Ciutadella, Menorca‘s old capital, is a sandstone city whose cobbled streets unfold around a particularly lovely harbour. This is where locals and well-heeled tourists come to enjoy dinner as the sun sets, taking in some of the island’s best food at one of the restaurants that crowd around the waterfront.
Just a few paces from the very sea that produces much of the menu, Restaurante Des Port extends improbably back from a waterside terrace into a natural cave in the rock below the town hall. Owner Tolo tells us that before being turned into a cavernous dining room, the cave was used as both a slaughterhouse and a disco among other things, and the walls are pockmarked with the handiwork of earlier inhabitants. Since 2000, the restaurant has been carving out a reputation for excellent food based on a passion for local cookery – with the owners even searching out Medieval cookery books in a bid to find the most authentic Menorquin recipes. The restaurant’s two fishing boats supply the pick of local seafood delicacies, and chefs blend elements of traditional dishes with understated modern touches.
The restaurant is part of the Recibaria group, run by a local family, and whose other restaurants include an old favourite of ours, Ses Voltes, that has a similarly fresh menu and a rooftop diningroom in the heart of Ciutadella’s old town to boot.
The first course (it seems unfair to call it an appetizer) consisted of two dishes: one (‘an accidental discovery,’ laughts Tolo) a platter of prawns and local sobrassada (raw, cured sausage traditional to Catalonia and the Balearics) served with local honey, and the second a ridiculously good salad with toasted local cheese, sweet tomato glaze and a topping of crispy, sweet-fried carrot.
For the second course, we order local favourite Cap Roig, known in English as the scorpion fish (don’t worry readers! It sounds scary but we lived to tell the tale), served traditionally on a bed of potatoes and vegetables, and expertly carved by the knowledgeable waiters Juan and Toni. This is a simple but exquisite Menorquin delicacy: fried and then roasted whole, the fish is served with little in the way of seasoning other than a little gently-fried garlic: the thick, white meat does all of the talking. While not cheap (this dish would cost about €30 per head; we were lucky enough to be guests of the house), the quality of fish (as well as being able to support an ancient local industry) makes it well worth the cost.
To wash it all down, we enjoyed one of the house special desserts – a refreshing sorbet of lemon, gin and mint jelly topped with mint foam.
You can tell how much care goes into each and every one of the dishes, and the cavernous dining room is wonderful, especially if you would like to cool off from the heat of a summer’s day,
Traditional recipes that still manage to be innovative, and staff that know everything about local food (seriously, try them). What’s not to love?
Address: Restaurant Des Port, 07760 Ciutadella, Menorca
Tel: +34 971 48 00 22