday – November 2nd – Tess de Mar has another special dining event with a new ‘Mallorcan Route’ menu. Juan and his brigade will be accompanied in the kitchen by guest chef Andrés Benítez – who used to work at Tomeu Caldentey’s Michelin-starred restaurant Bou (now closed). This set-menu dinner will cost 35€ (excluding drinks) – which sounds excellent value. Book your place by emailing info@tessdemar.com or phone (+34) 871 51 53 45.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Where to Have a Pop-up Dinner in Palma this Autumn

Leave a comment
Eat

The island of Mallorca has no shortage of excellent restaurants but, as I’ve written before, I have a particular liking for pop-up dining. It’s a combination of eating somewhere that’s not a dedicated restaurant, a dinner-party-like ambience, and meeting others who share an interest in good food and wine.

This week The Boss and I were fortunate enough to be guests at the first Pop-up Dinner at the mymuybueno Cookery School in the heart of Palma. This is just one of the six mymuybueno business divisions owned by Englishwoman and former superyacht chef Justine Murphy – probably the most dynamic businesswoman I have met in Mallorca. Justine and her husband Paul hosted this first dinner and joined us at the table.

From Auckland to Palma

Justine persuaded New Zealand-based chef and restaurateur Phil Clark (Phil’s Kitchen in Auckland) to come to Mallorca, during his holiday in France (his wife is French), to lead two one-day Plating-and-Presentation Courses at the mymuybueno Cookery School. Phil also agreed to create the first of what will be a series of Pop-up Dinners by a guest chef at the cookery school this autumn.

These Pop-Up Dinners are for only eight diners, who sit at a long table at one end of the cookery school. Between courses, diners are invited to perch on a stool in front of the kitchen area to watch the chef(s) assemble each dinner dish.

We began our evening with a glass of cava in hand, meeting our fellow diners, then sat on stools to watch Phil at work on our starters and ask him questions. Once each dish was almost ready, we took our seats at the dining table – which had been exquisitely decorated with some of the pieces from the mymuybueno Luxuryware division. We all lusted after the silver olive-sprig napkin rings from the range.

Divine dining

Phil Clark created a three-course dinner for us and each course was accompanied by a different Ribas wine. I had to confess that I don’t like poached eggs, so my starter came without the egg, but with extra truffle shavings! The main course was divine, with perfectly cooked smoked duck. The dish also included beetroot microgreens from Els Ullastres Mallorca (a family-run business growing organic microgreens and supplying some of Mallorca’s best restaurants – including the two-Michelin-starred Zaranda).

The deconstructed lemon meringue pie dessert was the perfect foil for the duck’s richness. It was matched with Ribas dessert wine; a good cup of coffee (served with macarons) ended our dinner.

Two of the other diners on Tuesday evening were superyacht chefs; one guest had previously worked on superyachts (and now works for Justine), and another was a superyacht captain. The conversation flowed as well as the delicious Ribas wines – giving The Boss and me a fascinating insight into the world of working on superyachts.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable Pop-up at mymuybueno Cookery School and more of these events are to come this autumn (see more below).

Menu

Slow-cooked poached egg, caramelised onion, parmesan velouté, truffle

Smoked duck breast, beetroot, plum, and goat’s cheese

Lemon meringue

Wines by Bodega Ribas

 

Claire Hutchings at mymuybueno Cookery School

Former UK TV MasterChef: The Professionals’ finalist, Claire Hutchings, is a popular search on this blog, as she has been living and working in Mallorca for the past six years. Claire is leading a one-day Plating-and-Presentation Course on Saturday, October 27th (10:00-17:00h) at mymuybueno Cookery School. As I write, there is just one place remaining; if you’re interested, make haste and find more details here.

Claire is also the guest chef for nine Pop-Up Dinners at mymuybueno Cookery School this autumn: November 8th, 9th, 10th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th and December 13th, 14th, 15th. Find more details on the website.

Claire was my guest on ‘Table Talk’ on Mallorca Sunshine Radio recently, as were Kathy and Christos Michaels from Els Ullastres Mallorca. You can hear the podcast of these interviews here.

