The north of Mallorca is well known for it's tourist resorts and wonderfully long beaches. What is less well known is that it is home to some of the most beautiful countryside on the island. With the protected natural parks of Llevent, S'Albufera and S'Albufereta, it' no wonder that visitors flock here to enjoy the natural beauty.
So thank goodness there are some wonderful places to stay & eat in this part of Majorca.The Frenchman and I had driven by the Hotel Casal Santa Eulalia on one of our many weekend road trips around the north of Majorca and it had seemed like the kind of place we would enjoy. Located just to the south of Can Picafort, the hotel is set in a very impressive converted nunnery that dates back to 1242 and is surrounded by extensive gardens.
The Frenchman and I were bowled over by the setting - the beautiful courtyard with the quintessential ancient olive tree, the swimming pool built around natural rock formations, and the glorious gardens. We were here to check out the hotel's restaurant, located in the old cellars. Es Casal, as it is known, serves Mediterranean cuisine in traditional stone vaults that have been made warm and inviting by the addition of farm-style tables & chairs and clever lighting. A nod to the contemporary is apparent with fun plaster of Paris sculptures mounted on steel rods and lit by modern spotlights. Soft Spanish flamenco and guitar music play in the background.
The menu has a good choice of starters (including vegetarian options) and a range of fish and meats for the main course. A ‘suggestions' set menu is also available at €32.50. As we tucked in to fresh bread (warm French rolls & ciabatta), herbed butter (yum), Majorcan olive oil and Flor de Sel salt, we pondered our choices and were delighted to find that we could have happily eaten pretty much everything on the menu. Once we had placed our order, the helpful maitre d' showed us the wine cellar - a cute little snug - that was stocked with an excellent selection of Mallorcan wine. As we only wanted a glass of wine, he suggested an organic temparillo & merlot red wine (named Can Rich) from Ibiza. And very good it was too.
We were treated to a glorious appetizer of marinated cod fish served on a fresh white cheese. Flavoured with flakes of salt and garlic oil, it was very good indeed. I had plumped for the homemade foie terrine of duck, with puree of pears in red wine, cream brioche and a date sauce. A lot of flavours going on there, but the foie itself was really excellent. The Frenchman had chosen marinated red tuna salad with vegetables and a citrus dressing, which he was delighted to see, consisted of three large chunks of essentially raw, fresh tuna. Both starters were elegantly presented, and neither of us had any ‘food envy' - so I was able to enjoy my foie in peace without worrying about The Frenchman stealing half of the portion.
We had done our usual ‘one meat and one fish' main course to test the competence of the kitchen, and I had chosen grilled gilthead bream with sautéed vegetables and Mallorcan herbs. The filet of fish had crispy skin and had been placed on a bed of diced mixed vegetables. Slightly overcooked, it was nevertheless fresh, light and delicate. Almost the exact opposite of The Frenchman's grilled black Majorcan pork with caramelised sherry shallots. This beast of a main course was big, bold and full of flavour. The generous serving of pork was surrounded by a rich dark gravy that created a rustic, simple yet fabulous main course.
The desserts on offer all sounded quite interesting (and included the option of a cheese platter). We opted for a cold apricot soup with a lemon cream and green tea ice cream, and the chocolate cream with couscous of Mallorcan biscuits soaked in orange juice. The chocolate cream turned out to be the most divine chocolate mousse - fine, silky smooth and rich. The Frenchman's apricot soup was served chilled and was a sharp & cleansing way to finish off the meal (of course, he did steal half of my chocolate cream as well).
Service is discreet, quick and friendly in Es Casal. All of our dishes came beautifully presented, and we found the portions to be generous. You can expect to pay around €75 for two (three courses, excluding wine) which is great value for the quality of food and the extraordinary surroundings. We enjoyed the quirky artwork and the lashings of layered Mallorcan white cotton tablecloths, it made the dining room fun yet cosy.
We took a stroll around the grounds after dinner. Under the starry sky, we wondered wistfully what it would be like to live in a place like Santa Eulalia. We can but dream! A more realistic option is simply to book one of the rooms for a night or two - the hotel is very reasonably priced for such a beautiful place (but sadly closed between November and March).