El Olivo has been on our list of restaurants to review for some time. It has an excellent reputation for fine Mallorcan dining and promises a romantic and elegant ambiance.
And indeed, the setting truly is the epitome of romance. The restaurant is part of La Residencia Hotel in Deia and can be found behind the main hotel in a 16th century olive press. There is a wonderful dining courtyard that feels like it is straight out of Shakespearian theatre with its cast iron candelabras, ancient olive trees and a beautiful vine-covered wall with sweeping staircase featuring ornate stone balustrades.
The interior is equally impressive. Set in a large and airy barn, the original olive press sits at one end. Huge windows look out on to the village of Deia, original artworks feature on the walls and leafy palm trees set amongst the white linen tables create a colonial yet traditional environment.
You can choose from the a la carte menu (choice of starters, and then three fish and three meat for mains), a 5-course tasting menu or a 9-course tasting menu (with or without matching wine). A vegetarian menu also exists should you prefer. Produce is sourced locally where possible and many of the vegetables are grown in situ in the hotel’s vegetable patch.
The wine list is suitably extensive, featuring local Mallorcan wines and a selection of Spanish, French & Italian wines, plus a small number of New World wines. A glass of wine starts from €6.50, and well, you can guess how many figures you would have to pay for a fine French Bordeaux.
We thought it best not to stretch our waistlines too much and decided to choose from the a la carte menu. The Frenchman opted for veal sweetbreads with peaches and truffles from Soller whilst I chose the more traditional starter of gazpacho with cherries and Soller prawns. For our mains, I decided on Angler fish with a herb crust, served with green peas and mint, and the carnivorous Frenchman went for Mallorcan lamb with organic aubergines, rosemary and caramelised garlic.
We were served a delicious amuse-bouche of light mushroom soup with a nut-encrusted cream cheese ball. A variety of fresh bread rolls, butter and olive oils (including La Residencia’s own home-produced olive oil) and some unusual and tasty paprika popcorn were also brought to the table.
The Frenchman’s sweetbreads looked amazing. Served with a very light cream sauce and sliced peaches, the sweetbreads themselves were perfectly cooked – soft, delicate and flavoursome. My gazpacho was poured at the table into a bowl already containing a tower of chopped tomatoes, olives, cherries and croutons. Large, plump, fresh prawns balanced on the top. The soup itself was full of flavour, and you could certainly taste the cherries in this twist on the traditional cold tomato soup.
Our main courses arrived with a flourish. Served under silver domed cloches, our main meals were flamboyantly revealed by the servers. My fish looked fabulous – a big chunk of white fish with a startling green herb crust, served on a bed of spearmint flavoured pea puree. Now I must admit that I have never had angler fish before and didn’t really know what to expect. I googled it after dinner to find out that it is quite an angry looking fish (big sharp pointy teeth and lots of terrifying spines sticking out all over its body). Monkfish comes from the same family and indeed, my angler fish had a meaty, firm texture. It wasn’t as delicate as I had expected but would suit those who enjoy getting stuck in to a big solid piece of fish. The Frenchman’s rack of lamb looked very appetising, served as it was on a red pepper puree, with aubergines and a rich gravy. I managed to get my hands on a piece of the pink lamb and can report that it was perfectly cooked and had a delicious intense flavour. The aubergines in particular were a real triumph; you just can’t beat locally grown organic produce.
We were just about able to squeeze in a dessert and chose to share another local dish featuring peaches from Porrreres. Other choices included a selection of cheeses, lemon cream, and the ubiquitous chocolate option. Our dessert was presented on a long oblong plate. Slices of peach with pieces of candied peel, homemade amaretto, vanilla ice cream and an ensaimada crisp were quickly demolished as we discovered that there was indeed still space in our stomachs for something so delicious.
Although we declined the offer of coffee, we were still presented with some petit four and our own little bottle of Hierbas (Mallorcan herbal liqueur). I must admit that the petit four of orange and white chocolate truffle was one of the most brilliant I have ever had – the flavours combined to give a salty caramel type finish which was just marvellous.
As you would expect from one of Mallorca’s premier hotels, the service is impeccable, and although pricey, El Olivo certainly offers the highest quality cuisine in a unique setting, ideal for special occasion dinners. The menu changes on a seasonal basis, although specials are offered if chef comes across particularly interesting produce at the local markets.
El Olivo is open for dinner every day from 8.00pm to 11.00pm in high season, and from 7.30pm to 10.30pm in low season. Dress code is smart casual and you should definitely book in advance.