There have been two significant changes at the Playa Bella complex this year.
The first is the remarkable decrease in the stress level of Playa Bella owner manager, and until March this year owner editor of the Ibiza Sun, Daniel Darvey. Now sporting the relaxed contentment of a man who has just completed his 7 years hard labour sentence you might even find Dan chatting at the Hotel bar of an evening. Rumour has it his children have stopped calling him Father Christmas (the man who comes once a year), and though I couldn’t possibly speculate that his wife Maria has similar cause for celebration, I’m sure I did notice his hair has started to grow back.
The second is not a cause for causing embarrassment to my periodico predecessor, exactly the opposite as the completely new menu at the Playa Bella restaurant lead by their new Chef is entirely a cause for celebration.
There are two restaurants in the Playa Bella. Last year we were lucky enough to sample some superb salads and fresh fish at La Bahia, this year the Playa Bella restaurant was subject of our attentions.
Though the name may be predictable the menu certainly is not.
Let’s start with the start of the day selection and the always reliable (and from 4.50€ including drink very good value) traditional English breakfast is now offered alongside some great alternatives. Eggs Benedict or Florentine, breakfast burrito, and the great breakfast bap stack all stand out as examples of Playa Bella having gone all out to offer something that little bit extra special this year. There is also a great continental for those who do not feel the best way to start the day is with massive calorific intake (French people I think).
The attention to upping the ante goes throughout the menu including snacks and sandwiches which now come on a variety of bagels, bloomer bread etc—even the humble hot dog is served with caramelised onions, melted cheese and chilli if you want it.
Just look at the Club sandwich pictured as an example—at just 4.25€ it is a triple decker bargain bursting with chicken, bacon, salad, egg and much more. Add chips for 1.50€ and you’ll need quite an appetite to finish it—more a main meal than lite-lunch-bite.
We went along for dinner and for reviewing purposes selected two of what we think are the best mains—but first, and very highly recommended—we took the cheese and cured meat sharing platter. Served on a wooden board the platter includes (take a deep breath) Blue cheese, Manchego Tierno, Manchego Semicurado and Manchego Curado, Serrano Jam, Spanish Loin, Chorizo, Dried Spanish Sausage, Duck Pate, Pickles, Olives, Typical Pagés Bread. Brilliant. The perfect sharing plate to put in the middle of the table if going along to one of the Playa Bella’s nightly cabaret shows (see ad above for line up). The board comes in at 10.50€ – that’s under half the price for probably three times the quantity of another we had recently at a place visible from the Playa Bella’s beach front location. Great value again.
On to the main course.
First the steak. On both previous occasions we’ve gone against medical advice and got Neanderthal we’ve been served huge slabs of top quality steak—supplied by none less than Pete the Butcher so what else would you expect. Usually served with chips but I prefer a baked potato –perhaps it’s a conscience easing thing—and with a pot of pepper or béarnaise sauce. The steak is 15.95€ – the most expensive thing on the entire menu. If meat is your thing we would also highly recommend the Mixed Grill—it’s mental at 14.95€
I love the second choice—Lamb Biriani with Naan Bread at 10.50€. Chefs usually come up with very flowery names for their dishes but in this instance I think he’s underdone it. The melt in the mouth pot of slow baked Lamb and rice comes with fresh coriander, a pot of onion and tomato salad, an extra chilli for those who want to spice it up, and a big basket of not just naans but a few chapattis perfect for getting ethnic and scooping up the lamb with messy fingers—the way it should be done. Just one thing though—it isn’t a Biriani by any standard I’ve ever known, and certainly not as an Indian restaurant would serve it. Typically Biriani is a dry rice dish often served with a side sauce but here the Lamb is in a delicious sauce with a little rice. Don’t let that worry you for a moment though—whatever you want to call it the Lamb is a superbly cooked and presented dish with an authentic flavour at a ridiculous price. Any Lamb curry dish would cost you 12/14€ in an Indian. Add the breads and extras and you’d have to be topping 20€. In that context Playa Bella’s is half price which for cash conscious residents, hungry workers, and bleeding money tourists has to be the nicest spice you’ll find in Ibiza.
What’s wrong about Playa Bella—that’s easy for me—the nightly Bingo does my nut in and if you are equally unexcited about an hour of silence whilst 200 people stare in front of them like a room full of teenagers with new smart-phones, I’d give 8.30 to 9.30 a miss. On the other hand if you are one of the majority who seem to love Bingo (even grown men I ask you), the Playa Bella just got even better.
Great menu, great cooking, great staff and great value. And Bingo.
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