As a destination loved by many, misunderstood by others and unknown to the vast majority of mortals, Ibiza is paradise of lemon and carob trees, figs and salt. A gastronomic island eager to share everything it knows about what the land and sea have to offer in the way of cuisine. Just a stone's throw away - or a flight away with Vueling.
I confess that the first time I went to Ibiza a few prejudices snuck their way into my suitcase. It was the beginning of May and the island was still sleeping off the previous summer's hangover. And I was glad, because I was on a mission to discover its gastro side. Later on I realised that even at the height of the season it was still possible to enjoy the largest of the so-called "Pine Islands" (the other is Formentera) in a way that had nothing to do with the macro-discotheques, buzzing nightlife and fashionable beach clubs. Because beyond all that there's an Ibiza to explore and enjoy with all five senses. I'm talking about that inland part of Ibiza with its slow stories and enclaves; that sips a leisurely herbal tea as the sun goes down, whose heart beats in harmony with the land it desperately wants to show to the world. Those trips left me with a few gems I'd like to share with you. Want to discover them?
Bar Anita (Sant Carles de Peralta), simple, affordable food in a charming setting
Located just around the corner from Las Dalias, the popular hippy market where you can buy handicrafts, clothes and boho accessories, this restaurant-bar will transport you back to 1960s Ibiza. It opened in 1876 as a corner shop and small bar and is one of the oldest establishments on the island. A hot spot for the hippy culture, it's maintained its signature style through the generations. Be sure to try the little open sandwiches, homemade "flaó" (a dee-licious cheesecake made with fresh mint leaves) and herbal teas, prepared with the same family recipe from over a hundred years ago. Simple, affordable food in a charming setting.
Can Cires (Sant Mateu d'Albarca), traditional market cuisine
If you want to discover authentic traditional Ibiza cuisine, book a table at this 200-year-old farmhouse at the heart of the island. Grandma's recipes passed down through the ages, local produce and flavours you only get from dishes cooked slowly and lovingly. At Can Cires Francis and Vitoria recover the flavours of the land, working with seasonal products sourced from the local market. But if there's one word to sum them up it has to be "natural". That's the overriding sensation. Take dishes like the fried octopus, the squid with spicy "sobrasada" sausage or the "farinetes", a typical dessert steeped in history that is very rare to find at the island's restaurants. The terrace is lovely, and very romantic at night.
Can Muson (Santa Eulalia del Río), organic farm
This organic property was developed in 2009 by Ibiza resident María, a countryside lover and tireless campaigner for women in the rural environment. It's an idyllic place to get back to nature and disconnect, explore the plantations and their fruits, or feed the farm animals. You can also enjoy delicious food and drink made with fresh produce from the farm, buy local fruit and vegetables, or treat yourself to some of the homemade bread, fresh goat's cheese or spicy "sobrasada" sausage. They also organise regular workshops on how to make your own Ibizan herbal teas, for example, and they run a farm school for children. It's a fantastic place to visit for families, couples and groups of friends.
Agroturismo Atzaró (Santa Eulalia del Río). Farm-to-fork Mediterranean cuisine
If you want to savour the luxury of slow here's a gem you will not want to miss. Imagine a hotel deep in the heart of the island, surrounded by magical gardens, palm trees and ponds. Then imagine a spa, terraces, swimming pools and an organic vegetable garden that supplies the ingredients they work with in the restaurant. Farm-to-fork Mediterranean cuisine that celebrates nature and the passing seasons. You'll find a variety of gastro areas: The Veranda, open all year round for breakfast, lunch and dinner; The Orange Tree, an amazing summer-garden restaurant, and various bars serving cocktails, juices, tapas and healthy informal meals. Open to guests and visitors alike.
Wine tasting at Bodega Can Rich (San Antonio de Portmany)
Ibiza may not be famous for its wines but that doesn't mean it's abandoned the joy of making them. In fact, the Balearic Islands boast a wine tradition dating all the way back to the eighth century BC following the arrival of the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. It's true to say, though, that the vineyards were mainly exploited for private consumption or for sale between neighbouring families. It was not until the 1990s that wine-making entered a much more dynamic phase, leading to the emergence of the wineries that now bottle some highly-esteemed products. One such winery is Can Rich in the north-east of the island. It makes a variety of red, white and rosé wines, three sparkling wines and even a sweet wine. The winery was a pioneer in applying organic principles to its vineyards, and its wines reflect Ibiza's unique climate and soil. Guided tours are available by appointment.
It must be obvious by now that Ibiza is much more than a party island, so book your flight, pack this information, cast aside your preconceptions and embrace the opportunity to discover a surprising gastro destination.