A guide to Menorca, the island of calm

The smallest of the Balearic Islands offers numerous places worth visiting. A small reportage on its products and restaurants

15-10-2018

Croquetas from Sa Pedrera d’es Pujol in Sant Lluis, on the island of Menorca (foto Oskar Perez, Sa Fabrica)

In the era of social networks, where every place and experience are mobile-ready, it’s almost impossible to have a unique and thrilling experience. Everything has already been reported by Facebook and Instagram users, by digital websites or documentaries on Netflix. In other words, everything has already been shown and to be frank, in a way this situation is becoming rather irritating.

Yet this August, I discovered the existence of a small, almost intimate place, where one can enjoy a few small adventures based on all five senses. How was it possible? I simply set my mobile phone on airplane mode, took a guide, rented a car and used a great deal of curiosity, entirely destined to the discovery of the traditions, places and people of Menorca.

Called "the island of calm" and a favourite destination among Spanish, English and French, Menorca proved its closeness to Italian wine and food culture and a surprising ferment in both the traditional and innovative restaurant scene. I almost immediately discovered the flavours of some delicacies blessed by the Mediterranean Sea, which favours the production of excellent vegetables such as tomatoes, and delicious extra virgin olive oil, like the ones produced by San Felip and Pont Modorro with local cultivars such as aberquinapicualand cornicabra.

 

Daniel Mora, Sa Pedrera

Daniel Mora, Sa Pedrera

There’s more. The smallest of the Balearic Islands is famous for its PDO cheese, Queso de Mahon, made from non-pasteurised milk to which one adds a small amount of sheep’s milk. This cheese can reach long ageing, as in the case of Queso Artesano Curado and Semi-Curado from S’arrangi, which has received multiple awards.

Menorca is also famous for its wines, mostly based on Syrah grapes, which stand out thanks to their intensity. Wineries Iamontanum and Torralbencgive a good interpretation of these. The local abundance of products is matched by a flourishing restaurant scene which was nicely reviewed by Spanish food critic Matoses, in his guide 100 Mejores restaurantes de Menorca with a preface by Quique Dacosta and Adolf Suites.

It features an interesting series of restaurants that allowed us to discover both the local traditional cuisine and the new gourmet trend that the island is enjoying thanks to a group of young chefs.

 

Rice from Luis Loza, resident chef at Torralbenc

Rice from Luis Loza, resident chef at Torralbenc

The first stop of our very personal tour is to discover tradition through those restaurants that aim to interpret the great local classics. We start from the north of the island and the town of Fornells with Sa Llagosta where patrons David and Mònica Cortassa give an impeccable interpretation of traditional dishes such as Arroz de calaveras, a sort of lobster and rabbit paella which is like a “surf and turf” of intense flavours. There’s also fresh grilled fish and various versions of arroz – rice – both in the classic “red” version, and with squid ink, in which fish and meat are used in turn or together in successful pairings.

For similar dishes and an equally fresh catch, we also recommend Cafè Balear in Ciutadella, the second largest town after Mahon, the capital, which gets its supply straight from its fishing boat, every morning. The most interesting discovery, however, came from the gourmet side of Menorca’s restaurant scene with two excellent restaurants, thanks to their respective chefs, where the food is based on the territory but then pays a tribute to two different cuisines.

We’re referring to Sa Pedrera d’es Pujol in Sant Lluis and the restaurant of five star luxury resort Torralbenc in Cala ‘n Porter.

 

Luis Loza

Luis Loza

At the helm of the former, we find chef Daniel Gonzalez Mora - Ferran Adrià also paid multiple visits in August -, who personally selects local cheeses and cured meats such as a rich Sobrasada – a very intensely flavoured cured meat aged for 3 years and considered a rarity for the island. Mora’s cuisine manoeuvres between tradition, French techniques and tributes to contemporary Spanish cuisine.

In his menu, masterfully presented by the dining room staff, you can find great Menorcan classics such as Caldareta – lobster soup - or Croquetas de sobrasada de pagès y miel ligera that is to say fried croquettes filled with Sobrasada and the typical Menorcan cheese. This while France appears in the presentation of Pan fried ray with butter and in the more classic Foie gras with Brandy gelée and pan d’epices. And then there are more contemporary dishes such as Oyster served with a fresh Bloody Mary on a parsley and cucumber sorbet.

The cuisine of Luis Loza, resident chef at Torralbenc, is the very opposite of Daniel Mora’s.He uses no traditional sauces and instead focuses on products and their rich flavours and textures. A Mexican who moved to Spain over 20 years ago, Loza is influenced by the Mediterranean area and makes use of the experience of the resort’s owners, who have always been wine producers. Indeed, they make a special extra virgin olive oil for the restaurant, which has fascinating strong aromas of tomato.

 

Not just food: the marvellous sea of Menorca

Not just food: the marvellous sea of Menorca

In our opinion, you should let yourself be charmed by the unique atmosphere of the resort, and discover, dish after dish, the excellent products used, starting from the local fish and meat, made fresh on the open air grill. At the same time, one is enchanted by the sweet and intense products, such as the basil and aromatic herbs and all the produce of the vegetable garden, that are available to the chef. A special mention goes to Scallop Carpaccio with tomato tartare and almond emulsionRice with fish and shellfish andChuleta de Vaca that is to say Beef sirloin with Fornell salt.

We’re sure that there’s still plenty to discover in Menorca, but we prefer not to reveal more because we are certain that there’s space for your very personal and intimate experience of the island of calm.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso