We’ve been to the most expensive restaurant in the world. And it’s worth it, if you can afford it...

Paco Roncero’s Sublimotion in Ibiza is open again. A great – and dear – experience. Not just a culinary one, it’s a real show

10-07-2019
Paco Roncero appears on the multimedia walls of 

Paco Roncero appears on the multimedia walls of Sublimotion, the restaurant in Ibiza inside the Hard Rock Hotel

After visiting the cheapest starred restaurant in the world, in Singapore (see We’ve been too the cheapest starred restaurant in the world, Hawker Chan), of course we had to visit its opposite. Sublimotion is considered the most expensive place in the universe. In order to sit at its only table, seating 12 people, you must land in Ibiza, which is a pretty jewel especially if you avoid July and August, when the island, where usually live 150,000 people, is invaded by two million tourists – with a recent positive trend: less visitors, but of better quality, which means with a higher budget.

This trend has attracted the attention of many people. While the tourists improve, the offer must also improve, including the restaurants (whether it was the other way round, it’s something that would require further discussion). Indeed, many have opened a restaurant in Ibiza: Albert and Ferran Adrià for instance, have opened Heart in collaboration with the Cirque du Soleil; and there are other famous and starred Spanish chefs, like Sergi Arola and Ricardo Sanz; as well as the omnipresent Nobu Matsuhisa and our own Gennaro Esposito, with IT Ibiza. The most exclusive and desired experience, however, is another. It’s the one offered at Sublimotion, "the leading gastronomic performance in the world", according to their claim.

Paco Roncero... in a moment of relax

Paco Roncero... in a moment of relax

This is the result of the creativity of chef Paco Roncero, an ex-pupil of Ferran and an established professional now (he was born in 1969), two Michelin stars at his La Terraza del Casino in the heart of Madrid. He even participated in Identità Golose Milano, at the beginning of that adventure, see Paco Roncero: avantagarde, tradition, Spain, theworld. Back in 2014 (so we’ve now arrived at the sixth season) he decided to open a strictly seasonal restaurant, open from June to September, that would be a synthesis of gastronomy and show, embracing different disciplines, in and original fusion: fine dining, technology, music, design, cinema, and magic too. All this for 12 lucky guests ready to spend 1,650 euros (including Vat) for the entrance ticket. Ah, it’s always sold out.

Given the uniqueness of this project, one should give some further explanation. From outside, the restaurant appears like a rather featureless parallelepiped, inside the Hard Rock Hotel, a huge five-star hotel with 493 rooms and music everywhere. So basically you dive into a rather estranging atmosphere; it a holiday-show concept which in the end feels rather engaging. 

The Hard Rock Hotel

The Hard Rock Hotel

Sublimotion is also a restaurant, but it has much more to offer. It’s a multisensorial experience that lasts little under two hours – at the end, you sit in the indoor garden and enjoy a cocktail as if there was no tomorrow. It has its own artistic cast, made of multi-awarded artists selected by creative director Eduardo Gonzales (Vega Factory), who’s in partnership with Roncero in this enterprise: the soundtrack is curated by composer Lucas Vidal (2 Goya and 1 Emmy award); the visuals are curated by director Curro Sanchez (1 Goya for his documentary La Búsqueda). And then there’s magician Jorge Blass, producer and deejay Wally López, designer Roberto Diz, actress and model Ana Vide...  And Jose Piñero too, an artisan entrepreneur from Alicante known as "El maker de los chefs", that is to say the person who turns the creative and experimental ideas of Spanish avantgarde chefs into something real.

Roncero, moreover, over the years have also got other fine food people involved: Diego GuerreroDani GarcíaToño PérezPaco Torreblanca... This is the concept: a menu divided into 12 moments or so, with over twenty tastings, 5 or 6 of which are signed by prominent colleagues, the other all by the ineffable Paco. This year, for instance, the "guest brigade" is entirely female: three-starred Elena Arzak from San Sebastiàn, and Peruvian Pía León (Latin America’s Best female chef in 2018 for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants); and then Slovenian Ana Roš (Best female chef in the world, in 2017, also for the 50Best) and, from Singapore, pastry-chef Janice Wong (Asia's Best Pastry Chef 2015).

A cast of stars, as one would say for a film. And just as if this were a Hollywood production, all the performance is based on sophisticated multimedia projections (starting from the table itself, which is in fact a huge digital screen) and the table-setting is designed by engineers, designers and programmers: they call it Hybrid Reality, which means there’s a completely virtual environment, where dishes interact with what is on the side, by which we don’t mean salad and potatoes.

Some thoughts:

1) the menu is, objectively, of the highest standards. And not so much – and not only – because of the chefs, in fact the guest chefs (of course: Arzak does her job, which is a lot; and the same applies to Pía León and, a little below, Janice Wong for the desserts. While Ana Roš’s offer didn’t fully convince us, it seems a little below her standards, unlike Roncero’s mastery. Indeed, he was very good at keeping the stalks high – there was a clear risk of turning everything into something for the nouveaux riches – with a series of rich, sparkling (this is tecno-emotion, after all), but equally precise, elegant, harmonious, classy dishes. He’s very talented, there’s no doubt about that.

