Restaurat 2014 at Villa Mercedes

  • Nick Gibbs

San Antonio’s Restaurat gastronomic festival offers fine food dining at a fixed price of only 15€ for a themed  3 course menu.

Now in it’s 6th year and with a record 22 restaurants participating, Restaurat is a celebration of the best in Ibicenco produce with local fayre at the forefront of some fabulous menus.

This year’s theme is nuts, drawing upon the tradition of ending a good meal with nuts, though the chefs have been rather more imaginative in their use—spurred on no doubt by the desire to win the coveted winner’s trophy.

Taking first place in 2013 were our friends and long term supporters of the newspaper, Villa Mercedes. So what better place to start?

Restaurat runs until 14th December. For a full programme and details of which  restaurants offer the menu on which days (Villa Mercedes offer it every day) go to

http://restaurat.es/

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On a brief visit to Villa Mercedes a week or two ago I asked the ever present and ever attentive Josh if he was enjoying the lull in pace after the frantic summer months. Far too consummate a professional to respond by telling me not to be ridiculous but his slightly perplexed expression was enough to know my question wasn’t as straightforward as you might think. What he did impart was that the restaurant had a record number of diners the preceding Saturday. A brief visit and no more was said—but I did think to myself later that even taking into account the restaurant’s popularity with residents who do not have the opportunity to visit in the height of the season, it seemed rather odd to break the record for covers in October.

On arrival to today’s dinner as part of the annual Restaurat  festival (see above) I asked manager Javier (who if it is possible seemed even more perky than normal—but we’ll come to that later) about their rather special October. Javier told me they have served a remarkable 1,600 menus in the past 2 weeks, peaking at 220 on one Saturday alone. Numbers all the more impressive when you consider this is from a kitchen cooking to the highest standards, everything to order.

Why have they done so well? Time to find out.

Starters

Exotic autumn salad with dry figs, onion jam, honey, mezclum of lettuce and dry nuts vinaigrette.

We love a salad with fruit and though I didn’t think to ask the name of the cheese the combination with the fig and strawberry was fantastic. The real winners on the plate however were the dressings of honey, onion jam and vinaigrette which added toasted almonds and pine nuts to every mouthful. I was not proud of myself for hunting through the few remaining leaves to be sure I’d had every last one of them, but it was a task well worthy of the effort.

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Zucchini soup with crunchy onion and homemade toasts.

Served to us as a sample shot of soup for the review—bit of a tease as you then think that perhaps we should have had the soup. A delicious soup and you couldn’t possibly have too many of the crunchy onion pieces.

Homemade raviolis stuffed with spinach, ricotta, cherry tomatoes and basil.

Star starter. If you only go to Villa Mercedes once during Restaurat, as good as the salad and soup were, I’d have to recommend the Ravioli. The parcels of pasta are so fine they deserve to come tied in ribbon with a bow on top. The filling so moreish you are left, well, wanting more.

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Main Course

Grilled vegetables with almonds, basmati rice and red curry

With one steak and one fish lover in the marriage (no it’s the other way round) this is the one dish we didn’t try—looked fab coming out of the kitchen!

Miso cod with cod vegetables in sesame oil

I can say without hesitation that I have never had an average, let alone poor, fish course at Mercedes. Chef just gets it spot on every time—that moment in cooking when the fish is cooked just so. Moist but fleshy and flavoursome. The Cod was complemented, but not at all overwhelmed by more of that nuts and seeds theme in a sesame oil drizzle.

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Wagyu beef canary island style with “mojo picón” and wrinkled potatoes.

Whoa there! To get Wagyu beef in Ibiza is not easy. To get it on a 15€ menu—impossible surely– but with no evidence of what would have been a perfectly reasonable surcharge on the menu they have managed it somehow. For the uninitiated Wagyu beef comes from the most expensive of cattle breeds, initially from Japan. It has the virtue of having a higher ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats, making it lower in cholesterol. Guilt free steak if you will. And even the cattle come out of it well with the addition of beer and red wine to their grain diets. Everyone is a winner and the plate was as good as the hype. As tender and full of flavour as the best cut of fillet. Wagyu is the way to go—there’s and advertising strap line in there somewhere. Plenty of it too, though you’ll be hard pushed to find it anywhere else in Ibiza for the next month or two as Mercedes have reserved the lot. Something tells me they are pretty keen to retain their Restaurat winner’s status.

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Desserts

Traditional apple strudel with raisins, almonds and vanilla ice cream.

Smooth chocolate temptation with red fruit.

Creamy orange panna cotta.

We went for the sharing plate of all three—a perfect end to the meal with an expresso or two. By now we are running out of superlatives, but again all true gourmet standard sweets—especially the brownie packed with red fruits. Then imagine if you can the task of getting the flavour from 100 oranges into a tiny ramekin. A question chef has obviously asked himself and come up with a solution in his panna cotta.

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We mentioned at the outset that manager Javier was even perkier than his usual effervescent self. You might think his broader than usual smile was justifiable for the fantastic menu, you might think it the record number of diners.

Could it be his confidence in retaining the Restaurat trophy, or even his success in negotiating the world’s best Wagyu deal?

All of those would put a smile on any restaurant manager’s face, but it turns out that only 2 weeks ago Javier became a new dad.

Without question, one hell of a month.

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Villa Mercedes winter hours from November 1st are lunch sittings every day from 1-5, dinner Thursday to Saturday 7-11. See advert below.

www.villamercedesibiza.com

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