A jewellery duo’s guide to Menorca
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Our dad bought a villa in Menorca in the mid-’80s, and we’ve been going there summer after summer ever since, so the island has been a real constant in our lives. Endless beach days, the smell of the pine trees that grow along the coast, chugging along paths carrying parasols, eating squid – those are the lovely, nostalgic things you hold onto from childhood. Both of us got married on the island, so it really is our second home after London.
In the past few years, probably since the gallery Hauser & Wirth arrived on the island, everything has become a bit more luxurious – a few more posh hotels have opened up and there are more restaurants. Still, there are strong protection rules on the island in terms of what can be built, because the islanders have looked at Majorca and Ibiza and decided they don’t want to go in the same direction. There is a focus on protecting the flora, fauna and culture – it was declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1993 and there are five natural reserves on Menorca.
It takes just over an hour to get from one side of Menorca to the other, and there are more than 100 bays, so you’re never further than 20 minutes from the sea. There is a walking track that goes right around the island, which was originally used by the military for patrolling, but now it’s a nice way to explore the coast, with beautiful little stone walls and wooden gates all along it.
Although close to the other Balearic Islands – you can see all the way to Majorca on a clear day – Menorca has plenty of things that make it unique. The dialect is different from Spanish, Catalan and Majorcan; the island has its own distinct style of gin, Xoriguer, which originated in the 18th century; and it even has its own indigenous horses, the Menorquín, which are a big part of the local fiestas.
Because it’s not far from Barcelona, and many people from Spain spend their summers here, you’ll see that Catalan influence in the food. The local cheese from Mahón is soft and mild, and islanders will eat it with jamón and bread to start a meal. Then there’s paella, which there are probably hundreds of variations of – the other day a local friend cooked us his signature, just octopus and rice and very little else, and it was absolutely delicious. And you can’t walk past the ensaimadas, which are pastries stuffed with cream or Nutella; they’re the most delicious thing to have with coffee in the morning.
Trébol in Es Castell is one of our favourite restaurants; it’s right on the water and has incredible seafood, particularly the fried sea anemone, and the owner is always around. Cap Roig, near Mesquida Beach, is on top of a cliff, so it has breathtaking views of the sea from the terrace. They make delicious sobrasada with squid, and black rice and cuttlefish with aioli. We love eating there and then going down to the beach to get ice cream from the guy who’s been there for years.
To zone out and relax, there’s Torre Vella, a hotel set within a vineyard, close to the spa at Santa Ponsa. They do this lovely sunset experience where they serve aperitivi on the cliffs. Binifadet is another great wine place, where you can eat among the vineyards, and pick up a few bottles to take home for barbecues or picnics on the beach.
Menorca isn’t known for its shopping in the same way that somewhere like St Tropez is, but one essential buy from the island are Menorcan sandals, which are like slides with a backstrap. They were born from the big leather business here, which started around 50 years ago – and everyone on the island wears them. You can buy them anywhere but there is an amazing guy who runs a shop called Boba’s in Mahón and makes really chic versions – classic with a contemporary edge. There are also lots of great antique shops on the island, such as Antics Antigüedades.
We also love to go to the local fish market, which you have to get to really early, or there’s another one more geared towards tourists; you can walk around with a beer and eat tapas at all the different stalls.
Ultimately, Menorca is a place to decompress and enjoy a slower pace, rather than running around. The culture is defined by the cuisine, the buildings, the openness, the landscape, the sea. It’s not like Ibiza; there’s no scene, and that’s a really good thing. It’s a celebration of simplicity.
Where to stay
Menorca Experimental menorcaexperimental.com
Santa Ponsa, Alaior lesdomainesdefontenille.com/en/santa-ponsa
Torre Vella lesdomainesdefontenille.com/en/torre-vella
Restaurants & bars
Bodegas Binifadet winery, Es Castell binifadet.com/en
Ivette Beach Club, Cala Morell ivettemenorca.com
Restaurante Cap Roig, Sa Mesquida restaurantcaproig.com
Restaurante Torralbenc, Cala Porter torralbenc.com
Restaurante Trébol, Es Castel trebolmenorca.com
Galleries, sites & festivals
Fiestas in 2023 descobreixmenorca.com/calendari-festes-de-menorca
Hauser & Wirth, Isla del Rey hauserwirth.com
Líthica Quarry, Ciutadella lithica.es/en/shostal-quarries
Antics Antigüedades, Mahón antiguedadesmenorca.com
Boba’s, Carrer de l’Àngel, Mahón bobasmenorca
Pigalle bakery, Mahón pigalle_menorca
Santa Catalina artisan produce, formatgesantacatalina.com