©Jan Edwards 2018

How to Make Your Own Gin in Palma de Mallorca

Leave a comment
Drink

Remember that line from the movie Casablanca? The one when Rick Blaine (Humph) says, “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”?

Well, I wouldn’t describe the new Mallorca Gin Distillery in Palma as a ‘gin joint’ – but it is all about the spirit that has inspired countless quotes from people in all walks of life…from movie characters to Sir Winston Churchill. And, funnily enough, we walked into the place and found Nofre and Cati there too, who own the excellent Ca’n Nofre decorating store in Manacor. If they spoke English, we’d have quoted Rick, for sure.

Waiting to make gin

(Left) Cati and (right) Nofre, with their daughter and one of their staff members from Ca’n Nofre – in our view, the best decorating store in Mallorca

Gins from Mallorca

The Boss and I don’t drink a lot of gin (how restrained of us) but, when we do have the occasional G&T, it’s usually based on one of Mallorca’s excellent artisan gins. Among those we’ve tried are: Gin Eva (their olive gin is a delicious revelation and my current favourite); Onze (distilled at the winery Can Vidalet); Cabraboc; Suau (which also makes brandy), and Gran Hotel Son Net’s strawberry gin.

Now we have a new addition to our drinks cupboard: a gin that we made ourselves. We haven’t set up a still in the garage at home (we don’t have one – either still or garage). But we did visit Palma’s new British-owned Mallorca Gin Distillery in the popular district of Santa Catalina – and I’d highly recommend it to any gin fan.

The Gin Distillery Experience

We went for the three-hour Gin Distillery Experience, which began with a well-mixed Tanqueray G&T (natch) and introduction to the spirit by our Liverpudlian guide, ‘Cocktail Kate’ Meehan. She’s a bubbly character with a superb sense of humour and, being a member of the UK’s Gin Guild, knows pretty much everything you could wish to know about her (and our) favourite spirit. This part of the experience takes place in the bar area at the front of the Mallorca Gin Distillery premises.

Kate then led us to a corner housing a traditional copper still (and boxes of new bottles waiting to be filled), where she explained the process of distilling. After one of three gin cocktails served during the three hours, it was time for some real hands-on fun. We climbed a few steps to a lab-like area at the back of the premises, where bench-style tables were set up with a number of small copper stills. I had a flashback to my fear of Bunsen burners in my school science lab but Steve and Ross, owners of the Mallorca Gin Distillery, took care of lighting the burners under the stills.

Blend, blend, blend

Working two people to each still, we set about creating our own gin. The shelves on one wall of this area were loaded with containers of flavouring ingredients from which to choose. A printed sheet provided some helpful guidance about flavours and the quantities needed of any chosen ingredient (surprisingly small).  But it was down to us – with the benefit of Kate’s chat about the flavours (and the gin essentials) – to create our own blend.

Whilst our group’s creations were distilling, it was back to the bar for a gin-based cocktail and some pintxos to soak up some of the alcohol. During the event we had three gin-based cocktails:

  • Spanish 75: Beefeater, lemon, sugar, cava, lemon oils
  • Stone-Fruit Slush: Beefeater, Aperol, Peach liquor, peach pureé, orange oils
  • Army & Navy: Beefeater, lemon, almond sugar, lemon oils

Name and seal

Once the gin was ready and poured into bottles, Kate gave us all card labels with string, on which to create a name for our own gin. The Boss and I had shared a still, so produced the same gin, but we gave our own bottles separate names. Mine was Jan’s Gin – not very creative (that’s what a few gin-based drinks does for me), but The Boss was inspired to name his IN.DI.GIN.(H)OUS. We each sealed our bottle tops by dipping them into hot wax, and it was then time for our final cocktail (Army & Navy), before we left, clutching our unique gin creations.

Gin made at Mallorca Gin Distillery

Here’s one I made earlier…

We left our two bottles of gin unopened until the end of August, when The Boss’s sons visited and we opened one to make G&Ts. Given that we were distilling virgins before we visited the Mallorca Gin Distillery in Palma, we were thrilled to find that our gin is simply delicious.