2) The idea of dedicating a large part of the tasting menu to a sort of tasty trip across international cuisine - Roncero himself mostly takes care of it – is rather intriguing. It’s not an entirely fusion-style meal, but a trip in different stages – having the Spanish avantgarde always in playing in the background – touching Japan, then Mexico, France, Morocco, Peru… and Italy too, in a marginal yet very fun way: a series of tastings of "al dente vegetables", that is to say fresh vegetables from the kitchen garden, served raw, which in the end is a tribute to our tradition.

3) So we fully approve of the culinary experience. The dishes are very good, with some peaks that will make you scream they are truly excellent, and the glass is always full (they keep on filling it up) with Dom Perignon Vintage 2009 which is paired almost until the end and helps further appreciating the dinner. Yet at Sublimotion, as you have understood, you don’t just go to dine. It’s all the context that must be taken into consideration: and there’s no doubt it is extremely pleasant, rich and engaging, even for someone like me, who arrived with lots of prejudice, like "I’m not really interested in this kind of stuff ". It was like years ago, when they forced me to go to a musical in Broadway; I didn’t want to go, "it will be such a bore, a wasted evening". I had great fun in the end. And this time was the same.

4) So the main question remains: was it worth it, how about the cost? Surely this is not the place for the classic French workman who saves throughout the year to afford the culinary emotions of a 3-starred restaurant in Paris: this is a completely different world. But the cuisine is delicious, the show is well designed, the setting is enjoyable... If your budget allows it, and you want to treat yourself to a magical 

So, finally, it’s time for Sublimotion’s 2019 menu.

 

We’re welcomed to the Morina Marquee Reception. They immediately serve us some tastings: Hibiscus extract with tea and pimento, passion fruit, mint and coffee, then Chickpea hummus, crispy bread with sardines and paprika, Paté of saffron and honey, Mimetic peanut with Ras el Hanout, a mix of some 30 different spices popular across North Africa.

Then comes the Champagne SceneDom Perignon Vintage 2009 is flowing while it’s the turn of Elena Arzak, with her Caviar, egg cooked at a low temperature, and purple potatoes aromatised with chicken broth and lemon grass. What can we say: a classic interpretation that never tires.

Paco's flowerbeds are a tribute to Italy, in terms of music and sounds, and to the vegetal world: these are excellent tastings of fresh vegetables, baby carrots and leeks, cherry tomatoes, mini courgettes, white and red endive, shimeji (Asian mushrooms), peas, green asparagus, sprouts... 

Hanging Terrariums. Some transparent semi-spheres descend from the ceiling. Inside, Roncero presents cactus leaves, crumble of kiko and corn, purple corn brittle, aged beef cecinawith pickles and edible elements from the desert, tuberine, corn cream, carbonara of cecina.

Japanese show cooking: the room is transformed. Here come two sushi counters serving Nigiri of squilla mantis and green curry, Nigiri of red prawns with gastropod broth, Nigiri of pulpo alla gallega, King crab temaki with hot sauce. All exquisite. By Roncero.

Hyper reality, another dish by Paco: you must wear VR glasses, and in front of you a sort of edible pixel appears, made of aubergines cooked at a low temperature, teriyaki sauce with aubergines, smoked eel, tempura with dashi broth and, finally, green onion and dried tuna roe. Once again, chapeau.

Stork Club, by Paco Roncero. Another transformation, it’s like being in a jazz club from the Thirties and on tables for two, they serve the quail stuffed with duxelles of mushrooms, shallot, foie and bacon Joselito, paired with a pumpkin pie made on the spot, with a cream of mushrooms and white Martini and a game demi-glace.

Sublimotion Airlines, by Ana Roš. The room turns into an airplane cabin, every seat has its table. On the tray, the dish by the Slovenian chef: Sole, venison risotto, tomato and almonds with brioche and fries. The wine changes too, Cloud Bay 2017.

Day of the Dead Mexico by Paco Roncero. We go to Mexico, and taste: Mole nero with chicken wings cooked at low temperature and corn royale; Pig tamales with its sauce and a sour cream of yogurt; Ceviche with onion and lime with prawns and toasted corn; Nachos; Chicken tacos with veal stew, guacamole and cream of beans; Margarita. All this while holding a Tequila frozen cocktail.

Hell, by Pía León. It’s the last savoury dish. Stripes of slowly cooked wagyu with cream of choclo, powdered Peruvian pepper, coriander and pralines of macambo, a fruit from the cocoa family. Paired with Termanthia 2016.

Sweet finale handed to Janice Wong10 Sweet Moments is made on the spot and “spread” on the table, in the style of Alinea. Soft yuzu, gel of almond milk, mandarin foam, lemon and vodka with liquid nitrogen, brushes of three chocolates, crumble of muscovado, coffee and powdered yogurt, almond sponge, chocolate pearls.

Twister cocktail for everyone, with confetti flying from above, and we finish with candied sugar and violets.

For reservations: sublimotionibiza.com


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