Palma was for me, in short, a very pleasant surprise. The stunning views of the cathedral out of the taxi that welcomed me to the city took my breath away. The same can be said about the food. Where a lot of tourist towns attract the blinding neon of takeaways, over-priced chains and rubbery calamari; my friends and I tasted some wonderful local delicacies, thanks to some informed suggestions from Olive Magazine. Here are a few highlights…
Five girls on a summer holiday provides plenty of opportunity for gelato, lots of which was consumed. The ultimate ice cream haunt was Gelateria Ca’n Miguel which we clocked early on. The 20 variations of Valrhona chocolate was baffling for the chocoholics among us. My personal favourites were the three pepper chocolate and the chocolate orange, both flavours refreshingly cutting through the scrumptiously rich chocolate base. Verity went for a basil sorbet which was very refreshing and we all sampled the Roquefort cheese variety out of intrigue, to very mixed reviews!
In my opinion a morning stroll and coffee in the local food market is by far the best way to capture the essence of a town’s spirit. Wherever I am in the world I endeavour to visit these meccas of wonderful food, and I am rarely disappointed. We were lucky enough to be staying a five minute walk from the market in the relatively untouristy Santa Catalina district and ambled down each morning in search of a wake up coffee.
Olive Magazine recommended the tiny bar at the far corner, Juan Frau, due to the fact that one of its frequenters is the legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. Although this Catalan celebrity was not present, it was clear to see that this cosy corner was the best. Why? Because it was heaving with Spanish men and young families: the absolute tell tale of any great gem that may be otherwise attempted to be kept hidden from the tourists. Safe to say that our obvious English looks were a cause of intrigue and thus we made many ‘friends’ on our visits.
The first episode included Verity, Olivia and I wedged onto a table behind the bar between a table of old Spanish gentlemen and another table of what could have been their gossiping wives. Cortados (the typically Mallorcan Espresso-Macchiato) were ordered and I decided it was not too early to indulge in some local snacks. The chef let me try the frito just for the sake of tasting, however lamb giblets didn’t go down particuarly well before 11am. I instead went for another delicacy empanada cocarrois (beef, onions and peas pillowed in a crusty yet fluffy pastry… In other words a glorified cornish pasty!) and a coca de trempó (the pepper-and-onion-topped Mallorcan variation of the Catalan no-cheese pizza). Both were packed with flavour and a nice savoury contrast to my sugar-drowned coffee. The second outing to this bar was a different experience altogether, grabbing a cortado to shot at the bar while chatting away to some amused Spanish chaps.
Other great experiences of the holiday included two of us visiting Ca’n Joan de Saigo for another morning cortado and sweet Mallorcan iced buns; traipsing the Ruta Martiana tapas trail on the wrong evening to end up in Molta Barra, an arty bar with a youthful clientele and laid back vibe; and sussing out local workers sipping on their morning, afternoon or evening alcohol of choice at the central ‘hamburger’ shack.
My biggest disappointment of the trip was not being able to eat in the charming ‘Chaflan de Patxi‘. Unfortunately the tapas bar was not open in time for me to grab some pinxtos before we had to catch our plane. I managed to peak inside and meet the chef which made the fact I couldn’t properly eat there all the more frustrating. I guess it will have to wait until next time, which I hope there will be!
Not one to end on a negative note, Palma is a wonderful place for a food lover with many hidden gems which we would not have experienced without our trusty Olive recommendations. Thank you for the heads up and Palma we shall certainly return!