Verdict

We loved the Gin Distillery Experience and the satisfaction of creating our unique gin that we can offer to family and friends who come to visit. I certainly recommend this as something different to do in Mallorca. I would, however, suggest that you don’t drive after your gin-fuelled visit!

The cost is 120€ per individual or, for two people, 180€. It sounds a lot of money, but I think it’s great value for the experience.

Mallorca Gin Distillery also offers a Gin & Tonic Masterclass, at 50€ per person.

‘Cocktail Kate’ on Mallorca Sunshine Radio

Hear the effervescent Kate talking to me on episode 14 of my Saturday morning show ‘Table Talk’ about the Mallorca Gin Distillery here

©Jan Edwards 2018

Review: Bala Roja Gourmet Restaurant, Palma de Mallorca

Leave a comment
Drink / Eat / Restaurants
Bala Roja gourmet restaurant

Elegant Bala Roja with its glass floor. Photo courtesy of Es Princep Hotel, Palma

Our evening at Bala Roja restaurant at Es Princep Hotel in Palma de Mallorca didn’t start too well. We arrived in time for a pre-prandial in the hotel’s smart Gremium cocktail bar (which has a separate entrance from the street, so you don’t have to walk through the hotel itself). It was then that I found that I’d forgotten to bring my essential reading glasses. How was I going to be able to read the menu and, more importantly, write notes about what we were eating? My handwriting is bad enough with reading glasses…

The Boss read the drinks menu to me and gamely offered to write my dictated notes over dinner. We both chose non-alcoholic cocktails. I believe that the test of a good barman or mixologist is their ability to create an alcohol-free cocktail that has great flavour and interest. I chose Red Love (again, I’d had it before): it was red and I loved it. A tick in the box for Gremium.

Open the cage door for the Red Love cocktail

Red Love cocktail arrives in a pretty bird cage!

What’s in a name?

Bala Roja restaurant takes its name from a time in Mallorca’s history when visitors arriving by sea didn’t come in mega cruise ships or luxurious yachts. Furnace-heated iron cannonballs were fired from the Baluard del Princep (the part of Palma’s old city wall in front of the hotel) towards invading wooden warships, to set them alight. Even if the flaming balls – balas rojas – were off target, they would have been quite the deterrent.

Es Baluard of Es Princep

View of the Baluard of Es Princep – old city wall

A sweet treat served prior to the main dessert

This ‘bala roja’ is the pre-postre or pre-dessert

A warm – rather than fiery – welcome awaits today from Bala Roja’s efficient restaurant manager David. I last saw him working at the excellent-value Sa Fábrica in Inca. I was even more pleased to see him when he pulled a metaphorical rabbit out of the hat: on hearing about my reading-glasses predicament, he disappeared and returned minutes later clutching two pairs of the type of reading specs sold at pharmacies – one of which was perfect for me. I could read the menu and write my own notes! The Boss looked relieved. I’m sure I wasn’t the first – and won’t be the last – to forget their specs.

The décor

Bala Roja’s connections to the past don’t stop at the restaurant’s name. Part of the floor is glass – revealing a discovery from Palma de Mallorca’s medieval period, made during Es Princep Hotel’s construction. This district of Palma’s old town was once the home of the local tanners’ guild and, under the toughened-glass areas of the restaurant floor, you see some of the old stone vats – used in the processing of leather hides. A talking point, for sure. If you prefer a solid stone floor beneath your feet (and table), then be sure to mention this if you book a table here.

Part of Bala Roja restaurant

A view of the restaurant from the preparation area, including Nando Esteva’s photos on the wall. Photo courtesy of Es Princep Hotel

Old tannery vats under the glass floor

History revealed under the glass floor of part of Bala Roja

My recommendation is that you steel yourself for the glass floor and turn left once you’ve entered the restaurant. If there’s a choice of tables, this is the more intimate end. Here, the richly hued wooden ceiling is lower, and stunning black-and-white food images – by award-winning photographic artist Nando Esteva – grace the white-painted walls. The best bit about a table at this end of Bala Roja though is being near the area where some of the appetizer preparation and plating is done. Once you’re seated, you’ll forget that the floor beneath you is glass and be too busy looking at each dish as it arrives, or watching a professional at work.

