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Dining in Palma

Savour the delights of Palma on a plate

There's a choice of 3,000 places to eat in the capital of Mallorca - and Sarah Gilbert knows the best.

Palma's picturesque Old Town may seem an unlikely gastronomic getaway but those who fancy a stay in Mallorca's capital can take their pick from about 3,000 places to eat.

Creative chefs have been lured here by the abundance of fresh produce, including seafood, Mallorcan black pig, sea salt, olives and almonds.

Gourmet markets have sprung up in the maze of medieval cobbled streets, full of tempting smells of cheese, herbs and bread.

Palacio Can Marqués, an 18th century mansion in the Old Town transformed into a stylish boutique hotel, makes the perfect base for a weekend of gourmet delights.

Beyond the lobby, with cathedral-high ceiling and soaring staircase, there are 13 individually decorated suites mixing original features - wood panelling, honey-coloured stone floors, outsized fireplaces - with bold art and hand-woven Nepalese rugs.

The courtyard garden at Palacio Can Marqués

The courtyard garden is ideal for a chilled glass of cava. Then have dinner under the restaurant's vaulted ceiling, where Belgian chef Cedric Lebon serves up French and Mediterranean classics - a top choice is a three-course meal of onion soup, a succulent sirloin steak and an irresistible Ile Flottante (meringue and cream).

If you should spot distinctive hexagonal-shaped boxes at Palma Airport and are curious to know what's inside them, you won't find odd-shaped hats but a family-sized ensaïmada - Mallorca's emblematic pastry.

Traditional pastries at Forn de Sa Soca

Ensaïmada are thought to date back to the 17th century - some believe their coiled shape was inspired by Moorish turbans - so where better to try them than at the city's oldest cafe, Ca'n Joan de S'aigo? It opened in 1700 and - with ornately-tiled floor and marble-topped tables - still exudes old-fashioned charm. Go for a selection - dusted with icing sugar, topped with apricots and stuffed with pumpkin jam - and order hot chocolate so thick you can stand your spoon up in it.

For a modern take on tapas, head to sleek El Camino. As in its sibling restaurant in London's Soho, Barrafina, you might have to queue for a stool at the long wooden bar, but where better to nibble on plump green olives and sip cava?

The menu celebrates seasonal Mediterranean produce such as goat's cheese stuffed zucchini flowers or perfectly grilled octopus in a tangy mojo sauce. Don't miss the divine Tarta de Santiago (almond cake).

La Rosa Vermuteria & Colmado is a retro tapas bar with a twist - and a long list of vermouths (still all the rage in Spain).

A Negroni is a mix of Vermouth, gin and Campari - served with slivers of iberico ham, to precede hearty local dishes such as cod croquettes or milk-fed lamb chops.

At the two-storey Mercat de l'Olivar stalls were piled high with vibrantly-coloured fruit and local meats and cheeses. In the fish market, swordfish heads sit among slabs of tuna and you can dine on oysters and sushi, or buy prawns and have them grilled in one of the bars upstairs.

To stock up on gourmet goodies, head to the older and smaller Mercat de Santa Catalina on the seafront. Pick up Flor de Sal d'es Trenc (sea salt) flavoured with hibiscus, sobrassada sausage, made with indigenous black pig, and jars of ramillete tomatoes - perfect for spreading on bread to create pan con tomate.

Smaller still, La Pajarita Bomboneria is an old-school deli that's been in the same family for six generations. As well as speciality charcuterie, they stock local Cabraboc gin, Cas Misser olive oil and Binigrau wine.

Austrian-born chef Simon Petrutschnig at Fera restaurant, and cafe Ca'n Joan de S'aigo

Fera Restaurant and Bar is in a beautifully restored old palace, combining ancient stone archways, sleek furniture and art-filled walls.  Innovative creations from Austrian-born chef Simon Petutschnig really sets it apart.

Making full use of the bountiful produce - along with the restaurant's organic garden - he blends local and Asian flavours to create 'borderless Mediterranean' cuisine.
The seven-course 'Art tasting menu' was both decorative and delicious. Sea in an Oyster Shell - an oyster, mussel and organic caviar - came on a bed of volcanic stone with shells, seaweed and waves of dry ice. Wagyu beef with textures of potato, apple and parsnip was followed by a sublime chocolate dessert with bites of brownie, mousse and the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu.
Just like Palma, it was a feast for all the senses. 

First published in the Daily Mail - April 2020

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