I’d firstly like to point out that by-line is in no way an insult and was in fact how the wonderful Peter and Ralf delighted in describing themselves. And I can wholeheartedly concur. There was a definite twinkle in their eyes as they talked of their long-standing friendship and I’m pretty certain that there are many many stories that we weren’t privy to that night. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that if we’d given in to the third bottle of wine that they were definitely trying to entice us with, then we would have learned much more. They were such gentlemen and so funny that it was a real joy to have them join us after our meal to tell us more about themselves and Chez Nous Mallorca.
Both German born, neither stayed for their adulthood, although Ralf did spend three years in a Berlin prison between 75 and 78 for going over the wall. Tragically his two compatriots didn’t fair as well and it is a sobering thought. We tend to brush such harrowing memories under the carpet as if they were ancient history, rather than the year of my birth, and forget that their scars can still be felt red raw on those that move around us. That said, Ralf has not let his experience diminish his sense of humour in the slightest and has definitely bounced back from his youthful internment, even returning to Berlin after the wall came down in order to see his parents for the first time in 15 years. But Germany was not his home, and neither was London and so began his love affair with France and Paris, where he still has family and his children. Although he managed to find time for a few adventures with the French Foreign legion in between it all – see what I mean about stories!
Peter, sometimes known as Klaus, however, headed over to Spain fairly quickly, arriving in 1974, spending over 40 years here on and off. Studying tourism in various places including Madrid, to exacting EU standards, he went on to work in countries such as Russia, Turkey and Austria before returning to Spain. It is here that his and Ralf’s stories converge during their time working for the Intercontinental Group together 18 years ago. It is clearly a relationship and friendship that has stood the test of time as they decided to do a complete U-turn earlier this year and went on to open Chez Nous Mallorca, yes, you’ve guessed it, two days before lockdown hit the island and our lives got turned upside down.
The original concept for the restaurant was for it to be a beautiful late-night French restaurant, opening at 10pm and closing at 10am. Something that doesn’t really exist anywhere else. Think white table cloths, hearty French cooking and the kind of red wine that can only accompany a Burgundy snail in garlic butter on a Winter’s evening. Sadly that was not to be the case with all of the new restrictions.
So gone are the late nights, the white tablecloths and the fancy menus, but none on the bon vivant. The opening on the 15th July has seen a steady stream of local residents and employees from the business district making Chez Nous Mallorca their regular haunt. It’s perfectly placed for this sector, just behind the Avenidas on the Big El Corte side, surrounded by banks, gestors and businesses of all types, as well as the various tourist attractions of the shopping district, Placa Espana and the Soller Train.
The decor is minimal but tasteful, with big funky lamps and French vistas taking you away from Palma for a few hours. Peter looks at the table mats, now the actual menus, with distaste, but in my opinion, they are better than the QR codes that now have whole tables reaching for their phones and immediately disengaging. Whilst they may not be the boys’ ideal solution, we are all having to make changes and they at least prompt conversation as people look to see what their fellow guests are interested in.
On the evening in question that Anouska, my ever wonderful friend and brilliant photographer, and I headed over to Chez Nous, we were absolutely ravenous and ready for some hearty French cuisine and we were not to be disappointed. Although thankfully Ralf and Peter had worked out that we wouldn’t be needing to eat a full portion of each dish, instead offering us the tasting menu that you can see in the photos in this article.
We began with a mixed platter of starters that consisted of a delicious spoonful of salmon tartare on a bed of avocado. Delicately seasoned, the two textures and flavours are always a favorite combination of mine. We moved on to the baked camembert – I mean who can ever say no to baked camembert? The pastry was delicate, the cheese perfectly gloopy, but not so hot that it burnt your mouth. From there we tasted the scallop which is always high on my menu choices. The three tasters were varied enough to give us an all-round idea of what was to offer but were not so distinct that they clashed.
While the starters were coming out Peter looked after us at the bar. We opted for red as for some reason indoors and France always makes me think red, and we went with French as quite frankly it would have been rude not to. What he presented us with was a delicious bottle of Famille Perrin Organic Côtes du Rhône which went perfectly with all of the dishes that were being served up in front of us.
Next on the menu were the mains and the same concept applied here. Three smaller tasters to give us a good overview. The boeuf bourguignon was succulent and fell apart in my mouth. It had clearly been sitting in its jus, just soaking up the flavours for several hours and was robust and tasty. The monkfish in spinach and potato puree was firm and the sweetness of the meat of the fish stood up well to the stronger flavours of the puree. Finally was my particular favourite. Not least because I am an absolute sucker for duck skin and the confit leg was not only pink and juicy, but divinely crispy. It was an absolute winner in my book.
Finally came the desserts and for those of you that know me well, know dessert is not always my favourite thing on the menu. However in this case I was proven absolutely and utterly wrong. Three small taster desserts, one of which was a small cheese board….heaven. The Creme Caramel with strawberries had that perfect crunch to it and it was a fantastic size for me. The cheese couldn’t be faulted in the slightest, a good selection of blue, goats and Mahon, with a tamarind marmalade. But what made this little trifecta so special, was the most surprising for me. The floating island. Basically the softest of soft meringue floating like a cloud on a lake of vanilla custard heaven. It quite frankly blew me away. Who knew. The interesting story behind this unobtrusive, yet to die for little dessert is that French chefs always use a lot of yolk in their cooking, but not many whites, so some young chef somewhere was tasked with finding a better use for the whites and ta da! There you have it! A French floating island!
It was at this point that Ralf, who looks after all of the chefing and kitchen needs, and Peter, who is bar and admin, came over to join us to give us the back story and break bread with a second bottle of the Pierre organic. It was then that we got onto snails and Ralf explained that he does them the proper French way. Well, I haven’t had French snails since I was last in Normandy about ten years ago, and there was an abundance of dipping bread on the table for the vampire warding garlic butter, and enough wine to see us through the dish, so I acquiesced and gave in to a large amount of arm twisting, of about a nano second, before agreeing to enjoy a plate of snails. To say I left a happy girl is an understatement.
Stepping out into the cooling air of an autumn Palma night, we looked back wistfully over an absolutely delightful evening with Peter and Ralf at Chez Nous Mallorca. Pop in and see them. They’re open every day, other than Sunday, and if there is something on the menu that you would like to try, sit down and chat with them. They do a menu del dia, the evening tasting menu, as well as the a la carte menu, all of which is very reasonably priced. They also now have a small terrace outside and a banqueting room which would be perfect for Christmas parties. It certainly won’t be the last time we go, apparently there are more snails and perhaps a delicious bottle of red and wonderful company to bring us back. Their house was certainly ‘with us’ that night!
Chez Nous Mallorca
Calle Pere d’Alcántara Penya, 17, 07006 Palma, Illes Balears, Spain
+34 640 328 676
By Victoria Pearce