Once again I decided there are more beautiful things in life than wine bottles to show pictures of, so here is the Gran Hotel in Palma, designed by Domènech i Montaner who was also responsible for Modernista buildings in Barcelona.
Palma is a fine city, but we were staying in Sóller, at the other end of the scenic railway, and just over the mountains on the North West side of the island. So most of the restaurants mentioned below are in Sóller, though there are a couple we visited for lunch on day trips.
Generally speaking I was a little surprised at how similar the restaurants we tried were in terms of price, menu choice and quality of food. It seemed to be pretty standard to offer a number of local Mallorcan dishes, along with some with a somewhat more international flavour which normally came with shredded lettuce and other inappropriate bits of salad. Generally speaking the quality was pretty good, but never much better than that. Here are the restaurants, together with the wines taken at each place. The prices are estimated Spanish retail prices for 75cl bottles, converted at current rates. Don’t take them too seriously, but it will give you some idea the relative prices.
La Vila, Sóller
We had our first evening meal in our hotel restaurant. Good atmosphere and service. The food was OK, but on the relatively pricey side and unnecessarily complicated. Scallops were a bit chewy, and the selection of cheeses boring. Nicely cooked magret of duck in a good orange sauce, but lots of additional faffy bits, and apples with so much cinnamon flavour they overpowered the rest of the dish.
Jean Leon, Petit Chardonnay, Penedés DO, 2009, £9.50
Intense and ripe tropical fruit. Pineapple, and something with a bitter edge – maybe Seville oranges ***
Ses Nines, La Vila Hotel Sóller Edició Limitada, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Tianna Negre, 2009, £13.50
This was a supposedly a special cuvée for the restaurant. Intense and brambly, with quite a bit of tannin and a bitter finish. Good now, but I’d expect it to improve in the next 5 years or so. A good ***
Es Canyis, Port de Sóller
Had a late lunch here, sharing a starter of grilled sardines and a main of arròs negre. Simple but very good – probably the best meal of the holiday. Nice relaxed restaurant and good service too.
Blanc de Blancs, Maciá Batle, Binissalem Mallorca DO, 2010, £5.30
Intense tropical fruit again. This time pineapple and melon I thought. Bitter and cloying finish ***
El Guia, Sóller
The most remarkable thing about this place was the service. Slow and ponderous silver service, with wine top ups every few minutes until they got a bit busier, and a waiter who keeps repeating the order to himself as he returns to the kitchen. The fish soup was full of mushy fibres of fish. Maybe that is how it is done locally, but it wasn’t to my taste. But I enjoyed very much the local dish llom amb col – pork wrapped in cabbage leaves and slow cooked.
José L Ferrer, Crianza, Binissalem Mallorca DO (Mantonegro), Spain, 2008, £9.00
Sweet sickly dark fruit on the nose – rather unpleasant I thought. Slightly sweet, slightly oxidised, and quite tannic *
Son Tomas, Banyalbufar
Just had a main course for lunch here – a disappointingly tough grilled monkfish. My wife’s Mallorcan fish was better cooked, so maybe I was just unlucky. A nice terrace location though.
Alba Flor, Blanco, Prensal Muscat, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Vins Nadal, 2009, £7.50
Another oxidised one. Lemon, sherry and apples. Maybe I should have been sending these back, but I quite liked this one. More interesting than tropical fruit! ***
This was not the Don Cipriani you may have read about elsewhere. It seems that has now folded. This was a restaurant on the main square. The food was very good. I had the sopes mallorquines, which was actually a meal in itself (I had forgotten that sopes was not soup), and the equally local slow cooked shoulder of lamb. Decent service, and a good outside location.
Ses Nines, Manto Negre Cab Sauv Callet Sirah, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Tianna Negre, 2010, £9.00
Blackberry. Jammy, and with a certain edge. Quite tannic, bitter finish. Not unpleasant. Despite the same star rating, it did not appeal as much as La Vila’s version of Ses Nines ***
Sa Cova, Sóller
Had a couple of meals here. Service is a bit rough around the edges but acceptable, and outside tables small with little space around them. Had battered squid rings as a starter twice. The first time was fantastic – light and crispy coating with melt-in-the-mouth squid. Next time was sadly more greasy and chewy. Had the magret of duck here too to compare. This time it was in PX sauce. Bigger portion, also well cooked and tasty, but cheaper and less faff. This one also came with cinnamon apples, which were more subtly spiced.
ÁN/2, VdT Mallorca, Falanis, Ánima Negre, 2008, £11.60
This is the cheapest of the Ánima Negre red range. Nicely delineated aromas, vanilla oak, and blackcurrant fruit. Intense and quite tannic. Spicy, especially on the finish. Excellent length. At last we had stopped messing about with wines on this holiday. Would be even better after another 5 years ****
This has an excellent location on the peninsula beyond Alcúdia – a terrace with fine views. I had a tuna salad to start with, which turned out to be tinned tuna on a salad you might well get in the UK. Pleasant enough, but I expected something more exciting. This was followed by frit mallorquí, a local offal fry-up, which was good.
Bach, Extrísmo, Seco, Penedes DO (Xarel.lo, Macabeo, Chardonnay), Spain, 2009, £5.00
Citrusy, orange I think, and pineapple. Good value ***
Café Sóller, Sóller
As suggested by the name, this was less of a restaurant and more of a café that serves food. A rare fillet steak here, correctly cooked. The place seems to specialise in inappropriate garnishes, so my steak had a huge piece of white asparagus lying across the plate. My wife’s mozzarella and tomato salad came with a strawberry, and I saw pasta being served with slices of orange and kiwi.
Án, Felanis, Ánima negra, VdT de los Illes Balears, 2001, £50.00
This is the middling priced wine of the Ánima negra range. Intense mature spicy red fruit. Cinnamon, I think. Sweet ripe fruit. Dusty tannins. Fantastic length with a bitter finish. Drink now or keep up to another 10 years. Easily the best wine of the holiday *****
Bizarrely, in our experience of Sóller, the less fancy the restaurant and the poorer the quality of the wine glasses, the better the wines that were available. Sa Cova and Café Sóller were the only places to serve anything of the level of ÁN/2, and Café Sóller was the only place to have Án on their list. Café Sóller also deserves special mention for the reasonable markups on the Án. They charged €41 for the 2001 and €58 for the 2000 – less than the retail prices I saw for similar vintages.