I’ve just spent a fortnight just outside Palma, Mallorca – and very nice it was, too. We chose Palma for many reasons, but primarily because of the ‘Old Town’ and the myriad of Tapas and Pintxo joints that fill the air with the scent of Garlic, Sobrasada (imagine a pate made from Chorizo) and fresh bread every evening. Pre-booking research revealed that there was something happening here…and I can certainly attest to that.
Tapas has long been somewhat of an obsession for me. It’s the transient, kid-in-a-sweet-shop nature of it that appeals to my inner glutton. It’s food for those with attention deficit issues, for the procrastinator, for those who want to try everything and then come back for something else. But I quickly learned that there’s a distinct difference between Pintxos (Basque spelling) and Tapas.
Little morsels atop a slice of bread – larger ones come skewered with a stick – Pintxo roughly translates as ‘spike’, and you normally pay the same price for them all, regardless of complexity. Tapas – in Basque-cultured Mallorca, anyway – seemed to mean larger dishes; ones normally cooked and intended for sharing.
So off you go, having a little nibble here and there; before too long you’ve sampled a decent range of tastes, all complimented with Beer or Wine. Beer – wise you’re in the land of Estrella, Estrella Galicia, Mahou and Cruzcampo – all of which are fine, given where you are. So, after that little preface – let’s pick out some highlights.
The ‘Old Town’ of Palma is where you want to go; there’s a handy little map called La Ruta Martiana (The Martian Route – god knows why), that handily gives you a rough starting point. However, you should just get to Placa Mayor, head to the south-east corner, and you’re in the Old Town. Wander round in the evening and you’ll start to see the bars opening up – but not until at least 20.00.
All the places featured are within a stroll of each other. In the daylight, the Old Town is undeniably scruffy; graffiti-laden shutters and somewhat gloomy alleys. But when dusk creeps in, those shutters open and amber light spills onto the street, giving the whole place that somewhat seedy aspect that always comes with looming buildings and dark doorways.
Onto the food. First up, Quina Creu; a bar that I’d initially scrubbed off the pre-visit list due to its frankly toss webpage. As usual I was too quick to judge; QC turned out to be a fun, lively bar that seemed popular amongst the locals. We soon got used to the spread of Pinxtos on the bars; QC went one further with whole cheeses for you to slice up and enjoy alongside them and sweet snacks too if you fancy something with a coffee instead. Decent prices, friendly staff and a nice line in cheesy Bossa Nova shimmying around in the background makes you soon forget the time.
…but heed the time you must, because there’s a lot to get through. Next up, facing the square where Cafe Gaudi is, sits Cero ’58 – where a tapas of spiced Sobrasada, Egg and Potato had us licking our lips; satisfied ‘mmmm‘ sounds our only conversation. Behind Cero ’58 is Molto Barra, which really is worth a visit. Akin to having a beer in a large junk shop, this has an excellent range of Pinxtos on offer, from Sausage, Albondingas and Tortilla to Pimentos Padron and the obligatory Morcilla, alongside an excellent beer range. Estrella Galicia Pilsner is available here – not a bad beer at all if you fancy a change.
Ca La Seu is lovely; vintage in appearance (marble tops, baskets hanging from the ceiling, massive iron pillars seemingly propping the place up) but forward-thinking in food. We got chatting to the host; an American born in Mallorca, who enthused about the regeneration of the area; how drugs and prostitution had been run out and the bars had sprung up instead, making a real community and a destination in its own right. As I stuffed a tortilla slice laden with Jamon and Goat’s Cheese into my mouth, I could only nod and smile. Wonderful.
Bar Boya offered the cheapest (and perfectly tasty – with the spicy Padron/Chorizo combo needing a hit of cold beer to quench the fire) Pinxtos in that we found, but our favourite was the unassuming Es Puput.
A Puput is a bird native to the island, and there’s little bird boxes dotted around the bar. This makes up all the decoration in this spartan little joint, but we were hooked by the food. It had the smallest – and most basic – menu of all the Pinxto bars we visited ,but the quality was outstanding. Sobrasada Croquetas became a default order; crispy on the outside, oozingly soft in the centre, they provided a truly addictive garlicy, pimenton-laced hit with each bite.
The morcilla – beyond moist, crumbly and heavily dosed with Cinnamon – sat on a pillow of pureed pear and was, quite simply, manna from heaven – if not for the waistline. We visited Es Puput repeatedly and, with all that the area has to offer, that’s some praise. The talented chef and barman (who, somewhat annoyingly, both looked about 25) really know their stuff and couldn’t have been happier to entertain us (even when being pressed for their Croqueta coating secret by a rhapsodising Englishman).
Obviously, you can’t fit all this in one night. There are bars we didn’t visit, only lingering in the doorway long enough to note what they were offering, as well as places that didn’t make it onto this already too-long post. But, if you’re into food and visiting Palma, then the area is a must-do.
I’m sure it doesn’t have buzzy vibe of Barcelona and San Sebastian’s lauded Tapas/Pintxo scene, but it’s a great alternative. Best of all – as much as it pains me, knowing that I’m writing this to highlight the excellent work done by the cooks and barfolk of the area – it’s not at all touristy . Yet.
Posted on 26/06/2012, in Beer and Food and tagged Bar Boya, Bars in Palma, Beer in Palma, Ca La Seu, Cero 58, Eating in Mallorca, Es Puput, Estrella, Estrella Galicia Pilsner, Mahou, Molto Barra, Pintxos, Quina Creu, Restuarants in Palma, Tapas. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.