Since this post was written, there have been significant changes of personnel at Ca’s Xorc and La Reserva Rotana, and Es Ratxo has closed.
In search of relaxing, comfortable rural hotels, with restaurants where priority is given to food, ambience and service, we chose three hidden gems – within 45 minutes’ drive of Palma.
Off the Sóller-Deià road, Ca’s Xorc is approached via a somewhat challenging winding unlit road, which leads rewardingly to one of Mallorca’s most beautiful small hotels, with commanding views over the surrounding countryside and the town and port of Sóller beyond.
Formerly the country residence of wealthy mallorquins, it’s been tastefully converted to a relaxing 12-room hotel and restaurant, with a charming, warm interior décor. In the main dining room – a vaulted former tafona or olive press – tables are well-spaced and the lighting warm but not obtrusive, adding up to an intimate dining atmosphere.
Maître d’ Richard Holloway has been at Ca’s Xorc for a number of years; he offers a warm welcome and suggests we try the Tasting Menu (€66 per person). The wine list is extensive, comprising a good choice of Spanish, Mallorcan and foreign wines. Richard suggests the Vino del Vero, a Chardonnay from Somontano, to complement the starter dishes. I’m not normally a fan of Spanish Chardonnay – finding the wines over-oaked and too commercial – but this wine works well with the first course of scallops and prawns with sautéed mushrooms. The scallops are cooked just to the point of remaining firm and tender; the prawns, juicy and sweet.
The other starter is a dumpling of oxtail with a sweet potato purée and truffle sauce, served with a small salad. The dumplings are more like crispy croquettes but are delicious with tender well-cooked meat. The final starter is a grilled duck foie served with a beetroot purée, pieces of beetroot and a lemon sorbet. Something of a conundrum, each element of the dish is individually great but the whole just doesn’t work together for me.
The main courses begin with a fine lobster and clam dish with venere rice, asparagus and a foam of cod. Really delicious! The other main course consists of a rib and loin of herb-crusted Tramuntana lamb prepared for two people. It’s flavourful, has a good texture and served slightly pink: one of the evening’s highlights.
Finally, desserts. First an excellent version of chocolate fondant with a hot melting centre, accompanied by vanilla ice cream and pistachio sauce. The second dessert is a vanilla crème brûlée with lychee sorbet. The winning combination of the crunchy sugar coating of the crème brûlée and the cream is presented here in perfect form.
Finally, we meet the creator of this magnificent meal: Chef Guillermo Igarza who is still in his thirties and has an impressive CV, having worked at the nearby Michelin-starred Es Raco de Teix in Deià before arriving at Ca’s Xorc five years ago.
The hotel closes in November so you’ll need to move fast to try it this year.
La Reserve Rotana
It’s an easy drive from Palma on the excellent dual carriageway to Manacor, then a short distance on a rural road to La Reserva Rotana, an elegant small hotel that’s a great venue for weddings (up to 200 guests). The hotel has 24 rooms and a separate annexe (situated on the far side of the nine-hole golf course) with seven additional rooms. The restaurant’s growing reputation means that 25 per cent of its clients are now non-resident.
The professional, welcoming and knowledgeable maître d’ Miguel Laudat was born in Germany but grew up in Mallorca. We’re shown to our table in an attractive walled courtyard, with a pleasant atmosphere (although the lighting could have been more subtle). Head chef Mario Fritzsche is from Frankfurt, qualified in Germany, and moved to Mallorca to open King Kamehameha.
It’s his second season at La Reserva, where he enjoys experimenting and creating new dishes (the menu changes every day, so there’s lots of scope for his creative talents).
We have an excellent start with an invitation from the kitchen: Iberian pork cheeks on a bed of potato purée, wine sauce and foam. The first course of watermelon, topped with a piece of salmon marinated in a Caipirinha for six hours, and served with a vinaigrette dressing and a foam is a successful and interesting combination.
Next comes tagliatelle pasta with black truffle, topped with a superior Italian ham and a foam.
The flavour’s good but it’s a little too oily (apparently the oil and cream separated in too hot a pan). The star of the night is the excellent and unusual combination of sea bream on a bed of spicy pumpkin, topped with tomatoes and basil. A home-made apple sorbet with Calvados is served to refresh the palate, but is slightly too sweet for the purpose. Presentation of the veal with green beans, port wine shallots and warm potato foam is excellent, although the flavour (apart from the shallots) is a little bland for my liking. Our five-course menu (€55) ends with a light and fresh dessert of chocolate flan with home-made ice cream and papaya. Portions here are the perfect size, enabling you comfortably to enjoy the variety of tastes and textures. We’d sum up our menu as Mediterranean . . . with foam!
La Reserva Rotana has the benefit of its own vineyards, from which three types of wine are produced. We tried a red from 2006 and a light and crisp Riesling, which is very special – only 1200 bottles were produced and, on our visit, less than a dozen bottles remain.
The hotel is open until mid-November and re-opens on February 1st, 2011.
Amid spectacular countryside, Es Ratxo Hotel & Spa is a few kilometres from Puigpunyent in the foothills of the Puig de Galatzó mountains, and around 25 minutes’ drive from Palma.
Converted from a 16th century manor house, Es Ratxo is a luxury 5-star hotel with 25 rooms and suites, a beautiful swimming pool, Jacuzzi and solarium and well-equipped Spa.
In the restaurant – a restored olive press – we’re given a warm welcome and presented with the extensive menu and wine list. At the chef’s suggestion we agree to try a tasting menu of different dishes to show off the kitchen’s talents.
Firstly we’re served with very good freshly baked bread, local olive oil and sea salt. A pre-starter of home-made tomato soup with crispy noodles is served to whet our appetites. This is followed by a ravioli of beef with cep mushrooms. Next comes a potato cream soup with langoustines and almonds. Accompanying our meal is a local Mallorcan red wine: Son Puig 2005 Reserva, a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Callet, Merlot and Tempranillo.
Our first main course is a dish of hake, scallops, polenta and mushrooms. This is followed by a rack of local lamb. Dessert is a black chocolate island with a white chocolate soup and rum.
In summary . . .
Overall, Ca’s Xorc ticks all the boxes for a quintessential country hotel: location, atmosphere, wonderful food, great service and a warm welcome. Staff members have been in place for a long while, resulting in service that’s as efficient as a well-oiled machine.
A close contender, cuisine at the lovely La Reserva Rotana is probably more innovative, whilst maintaining a simplicity that allows the purity and quality of the excellent ingredients to shine through.
Es Ratxo’s beautiful location makes it worth a visit if you’re in the area, and while service is willing and helpful, we feel that the cuisine is a little too ambitious for the kitchen. Their young chef had a good training at Es Raco de Teix, so we’re confident that experience will develop his skills further.