A road trip seems like the obvious choice for an exploration of Mallorca’s dreamy gold-drenched backdrops, but what better way to really immerse oneself in an unknown land than through feasting through local culinary delights? From the capital city’s famed bars and lively cafes to some hidden gems further inland, our food-focused itinerary starts in Palma, winds across Mallorca’s north-eastern coast and ends at its center, Llubi, for a beautifully diverse expedition that is a feast for all the senses.
A year-round destination and the island’s capital, Palma is teeming with buzzy restaurants and bars that span the classic to the contemporary. At El Camino, in the city’s Sant Nicolau district, Majorcan chef Cristian Rivera serves up small dishes and contemporary tapas in a space that is a modern riff on the traditional Spanish bar. Here, backdropped by mirrored walls and seated at a marbled counter, diners have a front row view of the kitchen where a coordinated flurry of chefs produce dishes made with local ingredients like grilled octopus served with mojo rojo, a spicy Canarian sauce, or Spanish omelette cooked with sobrassada, a local cured sausage. It’s a similar vibe at Mercat 1930, a gastronomic market located near the city’s port where over 12 food stands fill an Art Deco space for a bustling, elevated dining experience. Alongside local dishes, tapas and seafood, visitors may also sample an offering of grilled meats, local wine and charcuterie.
Beyond the boundaries of the city a plethora of culinary delights await. A short drive 25-minute drive north of Palma finds the town of Valldemossa, a sleepy village that is located in a valley on the Sierra de Tramuntana range and buttressed between mountain and sea views. Park the car and set off for a hike — something the area is well-known for — or a slower paced ramble through the city center, with its Carthusian monastery, tiny townhouses and endless cacti.
Refuel stops aren’t plentiful but Valldemossa’s old, cobbled streets play host to a decent number of rustic bodegas and restaurants: at Es Taller chef Nicolás Gago Aubert’s reverence for locality manifests by way of seasonal ingredients and spices in dishes like Mallorcan butifarrón croquettes with tomato jam, and pineapple carpaccio served with vanilla ice cream and drizzled in local virgin olive oil.
Further north and closer to the coast lies Sóller, a popular hub filled with winding alleys and ample squares and cafes that encourage guilt-free idling. The quaint Can Panxeta de Sóller dates to 1852 and may well be the best spot on this side of the island at which to try the famous Mallorca ensïamada — a spiral shaped pastry dusted with sugar and sometimes filled with cream.
The pace is further slowed in Port de Soller, a coastal town just 20 minutes away and reachable by an old tram that departs regularly and passes through olive, lemon and orange groves on its journey between the two spots. An ideal corner in which to enjoy the island’s surplus of seafood, this picturesque seaside town is defined by its large bay and accompanying protected harbour. At Patiki Beach, a stylish restaurant-cum-beach club, a farm to table concept is realised through a menu of seasonal plates designed to be shared, Spanish-style.
From here it’s about an hour drive to Pollença on Mallorca’s northern tip. In addition to the quaint cafés that fill Plaça Major, the main square, this historic town also hosts a lively weekly market in the same space, with a full offering of quality local produce from nearby farmers. Expect a bounty of juicy red tomatoes, vibrant seasonal fruit and fresh eggs alongside cheese, cured meat, nuts, and spices.
It’s a fitting stop at which to bring the road trip to a halt but for a full restock of the pantry, extend your venture with a brief visit to Llubi, just a 30-minute drive away. Located at the heart of the island, this area is not only famed for its old stone houses and windmills, but also for its centuries’ long cultivation of honey, carob, capers and almonds. It’s not a bad way to wrap up an epic tour of this side of the Balearic island — but should time (and appetite) allow, use this pitstop as a launchpad from which to explore the other side of Mallorca, where more treats for the eyes and (belly) undoubtedly await.
Words Ella Marshall Date 10 Nov, 2022
Images Steve Herud, Klaudia Czarlinska, Vivian Nebelin
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