The cuisine

Living up to its name’s strapline, ‘Gourmet Artistry’, Bala Roja is a relative newcomer to Palma’s gastro scene, having opened only in May this year. We sat down at 20:30h and the restaurant quickly filled (apart from one table). My impression was that several of the diners were locals. New seasonal menus had just replaced the opening ones and we were fortunate to be trying the new dishes.

The chef leading the brigade is Felipe Moreno, but the culinary concept here is by the renowned Andreu Genestra. His eponymous restaurant in Capdepera has one Michelin star; he also has the bistro Senzill (in the same Capdepera premises) and, in Palma de Mallorca, Aromata restaurant.

Bala Roja offers two tasting menus: Menu Es Princep (56€) and the longer Menu Bala Roja at 74€. We opted for the smaller menu (but shall try the longer one on our next visit. Oh yes, reader, there will be future visits). I’ve included photos of just two of the dishes we had; if I included them all there’d be no surprises for you if you go!

Our dinner began with three small appetizers: gilda with pickled cauliflower and monkfish liver; mini cornet of foie ice cream on top of rhubarb, and a tiny-but-tasty king crab sandwich. This was followed by a cocktail (drink) concocted at the table: spinach, lemon, and grape juices, with a shiso leaf and two drops of curry-infused extra virgin olive oil. It tasted healthy and freshened the palate.

The next dish was another (larger) tasty appetizer of green-tomato gazpacho with Mallorcan burrata. Poached-pepper rice with red shrimp followed and we agreed that we would have enjoyed a large plateful of this, although some people may prefer shrimp cooked a few seconds longer.

Perfectly cooked succulent John Dory was next, which came with a delicious saffron hummus. Our final savoury course was black pork presa (shoulder-muscle meat) with raw-almond cream.

Our only tiny gripe was the bread: they served us a quarter of a llonguet (the traditional Mallorcan coffee-bean-shaped bread roll), with further quarters subsequently offered. The thick-crusts of these rolls made them quite difficult to eat and they definitely needed the olive oil from Caimari to help the process. They’re more usually served as bocadillos (filled rolls) in bars and cafes, and personally I prefer them in this way. Andreu Genestra was in the restaurant so I asked him why he’d chosen this type of bread. He said that he wanted to use a local bread and – in Palma – the llonguet is king. I remembered then that true locals are affectionately dubbed ‘llonguets‘.

Wines

As well as the type of wine list that The Boss likes to peruse – making appreciative noises as he reads – Bala Roja offers an optional wine pairing for each tasting menu (Es Princep, 30€; Menu Bala Roja 40€).

We took the option and were in the hands of sommelier Josep. He is charming (and very easy on the eye too!), but his wine knowledge and choices were what most impressed us. My memorable pairing was with the dessert: Mallorcan Bodega Ribas Sioneta rosé (Manto Negro and Moscatel) could have been made for the apricot cake, white chocolate, and almond. I thought it was a blissful note on which to end – but there were still petits fours to come!

The wine list includes ecological and biodynamic wines predominantly from Mallorca and the Spanish peninsula, but with some examples from France, Italy, Germany, and even one from Greece. Look out for the Genestral label: these delicious and well-priced wines are made for Andreu Genestra by Felanitx winemaker Luis Armero and Joan Arboix, the sommelier of the Michelin-starred Andreu Genestra restaurant.

