Located opposite the market in Santa Catalina, the old fisherman’s barrio in Palma, is the delightful Monolisto Cafe. This delightful restaurant that has been in the same spot since 1999 is now owned by the ever cheerful and welcoming Manuel. The day we visited was not one of the 300 days of sunshine that Mallorca, even in winter, usually delivers. Instead it was grey, gloomy and overcast with a very strong chance of rain. Such an atypical day meant that the typically buzzing terrace was empty of the usual mix of locals and tourists for once. However, as we walked into the restaurant it was like stepping into an alternate weather universe. Put simply it was pure sunshine.
And here is why. The walls are adorned with murals showing scenes from around Santa Catalina and Mallorca in general. The result is an explosion of colour and life as people stroll around the market stalls, sampling local produce from wines to meats and cheeses as a silver haired stall owner sells her fruit and vegetables. The market mural is even replete with its own orange and white awnings that stand out from the wall. As you track further round an azure blue beach scene catches your eye and brings back memories of what is not so long ago, but feels like forever: those glorious days spent sardined on the various beaches of the island. It can’t help but raise a smile as we bask in the joy of sun and beach and sea, which epitomises what Mallorca is for so many people. Even when the restaurant is quieter it doesn’t feel like it as the paintings bring the atmosphere to life. It is like nowhere else I can think of, in terms of decor, on the island and it makes this little unassuming gem truly unique.
Another unique aspect of Monolisto is its menu. I wasn’t joking in the byline of this feature. Although more accurately it should read South East Asia meets the Western Mediterannean. As that is what is happening here. There’s no fusion of the two though. Both cuisines are distinctly separate, even having their own individual menus. And it is an absolute stroke of genius. Think of all those times when friends and family come and visit in the summer months and demand local Spanish or Mediterannean fodder. Now I know we all love and adore it, but imagine living in the UK and having to eat roast dinner every day with friends. Okay, bad example as that sounds rather exciting, but you get my meaning. Sometimes we just want a little variety. Step up Monolisto. Your friends can eat its beautifully prepared Spanish cuisine to their heart’s content, whilst those of us who are surrounded by it on a daily basis get a whole new and exciting Thai menu to choose from. As I say, genius!
For the purposes of the feature though, Anouska, my fabulous photographer and friend, and I, opted for a mixture of both cuisines. I mean, it would be rude not to. I really do love this job! The Mediterannean menu featuring a beautiful classic yacht has something for everyone, covering salads, meats, fish, seafood, your traditional tapas offering and a selection of three different paellas for two people.
We started off with a dish from the seafood section, the Calamar Nacional, which essentially means two grilled whole squid served with salad and baked potatoes. This is a perfectly sized main dish for one person. It was absolutely sublime. The squid was sweet and melted like butter in my mouth. The tentacles had that fantastic crunch and their texture was the perfect complement to the juiciness of the main body. I must confess to not eating the potato due to the epic amount of food still to come, but Anouska assured me they were how every potato should be: crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The salad also got short shrift, but on any other occasion I would have wolfed it down with its beautiful dressing that made the leaves that I did eat pop in my mouth.
Next up was my personal favourite the Gaeng Dang Pet from the gloriously bright, orange Thai menu. If you haven’t guessed I have a bit of a thing for Thai food. This fabulous dish translates as Red Curry with Duck, Bamboo Shoots, Eggplant, Red Onion, Cherry Tomatoes and Thai Basil. It professes to have a one chilli spice spiciness. Here’s a quick warning, when this says it is spicy, it actually means Thai spicy, not Spanish spicy. For me it was the perfect level of hotness to make you keep an eye out for any hidden scotch bonnets, but not too much that it masks the subtle flavours. However, if your idea of spice is a chicken korma with a side of extra yogurt you may want to try one of the other less hot, but equally tasty dishes. But if, like Anouska and I, you like your spice then you are in for an absolute treat with this dish. The duck was succulent and the cherry tomatoes were an explosion of colour and flavour. It was a curry to make you smile.
We finished up with one of Manuel’s favourite dishes on the menu that he wanted to showcase for us. It was one from the Mediteranean fish menu: and is simply known as Salmon Monolisto. What appeared before us was a beautifully pink piece of salmon, cooked just how I like it, so that it is packed full of juice and flavour. It came on a bed of stir-fried vegetables and was topped with some of the best prawns I’ve had on the island. Firm, sweet and not too fishy. Yes I know, but I really do have a thing about overly fishy prawns, and these certainly were not that.
By the time we finished the three different dishes we were literally full to bursting, but as I know many of you live for dessert there was nothing for it but to push our own feelings aside and take one for the Islander team. Yes that right, we ordered a figure slimming, low calorie dessert. In reality we went straight for the dark berry cheesecake, which considering how tasty and creamy it was will probably never feature on a Weight Watchers menu, not least because there is absolutely nothing left of the one that we literally devoured. If dessert is your thing you really might want to order this one first.
All of these courses were washed down by a bottle of Monolisto’s own labelled house wine. You can choose from a Verdejo or Albarino on the house white menu, though there are many others to choose from on the full wine list. The house however, is an absolute steal at €14.50 per bottle. We went for the Albarino, a personal favourite of mine and not normally found as a house wine. Its fresh and citrusy notes cut through the fuller flavours of the duck and lifted the lighter fish dishes. Another winner.
Monolisto is great fun and I highly recommend going along and doing as we did and sampling from both menus, as each is equally rewarding. I also advocate going sooner rather than later if you want to get a spot on the sidewalk terrace to watch the world go by, as sadly it is also in danger of being removed by the powers that be. So go along, sit on the terrace and show your support for Manuel, Monolisto and the genius that is the menu!
Restaurant Review: Victoria Pearce
Photos: Anouska Foss