Part of the de Castro family-owned gastronomy business in the north of the island, Restaurante Jardín is where Macarena de Castro became the first female chef in Mallorca to gain a Michelin star (2012) for her cuisine – which it has retained annually since then.
Macarena puts her own exquisite signature on traditional Mallorcan and Mediterranean dishes, using the finest local ingredients to create an exciting and well-balanced tasting menu that changes regularly.
She is passionate about using undervalued Mediterranean fish and flavourful cuts of meat, to create a blend of traditional and avant garde haute cuisine. Special diets catered for, with 24 hours’ notice, and children’s menu available.
The restaurant, above the family’s Bistró del Jardín and the Gastrobar, has a smart contemporary décor, decorated with family artworks. Good website offering online bookings.
Jardín is closed in the winter, when Macarena and her team travel to Uruguay, home of the seaside restobar Jardín by Sarava (JBS).
Macarena de Castro
Macarena de Castro is the head chef at the family-owned Restaurante Jardín; the restaurant and its catering division, in Puerto Alcudia, are managed by Macarena’s brother Daniel de Castro. Situated in a quiet residential street, off the main Alcudia to Artà road, the restaurant feels a world away from the area’s tourist eateries.
The romantic garden is perfect for summer dining, but indoors there’s a spacious contemporary dining room upstairs (accessible by lift or stairs, and available for private events). Modern art by Antonio de Castro (the siblings’ uncle) and attractive Menestràlia glass lights decorate the room.
Mallorca-born Macarena studied Fine Arts for a year, then attended UIB hotel school. Her learning continues: when Restaurante Jardín closes in the low season, this dynamic young chef heads for the kitchens of culinary giants, in Michelin-starred restaurants, such as Wylie Dufresne (WD-50, New York); Jean Coussau (Relais de la Poste in Landes, France), and Andoni Luis Aduriz at San Sebastian’s two-star Mugaritz (the world’s fourth best restaurant).
Her culinary style? “It’s complicated to explain,” she said. “I take traditional Mallorcan or Mediterranean dishes and put my signature on them.” Her ‘cocina de autor’ is rooted in tradition, flavour, and finest local ingredients (favourites are olive oil and garlic).
When we reviewed Jardín there were two changing tasting menus: Menú Pollentia (appetiser and four courses) and Talaia (appetiser and seven courses), although individual dishes could be selected. The wine list is extensive, so sommelier and maître d’ Sergio Marquez’s expertise is useful (his choices are shown below). Several wines are available by the glass.
After warm home-made bread rolls – one tomato, one olive – with virgin olive oil and four varieties of Flor de Sal, we had the appetiser of the day. ‘ortiguilla de mar’ was served with a touch of wit, in what looked like an oval sardine can – with ring-pull top. No ring-pulling was necessary: one lifted the lid to reveal two tastily seasoned pieces of ‘pulpo a la gallega’. It was accompanied by a fried sea anemone – a crisp, light and exquisite taste of the sea.
‘Gazpacho de cerezas con bogavante a la parilla’ was an additional course for our review. The chilled cherry soup was carefully poured at the table around pieces of lobster in large white bowls – a colourful, delicious contrast of velvety smooth gazpacho, meaty lobster and crunchy tiny croutons. (Mortitx Blanc 2008).
The melt-in-the-mouth ‘atún marinado con soja, nieve de salmorejo y quinoa’ featured inspirational touches of wasabi ice cream and tiny black cubes of gelatine of soya and was served on square black plates, with a ‘chupito’ of Campari and orange. (Jaume Mesquida’s Rosat de Rosa 2008).
The star of ‘calamar a la plancha con cremoso de patata y reducción de cítricos’ was the silky creamed potato, with its citrus hint. (Quíbia Callet Prensal Blanc, Falanis 2008).
‘Polvo de ajo’ was the unusual accompaniment to the plump serrano-wrapped prawn tail of ‘delicias de Ibérico con gambas 2009’. This technique for this garlic powder, which turns to oil when in contact with other ingredients, was created by Ferran Adrià. Macarena recommended sucking the tasty juices from the prawn’s head. (Barranc dels Glosos 2008 Priorat).