Service

Es Princep Hotel has five stars, so professional service is expected – and was delivered. We noted servers wearing white gloves to delivery the cutlery for each course, which is seen in few restaurants in Mallorca. The whole experience – food, wines, setting, and service – added up to an evening out that we’ll remember. We can’t wait to take our Oxford foodie friends to this one…

OCTOBER 2018 UPDATE:

Bala Roja has also introduced a lunchtime executive menu. Opening hours are now:

13:00-15:30 Lunch

19:00-22:30h Dinner 

Bala Roja was my Restaurant of the Week from August 13th-18th on Mallorca Sunshine Radio 106.1FM. Restaurants do not pay to be featured; I choose the restaurants myself, based on good experiences of recent visits.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Lip-smacking Food at Smack Mallorca

Leave a comment
Eat / Restaurants

When did we last eat in the same restaurant in Mallorca twice in one week? Never. The abundance of good restaurants on the island of Mallorca means that we are pushed (in terms of time and money) to try as many as we’d like to. But that was before we ate at Smack Mallorca in Palma de Mallorca. We enjoyed this French-owned restaurant so much recently that we returned just four days later! It’s also very good value for money – which is always an influencing factor.

The discovery of this restaurant in C/ Fabrica – the famous street of restaurants in Palma’s bohemian area of Santa Catalina – was no accident. In 2016 a couple from Paris contacted me through this blog and we met during their visit to Mallorca for a coffee and a chat about the island’s restaurant scene.

A dream comes true

Hélène Huret was a gastronomic journalist in France and Stéphan had previously worked in the restaurant Marc Meneau. Their dream was to move to Mallorca and open their own restaurant. They got in touch with me again after they had moved to the island and begun their search for suitable premises. In April 2018 they finally opened Smack Mallorca.

Hélène has created the recipes for the dishes on Smack Mallorca’s menu and their French chef Delphine (who has lived on the island for 15 years) is in the kitchen making them, whilst Hélène and Stéphan are front of house.

You can eat outside on the front terrace or indoors in the informal but stylish dining space. I think it will feel cosy in the winter, but for now we’re happy to eat and people-watch al fresco.

Eat, drink, Smack Mallorca

Smack Mallorca’s menu is short but seems to offer something for most tastes. Vegetables play the starring role in the Mediterranean cuisine here, with fish, meat, and cheese in supporting roles. If – like me on a virtuous day – you are trying to increase your intake of veg and cut down on fish and meat, several dishes will encourage you to do just that.

Roasted cauliflower with tahini and sauce vierge is one such dish, but check out the black tomato tart for something  different (and delicious). Stuffed courgette flowers and the watermelon, feta, and olives salad are on our must-try-next-time list. This is a good place to choose several dishes to share.

The wine list isn’t extensive but includes Mallorcan, Spanish, and a few French wines – with none (apart from the three Champagne choices) costing more than 29€ a bottle. Four wines are also offered by the glass. More than half of the wines are organic (bravo!).

Read the menu in Spanish, English, or French and, of course, you can speak any of these languages here. The Boss enjoyed practising his French with the charming owners.

Make the dishes at home

If you understand French, you may wish to buy a copy of Hélène’s recipe book – on sale in Smack Mallorca. Entitled Une Terrasse du Soleil et des Copains, the book is full of appealing photography and 45 summer recipes – including several for dishes on the menu at Smack Mallorca.

Recipe book cover

Time to get out the French dictionary. Cuisinons!

Hélène Huret was one of my guests on ‘Table Talk’ on Mallorca Sunshine Radio in June and you can listen to the podcast of that show here (labelled ‘Table Talk’ 9). After eating (and paying the full bills) at Smack Mallorca twice, I chose this as my Restaurant of the Week for July 30th to August 4th.

This autumn each Sunday, Smack Mallorca specialises in one particular French culinary speciality – for example, crêpes or blanquette de veau, which they serve throughout the afternoon from 13:00h until 21:30h.

By the way, if you’re wondering about the name, un smack is just one of the French words for a kiss!

©Jan Edwards 2018

New Can Mostatxins Frare Boutique Hotel in Alcudia

Leave a comment
Hotels / Sleep

 

Mallorca’s charming old walled town of Alcúdia has a new hotel: The Mostatxins Boutique Hotels Group has expanded with the opening of a new property, right next door to its original boutique hotel.

The first Can Mostatxins (above left), which opened in June 2015, has been renamed Can Mostatxins Quinze (the local word for 15, as part of the building dates from the 15th century) to differentiate it from its new sister property (above right).

