Matija and I were greeted by charming Toni and ushered into a private dining section to the left of the main restaurant. My first impressions were great: crisp white tablecloths, napkins and plates, accompanied by highly polished silverware and simple, elegant glasses.
We started with sparkling water and an bottle of Tianna Boccoris, a local organic white wine from Binisalem. Toni gave us the menu to browse through, but we opted for going along with his suggestions. First he brought out “pan con aioli”, a typical Mallorcan first course at most restaurants. We learnt that at Avenidas they get their bread from Amadip Esmet Fundacion, an organisation that helps disabled people work and integrate into society. You might have been to their restaurant in Palmanova, but if you haven not I recommend you try it, at least for tea and cakes. Anyway, two of those people are permanently employed here and their bread was excellent. It was served warm, with local olives, locally grown, freshly “grated” tomatoes and aioli sauce. A tasty start, supporting a great cause!
Our whole menu was going to be fish and seafood themed and, being a huge fan of fish, I was really looking forward to it. The first dish we tried was a “frito marisco y pescado”. Mallorcan's love their “fritos”, fried vegetables with liver and kidneys, meat or fish. Trying this one - I could see why. It was made up of tiny cubes of fish and seafood, with potatoes, red peppers and a a bit of dill adding substance and colour to the dish. I am often weary of fritos, as they can be extremely oily, but this one was not. It felt light, yet filling.
Next, we had a baked cod and “tumbet” – another Mallorcan staple dish. Toni explained that they baked their cod using “temperatura baja”, a food preparing method, meaning that it was baked at a low temperature for several hours. The result was a melt-in-your-mouth fish delight, rather that often chewy or floury cod. The fish was glazed with a slightly tangy tomato sauce, adding depth to the flavour, and served on layers of sliced roast vegetables including courgette, aubergine, red peppers and potatoes. Even potatoes were perfectly done here, and if you read my column regularly, you know how fussy I am about my potatoes.
Toni was coming and going, making sure we were fine, explaining the dishes or the cooking methods, while also giving us plenty of time to talk. He told us that he was in the service industry for nearly 30 years and that he knew all the regulars here, while adapting to their “leave me alone” or chatty styles was his trick of the trade.
Attention was really paid to every little detail. Thinking about how I would best describe our experience here, it came to me that it was as if Mallorcan grandma cooking met high end dining. I love discovering local restaurants in rural parts of the island, but I loved this encounter right here even more! Looking around the restaurant, the crowd was mostly middle aged and older, well suited and booted Majorcans, with and odd stylish youth here and there.
Back to the food and our final savoury dish: “fideuá de marisco y pescado” i.e. pasta with fish, seafood and squid ink. I'm usually a paella person and I find fideuá quite heavy. Toni explained that they made it with “angel hair” pasta, rather than some thicker varieties, meaning it was lighter and easier to digest. While this might not be the prettiest of dishes to photograph, thanks to its black colour, it certainly does not lack flavour. By this point I was pretty full, so I only had a several forkfuls, but that was enough to make a mental note to come back for it another day.
We joked with Toni that, however full we were, there was always a little spot left for desert. He brought out two things for us to share and we scoffed them down, as if we have not just had a three course meal moments ago. One of the deserts was an apricot ensaimada served with hazelnut ice cream by the local ice cream makers Murmui. This was one of the best ensaimadas I have had in Palma – super light, despite being made with pork fat (hence the name, saïm in Mallorcan). The other desert was a white cloud made out of egg whites and sugar and accompanied by a sweet strawberry. This was a perfect end to a very pleasant dining experience, with plenty of local food, beautifully presented and served in a manner that some high end restaurants could learn from.
About 40 euros per person for a tasting menu, plus wine.
El Corte Ingles Restaurant
Avinguda d'Alexandre Rosselló, 12-16, Palma
971 77 01 77
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