It is that hot on our visit to the Sunset strip’s newest eatery that, in a reviewing first, agua con gas is the drink of choice to quench our thirst. Thankfully the sun-stroke induced madness soon subsides and we are glad to take the recommended Strawberry Mojitos as a certainly more photogenic tipple, but also as it turns out an equally refreshing one. I have always been slightly suspicious of newly flavoured classics in everything from chocolate bars to crisps to cocktails, but whatever mixing mastery took place behind the bar leaves me as changed a man as after my first bag of marmite crisps, there are always exceptions to the rule and Fresh’s Strawberry Mojito gets on my list.
Served in jam jar, which is as welcome in being a nice little style touch, as it is in being voluminous in capacity.
Fresh is all about style from the moment you sit down. How would you describe it? Shabby chic, with a touch of tin-can ethnic simplicity? You could call it that, but you’d be rightly called something past a bit pretentious. I love manager and ever-attentive host Louise’s description of ’like my Grandma’s garden by the sea’. There is tin, enamelled metal, wooden boxes and other assorted post war austerity style touches that seem a bit random, but all come together in what is of course the cleverly designed style of a restaurant needing to live up to the name Fresh. Complementing the fixtures, the staff sweep between the tables in their equally modern contemporary fashion, but simultaneously retro striped blue and white uniforms that would gain the approval of a restaurant opened by Jean Paul Gaultier.
A beautiful setting designed by man, positioned in front of one of the most beautiful settings Mother Nature has to offer. But with the food to follow we would soon learn Fresh is definitely not a restaurant where style comes before substance.
To start the Provolone came highly recommended. In fact such was my waiter’s confidence in this plate that I heard him subsequently sing its virtues to a table of Italians who were clearly sceptical as to whether one of their homeland specialities could be successfully accomplished off their own soil. Though I may not have the same ’like-a-mamma-make’ point of reference, I did note they were tucking into theirs with all due gusto 5 minutes after I had gusto’d through mine.
Though I have eaten provolone before, I had not realised the dish is simply named after the cheese which forms its main part, it’s delicious, oozing, creamy, melting main part. Given my limited knowledge of this most delicious dairy delicacy, it is not surprising that I do not know the current situation as to Ibiza’s stockpile of Provolone, but a fair guess would be that every time one is served at Fresh the remaining stocks must be hugely depleted. The amount of cheese in the dish is brilliantly ridiculous and if the recent publicity regarding the addictive nature of cheese is to believed, one portion will leave you with the equivalent of a bad drug habit.
The Provolone is served topped with salad, sweet red and yellow cherry tomatoes and crunchy red onion, just enough to add texture and contrast, but not so much as to get in the way of the cheese. It almost needs an extra vowel or two, cheeeese.
On to the mains and the recommendation given was for the Rib Eye Steak, but we also wanted to try the Burger for which Fresh are earning quite a reputation.
As with all the grilled plates at Fresh, both would come with the Josper grill-seal of confidence. If you have not come across the Josper grill before, ‘seal’ is the optimum word. Very much the ‘in thing’ in the best steakhouses and grills from London to Barcelona, the Josper grill is sealed tight to cook using all of the retained barbeque smoke. Things sure have come a long way from pouring beer onto the coals.
Both dishes were sublime.
Starting with the burger; it is rare the humble bun would be review worthy, but the Fresh burger comes encased in a lovely crispy bread roll worthy of an artisan accolade.
We recently had a burger at a very trendy eatery that best remain nameless. It was selected after we watched what looked to be fantastic burgers served to other diners. What we got was a huge disappointment and the difference between that bland burger and the excellent example at Fresh is, cooking technique aside, all about the beef. You can tell the moment you bite into it that it is the very best cut of meat in burger form. Elevated by the tangy cheese, fresh salad and fried onion, it is, as the menu says, a true classic beef burger. A simple meal, cooked exceptionally well.
The Rib Eye steak would have received my one criticism, really quite petty but something of a bugbear, in that it was served without a steak knife. But then you realise there would be absolutely no point. A butter knife would have sufficed. So moist and tender, a melt in the mouth cut that I would describe as being in the centre of anglo-hispanic taste.
I have definitely moved away from the British ‘all fat is bad’ outlook, and happily come to realise that whether you choose to eat it, keeping some fat on the cut enhances flavour hugely. There is little doubt that the British approach of Marks & Spencer perfect round, perfect red, tomatoes and beef so lean it looks to have come from Olympian cows, leads to a bland flavour.
I doubt Argentinian chef Romaro could bring himself to serve such an abomination to the taste buds if he tried, and thank the sweet baby Josper for that.
Both the burger and steak were served with fries that were perfectly salted, that special dry salt coating they can achieve in the kitchen but you’d never get from the condiments on the table. Your doctor probably wouldn’t approve, but as s/he isn’t here we’ll forgive ourselves the indulgence.
The steak also comes with a ‘cute’ (please note that is my wife’s description) serving spoon of homemade cheese sauce.
Despite its diminutive size we are left thinking that whatever damage our Provolone had done to Ibiza’s cheese reserves, this little spoon of, how to describe it, “ultra-cheese”, must be leaving the island’s stocks at critical. Leicester crumbly in texture, but with the full flavour of the very ripest Brie.
After such a wonderful meal in such a great setting, served by such friendly people, it seems a little tacky to talk of price, but on balance I think we must. Fresh is not ‘cheap’, if you want a cheap burger there is a man of dubious hygienic standards open till 5am in a kiosk on the lower bay road, but Fresh is significantly cheaper than many restaurants in this position. It is getting a great reputation among the workers and residents and that really speaks for itself.
You will find Fresh at the Marina end of the sunset strip, just along the way from Mambo and next door to Savannah.
For those afloat there is the summer jetty adjacent to Fresh. Small boats can use the jetty and have their mooring validated with a food or drinks bill at Fresh or Savannah, and larger vessels can call for a rib water taxi to give a ship to shore service. That should keep Ibiza’s sailing community happy, but we can’t help thinking they won’t be anywhere near as happy as Ibiza’s vendors of cheese.