How to make your own gin in Palma de Mallorca

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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 black-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

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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 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’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, 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…

Bala Roja is open for dinner only.

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

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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. 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.

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

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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 him 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

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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.

Unmissable in August

The final Castell Classics event of 2018 will be a fabulous climax to the season: the celebrated Egyptian opera star Fatma Said and Puerto Rican tenor Joel Prieto (who sang at the above Young Singers of the Salzburg Festival event) will perform. It will be a spectacular evening, including the garden reception and al fresco gala dinner on the terrace. The date for this Castell Classics concert is Saturday, August 11th, starting at 7.30pm.

See here for more information and to book your place(s) for the final Castell Classics event of 2018.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Eight chefs, seven Michelin stars, one amazing dinner

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Drink / Eat
Garden St Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort

View from the St Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort towards the Med

Eight chefs, with seven Michelin stars between them, are flying to Mallorca from countries as far away as Japan and Russia, to create one amazing gastronomic experience. Now a firm fixture on the foodie’s calendar, the 8th Culinary Safari takes place at the 5-star St Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort on Friday, July 20th, 2018.

Chefs are packing their whites and flying in from Tokyo, Moscow, Vienna, Paris, Barcelona, and Bergisch Gladbach (near Cologne), to join Markus Wonisch (executive chef at St Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort) and Miguel Navarro (chef of the latter hotel’s one-Michelin-star Es Fum restaurant) for the 8th Culinary Safari.

Es Fum team

Miguel Navarro (left) and the Es Fum team

Chefs visiting Mallorca

Joachim Wissler of the 3-star Restaurant Vendôme, Schloss Bensberg, Germany

Paolo Casagrande – Restaurante Lasarte (3 Michelin stars), Barcelona

Stéphanie Le Quellec – Hotel Prince de Galles, Paris

Ken Takahashi – The Prince Gallery Hotel, Tokyo

Stanislav Polesskiy – St Regis Moscow Nikolskaya

Francesco Genovese – The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna

The event

This gourmet feast begins at 7.30pm with Champagne on the sea-view bar terrace, to the sounds of the saxophone. From there begins a culinary journey through the St Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort, where the eight chefs will offer tasty delights. The journey even takes you through the main kitchens – an experience I found fascinating when we went to one of these events in the past. The cuisine finishes with an irresistible dessert buffet (this is not a night for calorie-counting!).

And to drink?

What else? Wines from Mallorca, of course. A number of small bodega stalls will offer their finest wines during this event. Cocktail fans will appreciate the innovative creations of the renowned mixologist Rafa Martín from the Palma cocktail bar Brass Club.

Live music will play throughout the evening. It promises to be a good night out!

The price – including all drinks – is 209€ and places can be booked by phoning the hotel on +34 971 629 629.

Here you can read about our previous experience of a Culinary Safari event.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Review of Melassa Restaurant, Melbeach Hotel & Spa

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Chefs / Eat / Restaurants
Melbeach Hotel & Spa. Photo courtesy of hotel.

You’ve found Melbeach Hotel & Spa – and Melassa Restaurant

Our foodie friends from Oxfordshire made their customary visit for a holiday with us in June and, as usual, we took the opportunity to introduce them to some of the restaurants we’d discovered since their last visit. One of these was Melassa Restaurant at Melbeach Hotel & Spa, in the pleasant northeastern resort of Canyamel.

When The Boss and I ate here last, we said (almost at the same time): “D and K would love this restaurant!” We took these friends last month and, indeed, they did.

Melassa Restaurant location

Melbeach Hotel & Spa is an adults-only hotel, on the beach at the quieter end of the resort. Its restaurant – Melassa – is open to the public as well as guests staying in the hotel; both dining room and terrace benefit from their proximity to the Mediterranean. The views are gorgeous – especially in the evenings around sunset time. Although you can’t see the sun sinking into the sea in this part of Mallorca, the changing colours of the sky and water are worth seeing. It was spectacular when we were there in June.

The gleaming white-painted building has a contemporary design and is, in fact, a total renovation of a more traditional-style resort hotel of a different name. The stylish hotel is seasonal, with an outdoor chill-out lounge – where you could have a drink before or after eating at Melassa Restaurant (also adults only).

Chef David Moreno

David Moreno is from Mexico and leads a small brigade of talented and enthusiastic young chefs. Prior to working at Melassa Restaurant, he was the sous chef at the Michelin-starred Andreu Genestra. His previous experience at that Michelin-starred restaurant in Capdepera is evident at Melassa.

We had reserved the tasting menu in advance for the four of us. Each dish would arrive at the table as a delicious surprise. David himself came out from the kitchen to explain each dish.

