The Moors saw an opportunity in this privileged, sheltered and tranquil part of Mallorca’s spectacular Tramuntana coastline: they founded the village we know as Banyalbufar, and skilfully created hillside terraces for the cultivation of malvasia grapevines. Wine was produced here from Moorish times until the dark days of the late 19th century, when Mallorca’s wine industry was decimated by disease. Determination and hard work have, fortunately, seen the reintroduction of malvasia vines and wine-making to Banyalbufar.
We went for lunch at a place encompassing restaurant, bistro/café and bar. 1661 ‘Cuina de Banyulbufar’ is a family eatery, serving home-cooked Mediterranean food, located in a traditional house (part of which dates from 1661) in the heart of the village. The charming German Julia Burgel (co-owner, with her brother Tobias), and friendly waiter Mike, welcomed us to a table on the front terrace (essentially the pavement). It’s a pretty spot, sitting beneath olive trees and surrounded by pots and troughs of shrubs. Although this is a main thoroughfare, traffic is by no means constant, and there are times when the only sounds are the chatter and clatter of those at other tables, locals calling out to each other as they pass in the street, and birdsong.
Inside, the oldest part of the building houses the bistro/café/bar where the traditional Mallorcan ‘cloth of tongues’ has been used for soft furnishings. It has a comfortable, welcoming ambience that’s perfect for an evening drink with friends; among other tipples, there’s a choice of more than 20 different gins, include examples from the Black Forest, San Francisco, Scotland, England, and Mallorca – Suau. The restaurant is slightly more formal, with white table linen, and vibrant contemporary art on the walls.
The cuisine is healthy home-made Mediterranean. Prime-quality ingredients include pork from Mallorcan black pigs and organic Aberdeen Angus (from Finca Son Mayol). For our latest lunch here we tried a number of delicious dishes from the tempting menu, including starters of zingy sea bass ceviche with mango and avocado, and a beef carpaccio with beetroot relish and horseradish cream. Staying on a fish theme, we had a perfectly cooked sea bass fillet with spinach and ricotta gnocchi and a saffron sauce, then tried salmon fillet with fried rice with nuts and a coriander and cashew emulsion.
Meat dishes included a succulent organic organic chicken breast. Served with mushroom and apricot risotto, a squash chutney, and yellow curry sauce, it was proof that chicken breast can taste exciting. A classic dish here is the ‘carrillera’ – a comfort-food dish of black pig pork gently braised for five hours, and served with truffled potato purée and creamed asparagus.
When we complimented Julia on the quality of the vegetables, she told us that they don’t prepare and cut them up until they are going to be used, to preserve flavour and vitamins.
As it was lunchtime, we tried just a glass of Cornet, a delicious wine produced from malvasia grapes in Banyalbufar. At 1661, it would be a shame not to try one of the village wines. Or, for something different, say ‘cheers’ with one of the artisan beers sold in bottles and brewed in the Tramuntana.
Julia’s parents Christa and Frank, whom she described as having been “hobby cooks”, are responsible for the accomplished and attractively presented food; her brother Tobias is also involved in the business. Julia has lived in Mallorca for nearly 15 years, studied tourism at university here and clearly understands the service industry. As well as lunch or dinner, you can enjoy a wide range of delicious snacks, salads and soups – or simply a good coffee and home-made cake, at any time. There’s something for everyone who likes creative, healthy and home-made food prepared from quality ingredients, served by people with an enthusiasm for what they do.
The Moors knew a desirable location when they saw it. If you see an opportunity to go to Banyalbufar, then take it. And visit 1661, where Julia and her team – including the delightful waiter Mike – will make you welcome.