Can Mostatxins Frare

Can Mostatxins Frare – a sensitively renovated 19th-century Spanish Modernist building – has 11 rooms (including one suite), plunge pool in the enclosed courtyard, Champagne bar, and restaurant serving breakfast and lunch.

We were invited to stay in one of the Can Mostatxins Frare rooms, at the top of the new hotel, prior to its opening to paying guests. The restaurant and bar were not finished at the time, but it was obvious that this will be a beautiful place to stay in an old town that has captivated us. We had a very comfortable and peaceful stay and appreciated that these two hotels are close to everything that’s of visitor interest in the town, but are tucked away in a quiet mainly residential street.

This year the Can Mostatxins Boutique Hotels are under the management of Valentina and her husband Luigi; their delightful daughter Aurora also works there. The whole team is super-friendly and helpful and staying here feels like being in someone’s home.

Mark Worthington on Mallorca Sunshine Radio

Mark Worthington is the British owner, developer, and hotelier behind this group and I had the opportunity to interview this interesting man for my weekly show ‘Table Talk’ on Mallorca Sunshine Radio. He told me about the history of the two hotels; the differences between developing projects in the UK (his main home) and in Mallorca, the chefs at the new restaurant, and about the steps taken this year by the group to operate more sustainably. You can hear the three-part interview on the radio station website’s podcast section: Edition 14

©Jan Edwards 2018

Opera and Gastronomy Under the Stars in Mallorca

Leave a comment
Eat / Hotels / Sleep
Castell Son Claret

Agapanthus – the flower of love – at Castell Son Claret

It was still daylight when we arrived at the 5-star Castell Son Claret, in the southwest of Mallorca, for the second in this year’s season of opera nights known as Castell Classics. This is the sixth year of these events, which are now a firm fixture in the Mallorcan cultural calendar.

We declined the offer of an electric-buggy ride from the car park up to the hotel entrance so that we could walk through the landscaped gardens – with their water feature and beautiful agapanthus flowers wafting in a gentle breeze.  The flowers and greenery used in the hotel’s displays are picked from these exquisite gardens.

Although we arrived exactly at the event start time of 7.30pm, plenty of people had arrived before us and were already enjoying drinks and appetizers on the lawns. Many of the 150 guests who attended were German – in my experience, almost always punctual!

From Salzburg to Mallorca

We were there to see the Young Singers of the Salzburg Festival – eight talented young singers of different nationalities – who would perform highlights from this year’s Salzburg Festival.

After drinks and nibbles in the gardens of the hotel, we moved up to the hotel’s large terrace, where we were all seated at round tables. It didn’t take long before we were chatting to the other people at our table – some Mallorcans, some Russians. These evenings are an opportunity to meet new people with a shared interest in opera and gastronomy.

Works by Mozart, Bizet, Gounod, Puccini, Chapí, Tchaikovsky, and Bernstein made for a varied programme of largely familiar pieces – including a couple of my personal favourites. Hearing such exquisite voices on a pleasantly warm evening under a darkening sky was nothing short of magical.

Gastronomic treats

The gala dinner, as one would expect from a hotel boasting two restaurants (one with two Michelin stars), was superb. Chefs Fernando P Arellano and Pep Forteza and their brigades created a wonderful dinner once again. On the menu: a snappy wafer-thin ‘coca’ of confit tomatoes, Soller prawns, and basil; medallion of spring lamb with stuffed onion and mint-scented pea purée, and the eagerly awaited ‘Selection of fine desserts’. How good were they! (Castell Son Claret has its own in-hotel bakery).

We drank La Cuvée 2014 Reserva from Bodega Gramona, and wines from Bodegas Valduero on the Peninsula.

The Castell Classics series is a cultural highlight of the Mallorcan summer and a personally recommended experience.

2019 programme now availabe

The dates for the Castell Classics 2019 are now available:

June 6th – Accademia Teatro Alla Scala, Milan

July 4th – Young Singers of the Salzburg Festival

August 17th – Soloists from the Zurich Opera House (NEW for 2019)

Book or obtain more details by emailing events@castellsonclaret.com

©Jan Edwards 2018