 

Dishes on the tasting menus change, depending on the fresh local produce available. One thing’s for sure: you’ll eat delicious creative cuisine that marries interesting flavours with a variety of textures. The majority of the wines on the list are Mallorcan and prices seem fair. Service from the young team is professional and friendly.

My ‘Table Talk’ Restaurant of the Week

My Saturday-morning two-hour ‘Table Talk’ show on Mallorca Sunshine Radio includes a Restaurant of the Week. This feature is a brief description of the restaurant and what it offers; it’s broadcast on the show at around 11.35h and also on the preceding Monday to Friday at around 12.35h. It is not an advertising feature: my choice of restaurant each week is based on my own experience of eating there. Melassa is my Restaurant of the Week from July 2nd-7th, 2018.

Good to know:

  • At lunchtime a separate menu of snack-type meals is available from 12:30-16:30h.
  • Dinner is from 20:00-22:00h and you can choose from the à la carte menu or the tasting menus (five- or seven-plate versions). If you want one of the tasting menus, please contact the restaurant in advance to reserve.
  • The chill-out lounge has live music in the summer on Tuesdays and Fridays from 21:00-23:00h

©Jan Edwards 2018. All photos are also my copyright, except those marked as provided by the hotel.

San Juan Chef Night at Ponderosa Beach

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Eat
A table flower arrangement at Ponderosa Beach

Happy flower, happy place!

Our foodie friends know that we are big fans of Ponderosa Beach on Platja de Muro, in the north of Mallorca. We’ve eaten here quite often at this seasonal beach restaurant since our first visit in October 2014. We’ve also taken friends and family members to share the joy of eating a delicious meal with your toes buried in the sand beneath the table.

If you go for lunch and like seafood and paella/rice dishes (arroz con cosas), I recommend ordering the Aristocrat & Baroque rice dish. It’s the most expensive rice dish on the menu at 28€ per person, but it’s the type of dish that makes me want to stand on my restaurant chair and sing with unbridled joy. It’s fortunate for fellow diners that I am able to control these urges…

Special event for San Juan

If you don’t already know, the festivities for San Juan – or Sant Joan in mallorquín – take place at night on June 23rd, the eve of the Saint’s day. Many people consider this to be the most magical night of the year, marking the arrival of summer. The celebrations involve superstition and rituals, which usually take place on a beach. Bonfires, candles, food, and drink are the essential ingredients – along with friends and loved ones to share the fun. Fire and water are important elements of the San Juan celebrations.

Fire and water are also important at Ponderosa Beach on this special night – when the place stays open late and the kitchen is busy for the eatery’s Sant Joan Chef Night. Each year they invite a guest chef to join its own kitchen brigade in creating a special tasting menu for the occasion. DJs provide the music (this year we had MI.RO from Mallorca and Nickodemus from New York).

For the first one we attended, two guest chefs – Pau Navarro and Ariadne Salvador – were in the kitchen. It was the first time I tried their creative modern food – based on local recipes and ingredients – and I was thrilled to try their restaurant Clandestí Taller Gastronòmic in Palma some time later for a restaurant review.

Chef Jonay Hernandez

This year’s San Juan Chef Night at Ponderosa Beach featured a chef I interviewed recently on ‘Table Talk’, my Saturday show on Mallorca Sunshine Radio. Jonay Hernandez is from the Canary Islands and his cuisine reflects that. He has two restaurants on the island: Flor de Sal in Camp de Mar and the recently opened La Vieja de Jonay Hernandez in Palma.

I haven’t yet eaten at either of his places but they’re on the list (it grows each week). For San Juan, Jonay and the Ponderosa Beach brigade created the tasting menu (details and some images) below, for which we paid 60 euros each.

The menu

Aperitif – Peach wine (made by the Ponderosa Beach mixologist, Alex Martinez Lebrero)

STARTERS (to share)

Roasted maize and cod cube croquette with red onion jam

Sea bass and pork belly tartar, roasted oil, and prawn dust

Broccoli in tempura, oyster mayo, smoked fat, and tuna heart

MAIN COURSES

Corvina with lemon and roasted pumpkin rice

Braised pork fillet with mojo picón, cranberry jelly, and papas arrugadas

PRE-DESSERTS

Pineapple and beetroot tepache – a bright-pink fermented drink

Chocolate and gofio fudge

DESSERT

Torrija with cardamom  cream, almond ice cream, and lemon caramel

Redivins wine distributors offered an optional wine pairing for this dinner, for an extra 20 euros. We didn’t take advantage of this, but their wines are excellent. The dinner was really tasty, although I confess that I have never been a fan of torrija (the texture is not to my liking). Having had this dinner, I have moved La Vieja de Jonay Hernandez a few places up my restaurant-visit wish list.

Ponderosa Beach has a few new waiting staff members this year but the ethos is the same: this is a place where you can chill and experience laid-back beach vibes, yet still eat creative, well-prepared cuisine – served with professionalism.

