Out of all the many food festivals that are held on Mallorca throughout the year, The Frenchman and I were most eagerly awaiting the Tapalma tapas festival (7-11th October 2010). I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want to crawl round dozens of Palma’s bars and restaurants, eat their best tapas at bargain prices, and wash it all down with lashings of discounted beer and wine? It sounded like the grown-up version of a student pub crawl.
Last year, some 48,000 people took part in the event, and a whopping 138,216 tapas were consumed. The festival runs over the course of five days, and there are five trails that you can choose to follow, mainly around the central pockets of the city. Opening hours are from 12.30 to 16.00, and 19.30 to midnight. We calculated that to get around all 54 establishments, we would need to eat 11 tapas in each session. Now that’s alot of tapas – my stomach trembled at the thought, but it’s exactly the kind of challenge that the Frenchman enjoys.
We headed first of all for the old town and La Llonja where we easily picked up a couple of TaPalma maps that were to be our guide for the next few hours. Sticking religiously to the La Llonja trail (11 tapas bars to try), we ducked in and out of all the bars on the map, no matter if we instinctively wouldn’t choose them on a normal evening out. The tapas ranged from a fabulous roast suckling pig in Forn, to a very elegant presentation of three-way potato from BLD at Es Baluard Museum. A little ‘cana’ of beer (25cl) priced at €1.20 was the ideal accompaniment for us. Between the hours of 1-2pm, and 8-9 pm, you could also enjoy a free Martini rosso & coke as part of the TaPalma sponsorship from Coca Cola. This throw-back aperitif was most enjoyable and slipped down an absolute treat.
The next trail to tackle was around the cool and arty district of Santa Catalina. With 21 establishments on the list, this area has the highest concentration of tapas bars on the TaPalma trail. After the previous day’s workout, our stomachs were primed for the task. The streets were busy with locals and visitors alike, all clutching their maps and looking out for the handy TaPalma banners that were hung outside each of the participating bars. Santa Catalina has a different feel to the rest of Palma, it’s more like a little fishing village that is undergoing a facelift, so modern bars sit next to ramshackle cottages. You never know what you may find around the next corner, and it’s definitely worth exploring during an evening. We strolled through the streets, moving from contemporary cafes to boho bars, and enjoying the upbeat & friendly atmosphere of this neighbourhood. The tapas were coming thick and fast, and as you may expect, the selection here had a more modern style to them, with Asian fusion being a popular choice.
Next up were the routes of ‘Centre’ Palma – vaguely defined as around and south of Placa Major - and 'Placa d'Espanya'. These areas are not so frequented by visitors as the areas closer to the harbour, and so they have somewhat more of a Spanish feel to them, and in our opinion, you (generally) get a better quality of tapas. There are some great atmospheric neighbourhood bars running through the quieter residential back streets – Bodega Espana and Molta Barra spring to mind. It’s not all traditional here though; some of the best modern tapas bars and restaurants are also up this way, with our favourites being Digui and Tasca. Again, all these bars were packed during our visits and the quality of the tapas beat most of those that we had tried in La Llonja and Santa Catalina.
So, what were our favourites? Let’s start with BLD at Es Baluard Museum. Not only were the tapas of an excellent quality, the views from the terrace of this place are fabulous – the Bay of Palma, the marina, Bellver Castle and the city are all laid out in front of you. Perennial favourite Forn de Sant Joan also came up trumps for us on the La Llonja trail. From Santa Catalina, we loved Horreo Veint13 and Picasso Fusion Cuisine for their slick & contemporary interior, and Aquiara for their consistently excellent tapas and pintxos. Heading up to the Centre route, and we’d pick out Ginbo for it’s sexy cool vibe and delicious vegetarian tapas, and Bodega Espana for the atmosphere and very decent salmon tartar tapas. The route around Placa Espanya however, contained the majority of our top choices. Tarpas (a very modern tapas bar), Digui (original and characterful restaurant with really excellent food) and Tasca (modern cafe-deli serving genius food) all hit the spot with us and there is no doubt that we will be returning to these establishments for many meals in the future.
We thoroughly enjoyed the five day TaPalma festival. We got to explore new areas of Palma, try a host of places that we might never otherwise have found, enjoyed new and interesting tapas, and became acquainted with Martini rosso. If you’re thinking of an autumn weekend break, it’s definitely a fun way to see the city, and mix in some shopping and sightseeing as you follow the trails.
Take a look at our news story to find out who was crowned champion tapas maker.