It’s fair to say that British food once had a bad rap and was often described as ‘bland and boring’. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Last week, Michelin added 21 restaurants in Britain to its list of starred establishments for 2023.
Britain now has 164 starred restaurants (from one to three stars) – of which 74 are in London. And it’s not just at Michelin-starred restaurants where the chefs have stepped up to the hotplate to raise the image of their country’s cuisine in recent decades.
One such chef is now cooking in Mallorca’s capital, Palma, having moved here with his wife to fulfil their dream of opening their own restaurant, in the autumn of 2021.
Rob and Amber Kirby are flying the flag for British cuisine – with a twist – at their Market Kitchen. Their cosy 30-seater restaurant couldn’t be much closer to the indoor fresh produce market at the heart of Palma’s Santa Catalina district.
Chef Rob Kirby
Rob Kirby has been a chef for 40 years, although he doesn’t look old enough to have been working that long; this life has clearly suited him. He’s wracked up some notable achievements: he’s cooked for the British royal family, been a regular BBC television chef-contributor, authored three cookbooks (one of which won an award in the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2011), and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. If that doesn’t whet your appetite to try his cuisine, I don’t know what will.
Located on a corner, Market Kitchen is a small restaurant with a big ambience. Hints of the couple’s nationality and their great sense of humour are evident in the décor. The open kitchen at the rear offers glimpses of the culinary action. The uplifting soul music playing will have your toes tapping under the table.
The main courses on the day we visited included ‘proper’ cottage pie, home-cured salt-beef bagel, and fish ‘n’ chips with home-cut fries and French-style peas with lettuce. For us, it had to be the latter. If there’s one dish a British expat misses, it’s probably good fish and chips. And Rob’s doesn’t disappoint, with a generous chunk of perfectly cooked cod in a light and crispy batter made with Rosa Blanca beer. This hoppy lager was first brewed in Mallorca in 1927; today, the brewery is in Barcelona but there are plans to bring it back to Mallorca – where it has a lot of fans. Oh, and there was even the traditional Sarson’s malt vinegar.
But I’m jumping ahead, having omitted to tell you that Amber Kirby is one of the warmest and most hospitable hosts I’ve met in Mallorca. I can’t imagine her ever not smiling. If you go to Market Kitchen having had a rough day, Amber’s welcome will be transformational.
We went for lunch and started with a cocktail each as we looked at the short menu. We don’t often drink cocktails but had heard how good they were here. The Boss had a blood orange mimosa (10€) and I had a refreshing cucumber martini (14€). I shall be dreaming of the latter in my hammock during the ‘dog days’ of this coming summer.
Amber brought us each a small cup of mushroom soup with a mushroom croquette as a complimentary appetiser. As soon as we tasted it, we knew we were in for a culinary treat.
If we lived in Palma, this would be a regular eating-out spot. ‘Nuff said.
Good to Know
- At the time of writing, Market Kitchen is open for lunch Thursday to Sunday and for dinner, Thursday to Saturday.
- Market Kitchen has also gained a great reputation for its traditional Sunday roasts.
- If you’re on social media, follow marketkitchenpalma on Instagram or Market Kitchen Palma on Facebook for news and mouthwatering images.
- Find Rob Kirby’s cookbooks on Amazon.
- Santa Catalina has street parking, although this popular area is often busy. Pay in advance at the parking meters and be aware that parking is free for some periods. Public underground parking is available in the nearby Passeig Mallorca.
- The menu at Market Kitchen changes weekly to make the most of the fresh seasonal produce sourced from the market across the road. But you’ll always find a choice of British dishes – made lovingly with Rob Kirby’s creative twist.