Ibiza is many things to many people. A glance around the airport, probably only where the twain shall meet, certainly gives an indication of the breadth of people, pursuits and pleasures on this island. The perils of rubbish tourist food loom everywhere, so here are a few places located in towns, country or by the beach where you can do a little better, based on a recent visit.
Ibiza’s diversity in the summer is reflected in the eating options available. Ibicencan food is quite different to mainland Spanish food, which of course vastly differs in itself. Even as a quasi-Catalan culture and so close to Palma, tapas is not intrinsically popular as a standalone style of eating. Ibiza’s tipic cuisine is rough, hardy stuff, reflecting its terrain. There is no fresh water on the island, and so local salads are generally tomato and onion, without high quality leaves. Being an island, fish is hugely popular, usually simply grilled with local herbs and olive oil, and other local products such as mountainous goat cheeses and heavy red wines help everything glide down.
But primarily, it’s a carnivore’s dream, with goat, rabbit, lamb and pork especially found on huge outdoor grills everywhere. Veal, beef and chicken too. Anything which once had a heart beat can be drizzled with oil, thyme and pepper, and be fired. Some variations on mainland classics exist though: heavier bottifara and sobrasada sausages are more common than the morcilla and chorizo sausages of the mainland, for example.
However, tapas does exist both as a precursor to grilled meats and fish, or in a newer wave of modern eateries. There is also a sort of Mediterranean fusion (I know…) of ‘beach club cuisine’ which features Spanish, French, and Italian dishes (you can’t move for beef carpaccio), with some room service favourites like Caesar salads, club sandwiches and burgers.
El Chiringuito is a beach club at Es Cavallet beach, which is mainly known for its nudist and gay sections further down. El Chiringuito is however more vanilla, with the mandatory white palette scheme with marine touches. But this is no Blue Marlin - it’s actually very friendly, easy to get a table and even free to reserve a three-person bed for the day, provided you have your lunch there.
Food is as mentioned; a mixture of crowd-pleasers reflecting the range of visitors here (Spanish, British, Italian and French in that order) – and a plus point is that they do brunch for when pan con tomate and endless ham and cheese for breakfast become repetitive. I particularly loved the cava sangria, the beautiful burrata, Med country chicken and the jamon iberico guy and DJ sharing a booth.
A place I visit every time is Bar La Bodega, in Ibiza Town (just below the ramp up to the Old Town). The inside is perfectly enjoyable, but an outdoor table is definitely worth the reservation. People watching is unrivalled anywhere. Streams of tourists, Eurotrash millionaires, glammed up gays and random nutters pass on their way to various dens of iniquity. The setting under the ramparts of the Old Town is beautifully up-lit and the whole ambience has a fantastic buzz. Food is fairly simple, great value tapas accompanied by lots of booze.
Santa Gertudis is a village in the centre of the island, popular with tourists but also a base for locals. It’s known for its square, with picturesque church and Bar Costa’s jamon bocadillos, but I would recommend visiting Dimi’s which is just around the corner. It’s tapas still, but with a modern twist and a lovely terrace setting. Special mention to the chorizo won-tons and bacon-wrapped dates, both amazing.
For a flash, ridiculous experience, Pacha’s restaurant (located at the club in Ibiza Town) serves surprisingly decent food and spending €100 per head allows free entry into the club. This seems a lot, but when David Guetta is €80 on the door, it’s no longer so outrageous. Drink prices in the restaurant are a comparative bargain to the club too, so you can tank up and head next door.
Restaurant Road is a renowned stretch of eating options, many of which have been there for a generations. It’s the main road up to San Juan in the north, and every 500m or so (addresses are given by km markers) is a large restaurant, usually in a garden adorned with fairy lights, beautiful flowers and candles, creating some cosy rural spaces to while away the evening.
Es Caliu (km10.8) is a rustic, meaty paradise. The menu is simple and unforgiving, most of the barnyard is available on the grill. Our steaks were the biggest I’ve come across and very reasonable. We really didn’t need the potatoes.
Cicale (about km12) is really something special, and along with Bar La Bodega would be my top tip for Ibiza. It’s a family-run Italian (the Italian owners met here 25 years ago and never left) – and the produce is largely bio-dynamic or organic, and home-grown. The food was absolutely brilliant, and service more attentive than the Ibicencan norm. I recommend both the seafood calamarata (calamari-shaped pasta) and the gnocchi with fresh rocket and walnut pesto, which was fresh, nutty and welcome relief from the meat-fest of the trip.
Cami de Balafia is further up at about km15, and is quite unique. I would almost describe it as a quirkily Ibicencan ‘Relais de Venice/L’Entrecote’ type experience. There is no menu, starters are mixed salad or tomato salad, and you are rapidly regaled en español with a list of meats to feature on the outdoor grill, which you can guess from, and then an unqualified but very generous quantity will appear. Oh yes, and the chips!
A cross between crisps and chip shop chips, these are the real labour of love here. Piles upon piles of them are delivered around the room, and none are left. This restaurant is full of Spaniards, and better yet, locals, cheap as chips if you’ll excuse the pun, and in a great setting. Totally individual and good fun, it’s definitely one to visit – note that for all of the Restaurant Road venues, you really do need a car.
We ate many more times, such as at flashy/trashy pre-club km5 – replete with expensive-looking Russian ladies and their benefactors, and other beach restaurants such as Amante, which again serves dainty, digestible, aesthetic classics. I’ll write separately on our brilliant hotel, Can Arabi, and our side trip to the paradisiacal beaches of Formentera also.
Prices-wise, there is some great value especially if you keep it old school. The meaty grill evenings come it at around €60-80 for two, with a glass of cava each and a bottle of red.