Next came perfectly-cooked sea bass, small crisp pieces of courgette, mangetouts and fennel bulb, and a tangy vegetable-based sauce (‘lubina asado con verduritas al hinojo’). Macarena, unlike many Mallorcans, uses fennel as a vegetable. (Macia Batle’s Blanc de Blancs 2008).
The meat course ‘ventresca de cordero con coliflor y bombón de ajo y membrillo’ starred 12-hour roasted belly of lamb – a cut not favoured by many chefs. It was exceptionally tender and contrasted well with the crunchy tiny cauliflower florets and almonds, and smooth ‘bombón’. (A superb wine for a superb dish: the Butxet Merlot de Son Claret 2006 from Mallorca’s Pla y Llevant won bronze award at last year’s Premios Mezquita).
Our two desserts were traditional, with a twist. ‘tarta de lemon pie’, served cold on a swash of rich dark chocolate sauce, had a crunchy crumb for textural interest. You’d never want traditional lemon meringue pie again! (Gramona’s Vi de Gel Riesling Muscat 2008 from Penedes). The other was Macarena’s take on Mallorca’s ubiquitous almond cake ‘gato con cremoso de albaricoque con crujiente de frambuesa’. Its crisp brandy snap was particularly moreish.
The carefully balanced menu left just enough room for coffee, over which we reflected on the exceptional restaurant that Daniel, Macarena and their dedicated team have created.
Michelin Star for El Jardin Restaurant
When abcMallorca reviewed Restaurante Jardín and Macarena de Castro’s cuisine for the October/November 2009 edition, we predicted that Michelin recognition would come their way. And in 2012 the Puerto Alcúdia family restaurant – managed by Macarena’s brother Daniel de Castro – earned a well-deserved Michelin star.
For Puerto Alcúdia-born chef Macarena de Castro – who took charge of the kitchen at the age of 23 – the star was great news: “It made me very happy and grateful. Behind this star there are many hours of work for my family, as well as my team . . . as well as hopes and disappointments. I think that we have taken it as a moral recognition that has given us strength and a great boost of energy to carry on working.” Macarena was not aware of Michelin’s restaurant inspection, but it would not have made a difference: “For us, all our clients are VIPs, so it could have been anyone.”
The news of the star hasn’t changed Macarena’s constant desire to learn more and further her craft. During the restaurant’s usual winter closure, the 31-year-old chef did what she has done every year since 2003: left the island to spend time working with some of the acknowledged masters of the culinary world – including Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz in the Basque Country); Wylie Dufresne (WD-50, New York); Jean Coussoe (Relais de la Poste, France), and Ferran Adria at the former El Bulli in Catalonia. At the start of 2011, Macarena studied Thai cooking in Koh Samui, and worked on new menus for the five-star Muang Samui Villas & Suites. Her winter travels have also taken her to Las Vegas, at the Hotel Bellagio’s Picasso restaurant, working alongside Madrid-born chef Julián Serrano.
How has her cuisine been influenced by working with the chef considered, by top North American food critics, as one of the five best chefs in the world?
“I have learnt to get more out of the dishes and about looking after clients in the dining room; at the same time, the way he runs his restaurants has been really fascinating – he goes much further than just understanding gastronomy, he understands how important it is as part of a business.”
When abcMallorca reviewed Restaurante Jardín in 2009 we found delicious, innovative cuisine, using quality local ingredients, presented with the attention to detail of someone who began studying Fine Arts before switching to train as a chef. Since 2009, Macarena has gained more experience in international and national kitchens and had her cuisine recognized by Michelin. Great things can be expected in this gastronomic little corner of Puerto Alcúdia.
But the family business Grupo Jardín also offers quality cuisine for those whose budgets don’t stretch to a Michelin experience. Downstairs from the gastronomic restaurant is Bistró del Jardín (with its attractive garden), offering à la carte menu, Menú Bistró and their star dishes. And the former adjacent hamburger café has been transformed into new concept El Danny’s Gastrobar, serving tapas, pintxos, G&Ts, cocktails, premium beers, and fine cuisine in miniature, at an accessible price.