Nestled on a street in the heart of Palma, only a stone’s throw from the marina and shopping streets of this ancient city is one of gastromy’s worst kept secrets. The delectable C’an Toni is never far from anyone’s lips when visitors and residents alike are looking for somewhere to enjoy some real Mallorcan fare, and this means that if you want to join the thousands that have raved about this cafe over the years, then a reservation is absolutely essential.
The night that we went to visit was a beautiful summer’s eve and throngs of people were out strolling along the streets, heading for dinner. By the time we arrived the restaurant was already bustling and busy with tables full of groups and couples all enjoying the convivial atmosphere both inside the restaurant and out on the beautifully lit terrace.
For this evening we opted to dine inside to really soak up the atmosphere of the cafe that has been on this spot since 1955. It wasn’t always how we see it in its present incarnation, as in the early days it was a small coffee shop catering to the fishermen of the barrio by opening its doors at 4am in the morning. These days it’s a little easier on the sleeping patterns as the wood fired oven is sparked up at a relatively genteel 8am. Nowadays, under the watchful eye of owner Juan, the restaurant has been expanded to be able to incorporate a staggering 250 covers per day. I stare open mouthed when Juan tells us this and wonder out loud how he can can still be such a smiling and welcoming host with that many people to look after. He says it’s easy when you love what you do.
Juan wasn’t always in the restaurant business, but twenty years ago he set his sights on C’an Toni and went about realising the vision that we now enjoy before us today. It is one born out of love and passion for food, local produce and Mallorcan cooking. The food feels as though it could have been served up by your grandmother in a finca in the countryside and this is the feeling they are aiming for. Juan tells me that on an almost daily basis he will receive emails from past clients telling him that they are coming back to the island and making sure to reserve their table, often weeks or even months in advance. They have become part of the C’an Toni family and are greeted by the staff as such. It’s a truly international crowd he says, with visitors from all over the globe, as well as his normal regular locals.
It’s not hard to see why people return time and time again. The welcome is as warm as the wood fired oven which I’m taken to see, and the smells emanating from the kitchen have our stomachs rumbling before we’ve even sat down. And so we begin our feast, but not before we have been treated to a glass of Mallorcan Rose Cava, a wine that Juan explains in his soft Spanish tones, that is quite unusual for the island and that they are proud to feature in their extensive wine list. It’s absolutely beautiful and the perfect way to kick off what was set to be an absolutely delightful evening.
We place ourselves in the hands of Juan to steer us through the menu and he insists we start off with the Iberian Ham, from one of the many legs that are hanging in the restaurant. Iberian ham is some of the finest ham in the world, with the highest grades coming from free range Black Iberian Pigs who roam the oak forests feeding off the acorns on the ground. They are then slaughtered and can be left to cure for anything between eight weeks and 48 months. We are instructed by Juan not to simply chew the jamon, but to suck it as if it was a boiled sweet. The difference it made was remarkable. You could almost taste the earthiness in combination with the rich creaminess of the fat. It was utterly delicious.
Next up I made a request for fresh anchovies in vinegar. They worked so well after the richness of the jamon, with the tartness of vinegar and citrus acting as a palate cleanser. Many people say that anchovies are like Marmite and that you either love them or hate them, but I urge anyone who is on the hate side to come and try these as you can’t help but love them.
After a small break we moved onto the main courses and this is where the restaurant really came into its own. The first main course was the Duck Confit which we decided to have with the onions. The sweetness of the onions perfectly complemented the juiciness of the duck and the wonderful crispy skin. But it was what came out next that really set my heart soaring and what the restaurant is famous for. The Suckling Pig! This is why the wood oven gets turned on at 8am every morning, to cook these delicious little beauties. Juan thinks they probably serve anywhere between 600-800 of them per year and you can also get them to takeaway. Apparently Christmas Day is the busiest day for that hardworking little oven. Anouska, my ever fabulous friend and photographer and I were utterly blown away. We literally could not get enough. The way the skin crackled, and the meat just melted was utterly divine. Long after we have reached our fill we were still eating. It’s making me hungry just thinking about it now. DIvine!
With very little space, well none at all, left it was time to turn our attention to the dessert menu. Not generally a dessert eater Juan said that he had the perfect one for me to try and so I let my very rubbery arm be twisted. Sometimes having no willpower yields the best results of all. In this case it was in the form of the typical Mallorca dish, the Ensemaida served with ice cream. It was fabulous and was all washed down with a homemade patron digestif, which Juan, with a twinkle of his handsome smiling eyes, filled up more times than my digestive system probably needed.
We had such an utterly delightful evening. We were looked after like we were rock stars, though I could see that every other table in the room was also being treated in the same fashion, with Juan ensuring that he spoke to each and every person in the room. So if you are looking for a little slice of Mallorcan cooking, served with a massive helping of love then look no further than C’an Toni and it’s wonderful family.
Ca’n Toni Restaurant & Café Bar
Costa de Santa Creu, 5, 07012 Palma,
Illes Balears, España
TEL +34 871 716 661
MONDAY TO SATURDAY FROM 12 TO 23H
By Victoria Pearce