Menorca completely took me by surprise when I visited in November 2017. I had last visited some 15 years ago but all gourmet delights, apart from Pomadas (gin and Fanta lemon), had somehow escaped my natural food-hunter instincts. This visit, and with Lorraine Ure as my hostess, I was introduced to an impressive array of delicious delights that I possibly wouldn’t otherwise have found. It has also tapped into an interest in naval history that I didn’t realise I possessed. Tipped to be the originator of Mayonnaise (it’s locally called Mahonnaise) Menorca is long famous for its GIN production, its British naval history and noticeable absence of mass tourism. This chic little island (the same size as the Isle of Wight) is surrounded by turquoise coloured, fish filled seas, glistening sandy beaches, and rocky shores teaming with lobsters and octopus. A flourishing wine industry is cropping up all over the island too. Its colonial style architecture transported me into a land that was familiar (it was Spain after all!) but felt sooo much further away.
Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993 (a distinction awarded to the islanders for their strong passion in preserving the island’s diversity characteristics), its rugged pastures make ideal ground for raising lamb, beef and pigs. Sun dried chillies and sun kissed tomatoes appear on most menus, and one of my favourite vegetables, aubergines, are in abundance. The traditional Spanish breakfast of ‘pan con tomate’ (bread with tomato – but called ‘pan amb oli’ in Menorca) will more often appear with a sprinkle of fragrant home grown dried oregano atop of the already tomatoed ‘pan cristal’, the famous bread from Barcelona. This gets a special mention because it was the very first thing I ate there and was immediately blown away. Taking this much care in such a simple dish – the standard was set…
Whilst relatively speaking, Menorca remains a well-kept secret, all this wealth of natural, local ingredients is attracting a talented breed of creative young chefs keen to make their mark in what is pretty much virgin ground for haute cuisine. Slow food and farm to table dining is the lowkey norm on an island that has historically had to be self sufficient. Only recently my favourite Spanish food magazine, Tapas, launched a publication covering the best restaurants in Spain (compiled by 14 highly respected Spanish food critics) and a staggering 23 of the 50 Balearic island restaurants included are actually based in Menorca. Additionally, the very week in November 2017 I arrived to scope out the possibility of a Menorcan food tour, the first ever gourmet guide to Menorca’s 100 best restaurants had just been launched. So whilst Ibiza and Mallorca have been doing all the shouting, their low-key neighbour has been quietly blossoming, and from a culinary standpoint, this hidden gem of an island is set to be big news before too long. So come with me to uncover the gastronomic delights first hand whilst it remains the Costa de la Luz of the Balearics.
I ran the first weeks of this tour twice in Sept/Octo 2018 and then again in Octo 2019. They were a huge success. 2021 will see a fine tuned version and I can’t wait to return – and hope you’ll come with me on this unique culinary tour of Menorca.