Located on the eastern fringe of Palma’s Old Town, the former red-light district of Sa Gerreria was once one of the capital’s most sketchy neighbourhoods, characterised by crumbling housing, derelict shopfronts and some dubious street life. While urban regeneration has since swept away much of its shabbier elements, an edgy vibe remains, reflected in some of the hip, young businesses that have moved into the area – and La Vieja restaurant is one such enterprise.
Stepping inside, a huge writhing octopus claims the largest piece of wall space, overlooking a bright dining area where exposed concrete, whitewashed breeze-block walls, and splashes of primary colours create a fresh and fun cantina feel. We meet the young chef and owner, Jonay Hernández, with an easy smile, tidy stubble, and passion for creating experimental, even unconventional, cuisine based on his Canary Island roots.
We jumped right in with a curious appetiser: a walnut cracker topped with cured foie, caramelised banana, aloe vera cubes and black garlic toffee, decorated with edible petals. While a little precarious to eat, the combination of buttery fois with nutty crispiness and various dings of sweetness were perfect for kick-starting the taste buds.
Next was their take on a lobster roll, with warm brioche, rock crab cream sauce, fresh basil, and a sprinkling of golden glitter. It slipped down effortlessly, if not too memorably. Presented on a peculiar ceramic tentacle, the following fried Mallorcan octopus saäm with fiery jalapeño mayo and pink pickled onions tasted as good as they looked, and we would order again in a heartbeat.
Not so easy on the eye was what followed, a deep-fried fish skin served on a bed of seashells. We approached the shrivelled portion with trepidation, though were pleasantly surprised by its lightly, spongy crunch and complete lack of fishiness. The following asparagus encased in fried potato paper pouches were salty and simple, and not the palette-cleanser we probably should have had at this juncture.
Our two desserts arrived, one in the glazed palm of a huge green hand – ‘The Incredible Hulk’ – which mixed homemade pistachio ice cream, served on a bed of wasabi soil and topped with a macaron and fruit-chocolate Lego man. Subtle it was not; novel and moreish it was. A zingy finish was provided by the baked banana with tequila and pineapple.
It was an appropriate end to a meal that in parts amused and delighted, in others surprised and bewildered. Jonay Hernández’s playful, artful and imaginative approach to cooking is certainly original in flavours, textures, and presentation. And while some might find his sometimes disorientatingly innovative approach a challenge, diners looking for something exciting, quirky, and inventive will love his La Vieja restaurant.
Why to eat here?
Creative, quirky cuisine mixing traditional Canarian cooking with imagination and flair.