Rob Daley, Scott Dunn’s Executive Chef, shares his favourite destinations on the Balearic island, from a family-run bakery in Pollença to an exclusive beach restaurant
Over the past two decades, Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, has established itself as one of the Mediterranean’s most exclusive destinations. The ultimate seal of approval came with its use as a location for acclaimed BBC drama The Night Manager, which depicted the island as a sun-kissed playground for the super-rich.
“The Night Manager has definitely focused a lot of attention on Mallorca,” says Rob Daley, Scott Dunn’s Executive Chef. “Though the type of clients we welcome already knew that Mallorca had that aspect to it. Pollença, where over half of the Scott Dunn villas are located, strikes a perfect balance between high-end tourism and local colour. Although it does welcome visitors in the summer, it still has a very authentic Mallorcan feel.”
“I’ve travelled around most of mallorca, but I still find myself doing things I’ve never done”
For Rob, one of the key attractions of Mallorca, apart from its fantastic year-round climate, is its manageable size. The island is just over 60 miles from coast to coast at its widest point. “From Pollença, you can drive pretty much everywhere within an hour. And yet there’s so much of the island that still feels untouched.”
Rob has spent the past four summers living on the island, from where he oversees Scott Dunn’s private villa operation. “Yet whenever I go back, I still find myself doing things that I’ve never done,” he says, “like finding new restaurants or visiting beautiful villages I’ve never seen before. I’ve travelled around most of Mallorca, but I’m still discovering new highlights, especially in terms of food. From a culinary point of view, there’s a lot going on.”
Rob recommends Palma, the island’s capital, as a great place to visit for an alternative experience, should you tire of picturesque ports, golden-sanded beaches and rustic villages. “Palma doesn’t always get the attention it deserves,” he says. “The Santa Catalina district is a real up-and-coming area; a lot of the people working on the yacht scene live there and there’s a lively food market at the centre. The area surrounding it has become a bit of an evening destination – with everything from hipster coffee bars to nightclubs – all very cool and a bit of a contrast from the quieter side of the island.”
But for Rob, Mallorca’s biggest attraction remains the local inhabitants. “I’m always amazed at how friendly the people who live on the island are. They’re genuinely happy to see you. You really do get to know everyone in the village.”
Here, Rob shares his top 10 Mallorcan experiences.
The Royal Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa was occupied by Carthusian monks for over 400 years. When they were expelled in 1835, their “cells” were rented out to visitors, the most famous of whom were composer Frédéric Chopin and his lover, French writer George Sand, who spent a disastrous winter there in 1838. Today, a series of cells shows how the monks lived, while artefacts related to Chopin’s stay, including his piano, are also displayed. Entry includes a piano recital during the summer – and there’s also a small modern art museum with works by Picasso, Miró and Bacon.
Each village on the island has its own annual fiesta, which means every weekend, throughout the summer, there’s a town with a festival to visit. They’re a lot of fun, usually very family-oriented and often quite quirky. Some involve re-enactments of the historic conflict between the Christians and the Moors, which basically involves all the town’s inhabitants having an enormous play-fight. One of the most charming is the festival of La Beata in Santa Margalida, which takes place in September. All the couples in the town re-enact going to collect some water with the devil attempting to steal the water and break their earthenware pots. All these people dressed in traditional clothes go in procession through the town, and people dressed as devils pretend to fight with them. It’s great fun.
Mallorca has a number of markets, but for me, two stand out. The first, in Santa Catalina in Palma, is the kind of young, hip option. It’s a great place to go for things like fish stalls and butchers, but it’s also got cute little tapas and sushi bars. There’s a really lively atmosphere. You can go there at lunchtime, buy something from one of the stalls, then go to another where they’ll take the produce you bought and cook it for you. You can buy five or six prawns, go to the bar, get a drink, and they’ll cook whatever you bought. The other is Sineu – the biggest open-air market on the island. It happens once a week, and what’s special about it is it’s still a livestock market. It’s where you go to buy a live chicken, a goat, sheep or cow. There’s plenty going on to keep the kids amused, the atmosphere is fun and it’s a really good local experience.
If you’re looking for a sandy beach that’s accessible and fun, you can’t beat Cala San Vicente. It’s in the most fantastic location, with some of the best views. But if you’re after something more exclusive, I recommend Cala Deià, where the fish restaurant that featured in The Night Manager is located. A day trip there is something we can arrange for our guests. You travel by car to Soller, then get a boat directly to the restaurant – by far the best way to arrive. The scenery is amazing, the food is superb and it’s a memorable experience all round. The beach itself isn’t much to write home about, sadly. It’s rocky and it’s tiny. Most people just go there for lunch.
The hilltop village of Selva is home to a superb restaurant called Miceli. The restaurant is basically a terrace with amazing views, run by a husband-and-wife team. There’s no printed menu; the husband comes to your table and asks if you’d like the long tasting menu or the short one. His wife cooks the food, using produce bought that morning, and it’s delicious. If you’re after more upmarket dining, there’s a restaurant in Port de Pollença called Argos, recently awarded its first Michelin star. It’s likely to get very popular, but we can secure bookings for our guests. The chef, Álvaro Salazar, uses local produce and Mallorcan recipes, but all done in a modern way. And they serve really great cocktails.
The most memorable location from The Night Manager is La Fortaleza, a former fortress on the headland at the top end of Port de Pollença. Dating back four centuries, and surrounded by terraced gardens with tumbling bougainvillea, it’s one of the most expensive properties in Spain. One of my favourite views on the island is from the Mirador de la Victoria. You look across the bay, over La Fortaleza, with mountains on both sides. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset. There’s a restaurant up there with a terrace, and a bar if you fancy a sundowner.
One of my favourite excursions is to a stunning spot that’s a bit off the beaten track. Fornalutx is a tiny mountain village just off the road between Pollença and Soller. You take a little turning, then head up the hill on a winding road until you reach the village. It’s tiny – you can walk around it in 10 minutes – but it’s extremely pretty. There isn’t much there in the way of bars or cafés, just beautiful stone houses, atmospheric narrow cobbled streets and beautiful views. And there aren’t usually many people around because they simply don’t know it’s there.
When it’s time to go home, you might want to take something back to remind you of the island. There’s a famous textiles manufacturer in Pollença called Teixits Vicens. It’s a family-run craft workshop that’s involved in making roba de llengües – hand-made fabrics with a traditional Mallorcan tongue pattern, which come in a range of colours. It’s the last remaining factory shop on the island: an interesting place to visit and a great place to pick up a gift or memento to take home with you.
Pollença is very much a local place that has remained unchanged for generations. There are still six or seven family-run bakeries in the town, which is something I love. My favourite place to go for a morning coffee or a delicious pastry is called La Mar Dolça. It’s owned by a guy called Esteban – all the pastries and cakes sold there are hand-made on site by him. It’s fantastic, and a real testament to one man’s passion for what he loves. He’s pretty much the hardest-working guy I know.
There’s a really fun place to go for a drink in Port d’Alcudia, which is not an area we would normally recommend to our guests. It’s better known for its younger party scene, though it is gradually becoming a little bit more upmarket. This place is called (A Walk on) the Wine Side. It’s a wine bar that specialises in Mallorcan and Spanish wines; they have a really great selection, and serve some of the best tapas you’ll find on the island. The seafood, which they source from Galicia – famous for having the best shellfish in Spain – is particularly good. There’s a great atmosphere. It’s all very simple and informal and quite different to most of the places people who visit Mallorca tend to go to.
Call Scott Dunn on 020 3603 3566 to arrange your tailor-made trip to Mallorca