My tips:

  • Book well ahead if you want to be sure of getting a table at Ponderosa Beach.
  • Go in footwear you can kick off easily. Toes will want to be sunk into the sand.
  • If you are particularly attractive to insects (sand flies in particular), be liberal with the insect repellent before you arrive.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s San Juan Chef Night at Ponderosa Beach. Any bets as to who the guest chef may be in 2019?

©Jan Edwards 2018

Eat and drink afloat in north Mallorca

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Eat

If you’re on the Spanish island of Mallorca and hear the seductive siren call of the Mediterranean, taking a boat trip is the perfect response. Mallorca has plenty of excursion boats operating out of various ports around the island but, if you prefer a motorboat and not being with dozens of other holidaymakers, chartering a captained boat could be a more appealing option.

A Dutch-built beauty

AlcudiaMar in Puerto Alcúdia is the home of Silver Fox – a classic motorboat that has just started offering trips in the north of Mallorca. Silver Fox is a Prins van Oranje Rapsody 40 Offshore Dutch-built motorboat, which its Mallorcan owner Juan Carlos Pujadas lovingly restored over the last winter. It’s a beautiful vessel combining classic features – all that varnished wood! – with modern facilities and conveniences. She takes up to eight people in comfort.

Although a lawyer by profession, Juan Carlos has had the sea in his blood since he was a little lad in short trousers, spending summers with his family in Puerto Alcúdia. You’ll find him in shorts today too for his duties as the captain of Silver Fox. His passion for boating and the sea becomes obvious as soon as you meet him.

Tailor your Silver Fox trip

Silver Fox offers a few charter options – from a full-day trip to a sunset tour – all with Juan Carlos at the helm. However, everything is flexible – including the choice of food and drink you may wish to have onboard – so this can be a tailor-made experience. During our sunset tour, we sipped the high-quality fizz, Raor Reserva Brut Nature (Parellada and Chardonnay) from the Mallorcan DO Pla i Llevant. I even learnt a few new things from Juan Carlos about the Puerto Alcúdia area.

The friendly Juan Carlos speaks excellent English and has plenty of stories to recount to his charter clients. We really enjoyed his company – and his beautiful boat. Apparently there are around only eight of these classic motorboat models in Europe and Silver Fox is the only one in Mallorcan waters.

Juan Carlos Pujadas was my guest on ‘Table Talk’ on Mallorca Sunshine Radio on Saturday morning, June 23rd, shortly after 11am CET. Find the interview on the podcasts section here if you missed it and would like to listen.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Hotel Mama in Palma, Mallorca – review

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Cafes and bars / Drink / Eat / Hotels / Sleep

Palma’s newest boutique hotel is also the most central: Hotel Mamá is in Plaza de Cort – the most important square in the heart of the city’s old quarter.

The 32-room 5-star hotel is opposite the distinctive town hall building and close to the iconic ancient olive tree known as Olivera de Cort. With its huge trunk sculpted by nature, this magnificent tree is a well-known meeting point in the city and most visitors to Palma probably pass through Plaza de Cort during their stay. They’ll now find an impressive new meeting-place rival for that olive tree, in the shape of Hotel Mamá.

Grupo Cappuccino’s first hotel

I’d watched the development of this hotel from a 19th-century building with interest, knowing that it was to be the first hotel for the Mallorcan Grupo Cappuccino, which has high-quality restaurants and cafes in several locations in Mallorca and in Ibiza, Madrid, Valencia, Marbella, Jeddah, and Beirut.

Cappuccino cafes are known for their unique architecture and design and for high standards; prices for drinks and food reflect the quality, but it’s worth splashing a little extra cash to appreciate the setting, surroundings, and smart service of these unique places. For years, we have been taking our visitors to the rear courtyard garden of Cappuccino Grand Café – a former palacio in Palma’s C/ San Miguel; this oasis in the city, with its central fountain and colourful bougainvillea, never fails to impress.

A Cappuccino Grand Café is just one of the attractions of the new Hotel Mamá, where we spent one night last week in a superior room (room number 37 on the third floor). The hotel offers eight suites facing Plaza de Cort, eight deluxe rooms, eight superior rooms, and eight standard rooms.

On arrival

When we arrived late afternoon, the terrace of Hotel Mamá’s Cappuccino Grand Café was busy with people enjoying the best-possible spot for some serious people watching as they sipped drinks and ate their food.

As we entered the hotel, we were greeted by a smiling reception staff, standing in front of an impressive and colourful display of Mexican fighting masks. These unusual features hinted that we were in for a treat in terms of interior design.

