You’d be forgiven for a certain image flooding your brain at the mention of ‘Ibiza’. Perhaps it’s the fault of Harry Enfield’s 2000 comedy, Kevin & Perry Go Large, but the image of gurning ravers with crustacean-coloured sunburn and obnoxiously large bottles of booze has become synonymous with the island. But there’s a flipside to the White Isle that’s recently been seeing a sharp increase of tourists keen to absorb a different sort of culture.
It’s possible, in fact, to spend a weekend without hearing a single kick drum. But when we arrive at our hotel, the recently-constructed Hard Rock, we find Pete Tong and Scooter milling around in the lobby. It’s IMS – Ibiza’s yearly electronic music business conference – so there are DJs playing in absolutely every corridor and poolside area (not that we’re complaining…). Even the man at the beach towel stand tells me how he’s been touring with Luciano. Nevertheless, we’re not here to browse the latest Pioneer models, but for the opening of Tatel – Ibiza’s newest, most exclusive restaurant, which is handily located in our hotel, overlooking a stretch of the famous Playa D’en Bossa beach.
There’s no shortage of ways to fill the days here that don’t involve passing out by the pool. The Old Town is packed with rich medieval history, with picturesque buildings and sights to explore for days. We hire a car and drive across the island to Ses Ecoles, a family-run olive grove that you can tour before tasting the fruits of its labour. We’re taught to gulp entire spoonfuls of the stuff; something that sounds unappealing before we go ahead and realise that we’ve probably never had olive oil that good before.
Bottles in hand as souvenirs, another short drive takes us to Palladium Don Carlos in Santa Eulalia, an adults-only (and as a result almost ominously silent) resort where we eat bottomless plates of paella while looking out over the rocky cove and Mediterranean sea. Then it’s off to a boutique winery in the hills, Ibizkus Wines. There we’re shown how they handle the locally grown grapes to produce premium rosé, red and white wines, which are sold at Tatel.
It’d be a shame to miss what’s on offer a short stroll away from our hotel rooms, as the Hard Rock Hotel boasts its fair share of places to lounge during the day. The Beach Club is the perfect spot to lap up sea breezes, on one of its many white cushioned beds, and enjoy a selection of fish dishes (or a lobster from its tank). It’s even got its own jamón iberico stand, for those moments when you urgently need a slice of cured ham. The salmon tartare marinated with soy and wasabi makes for an excellent way to ward off a hangover, followed by a citrus-fresh Peruvian sea bass ceviche. Settling down into a sun lounger, book in hand, it’d be tempting to not leave the hotel at all.
When the sun goes down, there’s no shortage of restaurants to while away Ibiza’s balmy evenings at. Zela is another new opening – tucked away in the Marina Botafoch neighbourhood, it fuses Spanish Mediterranean with Japanese gastronomy. Its decor is stunning; lush foliage, low lights and strategically placed mirrors surround our outdoor table, giving the restaurant an otherworldly feel. Head chef Ricardo Sanz possesses a grand total of four Michelin stars as well as a special honour from Japan for his work. We’re stunned when he graces our table in his chef’s whites, chattily announcing that he’ll be treating us to a hand-selected tasting menu. Before long, a plate garnished with the head of a whole red Scorpion King fish arrives, before waiters shave wasabi like a block of parmesan using shark’s skin. We sample melt-in-the-mouth sashimi plus Japanese takes on gazpacho and patatas bravas. The star of the show is toro y pan tomate, a genius twist on the local staple of bread and tomato with raw tuna belly. Don’t get me wrong, I love chips and aioli, but this is food from another planet.
Our next and final night is all about Tatel. With hugely popular outposts in Madrid and Miami already (Enrique Iglesias, Nadal and Pau Gasol are co-owners), Ibiza is their latest venture. Tastefully decorated in an Art Deco style in a nod to the Roaring ‘20s, it’s all plush pastel pink sofas and emerald greens, getting our Instagram senses tingling. They take cocktail-making very seriously here, and we begin at the terrace bar, with glimpses of the Ibizan sunset to boot. I opt for the ‘Chino Loco’, a blend of Chamomile-infused gin, kumquat jam, celery amaretto and daisy soda. Not just your standard G&T, then. Some of the tastebud-tickling ingredients these guys play around with include amber incense, roasted cashew cream and Guinness wine. It’s a struggle not to order one of everything on the menu.
After gawking at the globe-roving food menu, we’re urged to try the Jamon Iberico– obviously, a Spanish staple, the splayed ring of ham placed on our table is touted as the best in Iberia, and our mouths don’t say otherwise. There’s more tuna ‘ventresca’ (quickly becoming an Ibizan favourite) plus an avocado salad with carabineros – coveted deep-sea prawns that are bright scarlet in colour. The tortilla, or Spanish omelette, is the showstopper – normally it’s served as a firm wedge, but here you get it whole, with potato foam, and truffled – bound to please Tatel’s international audience. The warm toffee pudding with fresh milk ice cream (‘pastel Tatel’), a nice nod to us Brits, is so mind-blowingly delicious it has to be in my top three desserts. As well as the food, Tatel is known for its party atmosphere, with international selectors and live musicians billed from 10 pm to provide a warm-up for the night ahead.
It’d be hard to completely neglect Ibiza’s wild nightlife – and sure enough, we dip into superclub Pacha to see Maya Jane Coles and Sasha to round off the trip. Fortunately, Hard Rock’s basement holds Ibiza’s biggest spa, so a pre-flight massage sorts us out the next day. But clearly, the White Isle is no longer a place to go if you just want to rave for a week. Anyone with more than a passing interest in food will be in awe of the experimental culinary scene here, and its cultural and historical hotspots make Ibiza a destination that has something to offer all ages and walks of life.
Words by Felicity Martin