Nestled on the bustling pedestrian thoroughfare of Fabrica in Santa Catalina, Palma, is the wonderful restaurant Minimal, opened by Markos and his brother. The concept of Minimal is simple, they wanted to open a restaurant with minimal fuss, minimal pretension and maximum portions. Whilst chatting with the delightful Markos, he says he rues the day slightly when they chose the name Minimal as he worries that it gives people the wrong impression. He’s concerned that they think it is going to be a restaurant of foam and tiny portions, where everything is style over substance. This is the opposite of what the restaurant is about. With a wry smile he says perhaps they should rename it Maximal.
Minimal opened in 2014, when the brothers took a walk around Santa Catalina to discover what was missing. They noted a number of restaurants that you would expect to find, and several fusion ones serving Spanish food mixed with an exotic twist, but nothing of what they deemed to be normal, solid, simple food. They saw a gap in the market, found their venue in the already thriving Santa Catalina, and set about opening their business. Minimal attracts those looking for good fish, meat and pasta and is open from midday to midnight every day. All ingredients are locally sourced, where possible, from the island, and prepared daily by Markos.
Our first visit to Minimal was on a beautiful June evening. The sun had just dipped below the mountains and there was a cool and refreshing breeze in the air as we settled down at our table, surrounded by the buzz of conversation and laughter at the packed tables around us. It was the perfect evening for dining alfresco and we were going to make the most of it. After a wonderful welcome from our charming waiter Brendan we asked what was to be recommended. My trusty friend and ever fabulous photographer Anouska opted for the Battered fried asparagus with cane honey, something that I had not previously considered you could do with asparagus, which were beautifully presented in a stack, surrounding a tasty salad. The asparagus were fabulously plump, juicy and full of flavour.
Being unable to not order prawns in every restaurant we visit, I went for the Shrimp Lollipop with sesame. Looking back over my notes from the evening, there were only three little letters next to the dish. OMG. As my friends will know, I’m a tad fussy when it comes to prawns, often lamenting the fact, to much amusement, that they are often overcooked and a little too fishy for my taste (yes, I know they’re seafood). On this particular occasion however the prawn stars were perfectly aligned. Each lollipop had a satisfying crunch, was sweet and delicate and were pretty much perfect. It took all the will in the world to not order them again the following day, but they will be first on the order next time I’m back.
Having been so delighted by our starters we decided to share our mains as we wanted to experience all of the flavours on offer. We started with the delicate delight of the dish called Turbot “Granny Hilary style”, named after Markos’s mother and his son’s granny. It was incredible. Cooked with white wine, onions, raisins and peppers, then carefully filleted at the table by Brendan, the dish was served with Padron peppers and potato skewers. It was certainly food that Granny Hilary would be proud of!
Our second main, and the gold star dish of the restaurant, was the Solomillo de Tenera “Minimal” with Sobrasada and honey and my god, it deserves that star. It’s a Mallorcan dish but with a twist, as it is normally served with pork. However, Markos sat down and thought, if you’re going to go big by adding the sobrasada, why not go big big and switch out the traditional pork for a beautifully juicy piece of beef tenderloin. And he wasn’t wrong. It is the dish of champions.
Despite our full stomachs and complaining waistlines we still managed to squeeze in dessert. A Lemon Meringue Pie that my own granny would have been happy to put her name to, and a Banoffee Pie, rounded off what had been a thoroughly enjoyable and fun night. The banter between Markos and his small, but loyal staff made the experience very special and we honestly felt like part of the family by the time we left. I know I say it a lot in these features about restaurants, but it’s the ones that leave you feeling that way that are always successful and Marco and Minimal are no exception.
So wonderful was the love that we felt, that we returned under our own steam two days later to sample the Menu del Dia for lunch, our excuse being we needed more photographs. For an incredibly reasonable sum of €13.95 you get a starter, main, dessert, bread and a glass of either water, wine or beer. Now many menus are a smaller version of the a la carte and you can often leave feeling hungry. This is NOT the case here. There is absolutely nothing Minimal about this menu. Between us we somehow finished off (we were wearing looser clothes that day) starters of a stunning and fresh Carpaccio of Courgette, and the wannabe main, Penne with Salmon and Leek. We followed that up with Duck Confit Delight with Honey and a Ribeye steak with Es Trenc salt. It was wonderful. We were sated. This is a Menu del Dia in the real sense of the meaning.
Minimal is very much a labour of love. Markos is the only one to be found in the kitchen, cooking up food to delight, day after day. He talks of his love of cooking and his Kawasaki motorbike, but is also honest when discussing the hardships of running a restaurant in present day Palma and how he misses his family. He has to contend with the problems of copy cats, though they say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and more worryingly he is now dealing with the new issues of having to close the terraces at midnight, due to a small, but noisy opposition group. He fears the heavy-handed policing and large fines, along with the high rental for having access to a terrace in the first place, could have disastrous consequences for his business and others like it, as locals and expats alike find more lenient locales for late night dining and conversation. He is even considering opening Minimal, or maybe Maximal in Alaro, where they welcome good food and company. In the meantime, however, the reputation of Minimal for good straight food and welcoming service keeps customers arriving in droves.
Restaurant Review by Victoria Pearce
Photos Credit: Anouska Foss