While check-in formalities were being completed, we were invited to have a complimentary coffee, tea, or iced tea in the Grand Café – where we happily sat taking in our surroundings. Art is everywhere and reflects the artistic tastes of Juan Picornell, the Grupo Cappuccino owner.

Picornell’s eye for the aesthetic can be seen in all of the group’s properties, but it’s writ large here at Hotel Mamá, where the Parisian interior designer Jacques Grange could express his bold vision and attention to detail over five floors and a basement.

Design by Jacques Grange

Jacques Grange is considered one of the world’s best interior designers and decorators: his clients include actress Isabelle Adjani, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Alain Ducasse, Francis Ford Coppola, and Karl Lagerfeld. He was responsible for New York projects such as the decoration of Paloma Picasso’s jewellery store, the Mark Hotel on Madison Avenue, and the Barbizon Hotel.

As Grange had already designed a Cappuccino Grand Cafe (in Madrid), it was not surprising that  Picornell wanted Grange to design his first Cappuccino hotel in Palma. The hotel’s director, Cati Crespi, told me the two men respect each other’s work.

Room 37

Our superior room was spacious, comfortable, and with plenty of natural light from two sides of the room. One window looked down over the central courtyard, the other had views across rooftops, giving us a different aspect of Palma – a city we know well.

The facilities and features of the room are as you would expect in a 5-star hotel, but there’s a lot of attention to detail and Grange’s design made the room feel homely and luxurious. We loved the attractive tiled floor and the shutters on the courtyard-side windows.

We particularly liked the bathroom, which had a large walk-in shower (with logical controls) and a large white traditional-style sink. Although some of the contemporary shallow sinks often found in new hotels look wonderful, they can sometimes be impractical for wet-shaving (I’m told). We loved the Floris toiletries and the attention to detail: a small glass ring tree on the bathroom shelf – for keep rings safe when you’re washing your hands – is something I don’t remember seeing before in a hotel here.  And some people will appreciate the fact that the door to the bathroom is solid and not frosted glass.

The room safe was in a low drawer with the controls on the top. Easy to operate, it had a top-opening lid which made it easy to see what we had stored inside. We appreciated the Illy coffee maker (capsules) in the room too.

Other little details included a pale-green leather-clad waste bin and a round coaster-size trays in the same leather on each bedside table. The do-not-disturb signs here are written with ‘Siesta’ on one side and ‘Fiesta’ on the other. Sounds like the perfect holiday.

Hotel Mamá’s other facilities

The  Cappuccino Grand Café is not the only place to eat at Hotel Mamá: the hotel also has a Japanese restaurant called Tahini (another Tahini is located in Mallorca’s smart Puerto Portals marina).  We didn’t eat here as we weren’t in the mood for Japanese that particular evening but shall check out the special lunch menu they offer for 27€ on a future visit to Palma.

The hotel is the only one I know in Palma to have its own private cinema – Cappucine – where up to 30 people can sit in comfort, enjoying one of the hotel’s collection of classic movies. Screenings take place twice a day and the facility is free for hotel guests and Tahini customers.

Cappucine

Hotel Mamá also has a health club and spa, SPALMA – a name that is a neat combination of Spa, Palma, and alma (the Spanish word for ‘soul’).  Guests can be assisted by the hotel’s personal trainer and wellness expert Ivan Toscano (who will, if you wish, take you for a jog around Palma. No. We didn’t wish, but plenty of guests would!).

Treatments include a choice of massages (including couples’), treatments, and rituals – for women and men. SPALMA – like Cappucine – is in the basement. Oh, and do check out the unusual wall clock in the spa area. Never seen one like it before!

Seating in the basement area near SPALMA

Like quite a few luxury hotels in Palma, Hotel Mamá has a roof terrace, with small pool. It offers stunning views of the centre of Palma and is open only to hotel guests – to respect their privacy.

Breakfast

Breakfast is served in the central courtyard. It’s gorgeous in there. Look up and beyond the walls of the tall building that surround you is the sky. It will be a glorious place to sit in the heat of summer and, at night, a canopy is pulled across to make the area feel a little cosier. And imagine what must have been involved in planting the palm trees in there!

What we particularly liked about the delicious generous breakfast was that everything is served to you. There’s no getting up and down from your table to go to the buffet table. It made a relaxing start to the day. And I loved my spelt bread toast and generous helping of perfect avocado (I asked for mine without the poached egg usually included).

Now that’s what I call breakfast!

Our verdict of Hotel Mamá

We loved Hotel Mamá in Palma and had only one small issue: in the evening, housekeeping delivered two bottles of Evian water to the room (which was much appreciated). However, the bottles were plastic and we hope that they – and other hotels – will find an alternative to offering water in single-use plastic bottles. Juan Picornell – Grupo Cappuccino’s owner and founder – will, I am sure, be looking for a way to address this issue.

©Jan Edwards 2018