Stepping into the back room at S’Ancora is like finding yourself in the kitchen on board the Nautilus, the submarine that famously accompanied Captain Nemo on his adventures in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But instead of Nemo and his giant squid, you meet the charming Maître d’, Fernando, and his 5-kg (10lb) bogavante (a beefy cousin of the humble lobster), who was caught by a local fisherman 10km from the rocky coastline off the north of Menorca. Among the hustle and bustle of the chefs hard at work, there is a series of jacuzzi-sized tanks brimming with lobsters from the bay that begins just metres from the front steps of the restaurant (before you ask, the huge bogavante is kept in there too; it would be a recipe for disaster to let him wander free-range through the kitchen). We watch as Fernando fearlessly fishes him out and, when he starts to get a bit antsy, blows on his belly to calm him down. Miraculously, it works.
S’Ancora’s strong point is in the staff’s passion for Menorca’s culinary heritage, and the restaurant has been serving the best local seafood fresh from Fornells bay for the past 30 years. This is an unpretentious place where some of the best seafood you will ever taste is quietly served with little fuss, and it is this winning combination that sees return visitors year after year.
The owner of the restaurant, Caterina Riera, explains proudly that Menorca’s most famous dish, the Caldereta Menorquina (a lobster stew), has a unique taste, and that the caldereta made in Fornells is the best on the island. Indeed, this little fishing town sits in a particularly tranquil inlet at the heart of a marine nature reserve where fishing is limited (lobster can only be caught from April to August, hence the fishtanks) and the lobster from the area are thought to have the ideal diet for producing a flavoursome animal.
The secret to preparing a perfect caldereta is making sure that it is made at least 12 hours in advance, and that the lobster is as fresh as possible. Preparing the dish takes about 45 minutes: the head and body of the lobster are separated and the stomach removed, as it is thought to give a bitter taste to the dish. The lobster is then placed into a sauce with tomato, garlic and parsley and left to gain the flavour that made the dish a favourite of the king.
For the novice diner, the caldereta can be a (delicious) challenge. An array of surgical-looking instruments are laid out on the immaculate white tablecloth as the dish is served, all the better to reach the most tender parts of the lobster meat that tend to be found in the most inaccessible parts of the animal. Thankfully, S’Ancora also provides very stylish aprons.
S’Ancora’s food speaks for itself, evidenced by the fact that the terrace was almost full even though we visited well outside high season. It’s a good idea to reserve in advance, especially in the busiest months of July and August. Other highlights include the fantastic prawns, meaty razor clams with a touch of lemon, and the house special salad with pineapple, avocado, tomato and a touch of raspberry dressing. Desserts are also good – we had tiramisu and the Spanish favourite, leche frita. All of this is included, along with a bottle of wine (we had a lovely bottle of Vionta, a Galician Albariño, as chosen by Fernando) for €50 per person, although we were lucky enough to be guests of the house. All in all, S’Ancora is a great place to enjoy a long, lazy lunch, and just steps away from Fornells Bay’s crystal-clear waters if you fancy a post-prandial dip.
And the giant bogavante? As far as we know, nobody has dared to eat him…yet.
Address: Passeig Maritim 7-8, 07740 Fornells (Menorca)
Tel: 00 34 971 37 66 60
- Website: http://www.sancora.net/