Returning to Mallorca, after a 10-year break, was high on my list. I had been planning this trip for over 4 months – not because it was difficult, but because I really wanted to get it right – getting there easily, stay in fab hotels, explore the island (both by the sea and inland), eat a little bit and, finally, (I am not very demanding), enjoy a bit of sun. Was I disappointed? Absolutely not!
When I announced this trip, I was overwhelmed with the reactions I got – many people still associate Mallorca with low-cost package holidays, but I was delighted to be contacted by many fellow Mallorcan lovers, which went out of their way to ensure I “hit” all the right spots. My previous trips to this stunning island, in the Spanish Balearics were incredible, but with a little difference – I always stayed at a boat (both in Palma and Puerto Portals), as luxury hotels were few and far between. That is not the case anymore.
After a quick direct flight from London (around 2.5h and it is worth noting that Mallorca has very good continental European connections), we were ready for 4 days of sea, sun and lux.
On this trip, we tried 2 hotels – which may seem weird to everyone else. Obviously part of my job is to check out the local gems, but in hindsight, if I went for 4 or more nights, I would do exactly the same thing again. Our first hotel was the incredible Castillo Son Vida, a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel. I have recently reviewed it on my “My hOtel” series and it is not difficult to guess why I liked it so much.
The Castillo Son Vida is a very “peaceful” hotel – located on the hills near various golf courses and around 10 minutes from Palma – it is a place to unwind and relax. I loved the very unique style of the property and the views. Must confess I was also extremely impressed with the Gin & Tonic bar, which featured over 20 different types of gin perfectly paired with 6 different tonics.
On our first day, after a lazy check in to our fabulous suite, we decided that Palma awaited. Palma, Mallorca’s capital is a proper city (think fab shopping) and sometimes, you do forget you are in an island.
It has all the quirkiness of a Spanish town (think horse carriages, pretty flowers and cobbled narrow streets), but it is also a modern and vibrant city. Have I mentioned how fab the shopping is? The stretch from Plaza de la Reina to Passeig del Born is absolutely fantastic, with a good mix of international and local brands.
Palma has also not one but two El Corte Inglés department stores (one of my spiritual places), which was great as I needed to stock up on some local favourites (and yes, it did include a significant amount of iberico ham). It is worth noting that El Corte Inglés now has a “visitors” card which gives everyone a nice 10% (including to European citizens, which isn’t normal!).
Needless to say, that being an island, it is all about the sea.. and seafood. The marina in Palma is one of the most impressive in Southern Europe, and always a delight to walk around it – I am talking serious boat eye candy. We wanted something quite simple for dinner, and we were recommended to try Ca n’Eduardo, which we loved. It was a traditional Spanish fish restaurant, with great views of the port and the cathedral. We tried a bit of everything and these babies were incredible… Dinner for two with wine was around €60, which was a steal.
We spent the next day doing something I almost never do – we woke up late, enjoyed breakfast, a lazy day at the pool and actually never left the hotel. We enjoyed some lovely spa treatments, gins with views and a great dinner at Castillo Son Vida. I hadn’t had a day like this for a while and it was just what we needed.
No rest for the wicked, and on day 3, it was time to explore a bit more of the island. For this trip, we had a great BMW X1, courtesy of Sixt, which was really nice and perfect for the “hills”. Mallorca has great roads and I love the freedom.
We made our way towards the north-west side of the island, known for its beauty. Our first stop was the pretty town of Sóller, where we stopped not only for caramelos. (Don’t laugh, going to Spain for sweets is a very Portuguese expression, which reminds me of the 80s, pre European Union, where we literally had to cross the border to buy sweets and other things, which weren’t so easily available in Portugal back then).
Sóller was very pretty, as was nearby Fornalutx, known as a quintessentially Spanish town. Seriously pretty and great for a little stroll and some freshly squeezed orange juice. Mallorcan oranges are one of the islands biggest exports and are delicious (and everywhere). From here, we drove to Port de Sóller, which was only a couple of miles away.
After a great morning, it was time for lunch – and I can’t tell you how much we were looking forward to what was in store for us.
Bens d’Avall, the incredible restaurant owned by chef Benet Vicens is located on the road between Port de Sollér and Deia. Under its promise of “creative island cuisine”, we were blown away not only by the location, but by the creative interpretation of Spanish and Mallorcan classics with a serious twist.
Lunch (a 5-course menu, paired with great Mallorcan wines, which was a nice discovery for us – and priced at €75 per person), took over 2.5h, but believe me, we didn’t want to go anywhere else. So much so, that we spent a good part of the afternoon enjoying the sun and the view at the restaurant’s great outside area. I think everyone else there did exactly the same thing and no one rushed us, at all. It was like a foodie siesta.
After this, we continued the drive towards Deia (which is also very pretty) and made our way to the St. Regis Mardavall, which was to be our home for the next two nights. Located right by the sea and minutes from Puerto Portals marina (which is one of my favourite places in the island), it was a great contrast from its sister property. Expect a detailed review of this hotel very soon!
We loved our stay here, for completely different reasons than the previous hotel. We loved our junior suite, which was bright and airy and had great views of the fab Balearic sea.
What we also loved? Our dinner at Es Fum, a one-star Michelin dining experience by chef Thomas Kahl, influenced by his journeys through Austria, France, Germany, and the United States. A six-course meal costs €130 per person, excluding wines.
Another lazy day by the pool for us – although the hotel is by the sea, there is no real beach in this area (but you can actually swim via a jetty located outside the hotel).
We were quite impressed with the pool-side restaurant which, unlike many “chain” hotels, actually featured local food, which was great. We indulged in (yet more) gambas and croquetas and just enjoyed the day, which ended with a great massage at the hotel’s Arabella spa.
One of the places I was really looking forward to go back to was to Puerto Portals marina – I can’t tell you why I like it so much. Serious boat eye candy of course, but the shops aren’t even that fabulous (and were completely different from my last visit). I just like how small it is and how fabulous one particular restaurant was!
But before that, it was time for a Gin & Tonic, which seems to fuel the island’s blood and soul ( guess why I love this place so much!!). El Capricho (which you won’t have any trouble finding) had possibly the most creative gin & tonic selection and pairings I have ever seen. We had (only one, as they are Spanish sized) gin combinations, which were incredibly pretty and delicious.
The level of skill and detail was second to none (seriously) and I wished I had brought a menu home so I could recreate some of the recipes. This is obviously an excuse to put Mallorca back on next year’s calendar! But in its absence, I did a little video (which isn’t great quality, but still worth sharing – the “guy” was quite a character and a real gin expert.
Dinner took place at Flanigan (dinner for two with wine €80-100), which is *the* place I remembered the most from previous visits. With a great vibe and the usual Spanish smiles, it is a great restaurant. In true Spanish fashion, we were the last to leave at around 1am, but not before we worked our way through the incredible menu – think iberico, croquetes, gambas, paella, and anything else that reminds you of Spain. But the best? The incredible thin-crust apple tart, which is the signature dish and you must order when you actually order your meal. I must say that 10 years on, they still have it going!
With this, and a short sleep as we had an early morning flight on Monday.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed our long weekend to Mallorca – it has every thing we could dream of and more. It is stylish, understated and has its own personality. Pretty much everything to become an annual destination for Mr. and Mrs. O.
Disclaimer and fact box: On this trip, I was a guest of Castillo Son Vida and the St. Regis Mardavall. Our stylish rental car was provided by Sixt UK and is available from €80 per day, including tax. Opinions are, as always, my own.