More on Mallorca! But this time, less tourism, more some sharing a little bit of the restaurant scene.
Palma has its fair share of fancy places, and I am sure any visitor there land on their feet if they want to, so I’ve plumped for one that is slightly further afield, in the very pretty northern town of Alcúdia. This is just a hop, skip and jump from tourist-focussed beach resorts, but this town is smart, chic and clearly trying to go rather up-market. This was fully apparent to me when I popped into a deli to buy some local produce, and left many, many Euro lighter. But Alcúdia…now, I fully understand that this is not the sort of place that you’re likely to be passing (compared to places in London or Brussels) but then again, isn’t it nice to have a few gems tucked away for that day that you do happen to find yourself in this part of the world? Here is one such gem.
My pick is the rather space-age sounding Genestar. At first, I puzzled about the moniker. What could it mean? As it turns out, it’s simply the name of the chef, the magnificently-named Joan Josep Genestar Amengual (think Joan as in “Juan”, not Collins). In all likelihood, I was pronouncing Genestar incorrectly too.
Our Joan is not a hands-off, back-room man. For it was he who took the booking, where I flagged that I was veggie and would this be an issue. He came to greet us at the table, explained the menu, advised us about wines and indulged all the questions we had, and played the roles of host and chef magnificently. Now, it’s probably a lot easier to come out and talk about the food when you don’t have a menu, for Genestar’s concept is that you come, you’re taken care of, and you enjoy a tasting menu. Perfect for those days when you don’t want to choose, and want to be marched somewhere and told what to do. Except that here, it is all done with flair and friendliness, all in lovely surroundings. And it is great to hear about the food from the guy that’s gone to all the effort of preparing it.
Most interestingly of all, at least to me, was that Joan was not in the least fazed by the fact that I wanted to eat vegetarian. In a place that is as meat and fish friendly as Mallorca, this could have been an issue. Not here. Joan seemed to take to it as a challenge, and the results were delicious. Of which more later.
But before the food, the wine! Joan was an enthusiastic promoter of local wines, and there was one on the menu that caught my eye – a White Merlot. As he was telling us what we would be eating (we were being told, this was no process of selection!), he recommended a couple of other whites, but I just couldn’t resist. How was the white Merlot? Oh, it’s very good. But it is unique. Some people find it too unusual, but it is very good. You should try it is you would like to, but if it’s not your thing, we can change it. Now, that is something a few placed in London could learn from. It was a constant theme here, but on Mallorca, it seems people are genuinely enthusiastic about their products, and are willing to stand behind them. The wine came, and it was indeed excellent, and it was quickly decided that we would not be sending this back. It had a light golden colour and a noticeable richness of aroma and flavour. It was a white wine with gusto, a noticeable robustness and a lot of the brioche-quality you get with some champagnes made from red grapes. I loved it. Thank goodness they were also selling bottles of it in the airport.
What I do suspect is that while I was not the first vegetarian to visit Genestar, I may be the pickiest. No fish, but also no eggs on their own (i.e. not scrambled, boiled or fried). Cue a little head scratching at first, but our friend Joan just saw it as a challenge and vanished into the kitchen to produce some good things to eat.
Before the meal started to arrive, we were given some fresh rolls and a little local olive oil and sea salt. You get this in London, but here…it just tasted better. Maybe because it’s holiday, maybe because the weather is warm…but it was unusually tasty. And yes, I ended up buying a bottle of the local olive oil later when I popped back to that deli.
First course was a light salad with grilled vegetables, nuts and a simple olive oil dressing and topped with fresh herbs. Incredibly simple, but beautifully presented and packing a real flavour punch. Smooth buttery lettuce, toasted nuts, tangy tomatoes and rich oil.
The next course was pasta with artichokes and mushrooms. Sounds simple. Sounds boring even. But no! Frankly, I do not think my picture does this one justice – partly due to the light, and mainly due to the fact I was aware that this was a nice place and I didn’t want to be that person spending the whole meal taking pictures of it rather than enjoying it. This might have been a simple dish, but utterly delicious. These were the freshest, most tasty baby artichokes I have ever had – lightly grilled so they just had a subtle smokiness, but kept a little crunch too. Again, the simplicity meant the flavours were there to be fully enjoyed. And it went well with the wine too.
To follow this, there was a substantial bruschetta-type affair piled high with mushrooms, tomatoes and beansprouts, all on an rich emulsified buttery sauce. Again, not sure that my picture really does it justice, as it was a lovely combination of flavours and textures, and it certainly looked impressive on the plate (note to self: candlelight is not good for pictures…). I liked that this contrasted with the previous course too, moving from simple to more fancy.
And to finish, the dessert was a Mallorcan take on bread and butter pudding, a little piece of some sort of pastry, dipped in custard and baked until the top was a crisp caramel. Finish with a dash of cold custard sauce and some strawberries, and it was a the perfect bite-sized sweet end to the meal. Well, it was once it was augmented with a little glass of dessert wine. Hey, it was a holiday! What I very much liked was the dinky size – I think this is the way to finish off a meal, just a little something sweet rather than a wedge of cake.
Mid-way through the meal, something struck me. There were very few tourists in the place, and the foreigners here were obviously people who have moved to the area. Then, around 9, it suddenly became very, very busy as the locals descended in droves. In pairs, groups of four and very, very large groups. The atmosphere was buzzy and lively, but never too busy or noisy. This was clearly the place to come to enjoy of good night with friends and excellent food. Knowing somewhere is a hit with the locals is always a boon to me!
So, just in case there is any doubt, I absolutely loved this place. The host and the staff were super-friendly (and found my basic bumbling Spanish rather amusing), the decor is clean, modern and bright, and the food excellent, excellent value, and rather unexpected in a rather touristy part of the island. Would I go back? In a shot. My only regret is that this is one of the nicest new places I have been to for some time, and yet it’s so far away…so if you do happen to be passing, it’s worth stopping in. But if you’re veggie, just call ahead first. And ask for Joan. And say hi.
Genestar, 1 Plaça Porta de Mallorca, Alcúdia, Mallorca. Tel: 971.549.157 / 630.039.169. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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