The first thing that you notice as you walk through the door of Santa Catalina darling, Nuru, is the feeling of cool, calm tranquillity. Even the open kitchen seems more like a perfectly choreographed ballet than a frantic cauldron where the magic is made. I suspect that isn’t exactly the reality but it is certainly the impression given and it’s all about first impressions right? I immediately feel my shoulders drop in relaxation and the bubble of excitement rise as I know this is going to be good, very very good. Though I was wrong about that. It wasn’t very very good at all, it was damn well magnificent!
The welcome we received, having popped in a few days earlier to organise this evening and then having accidentally stayed for a couple of glasses of wine (well it would have been rude not to) was that of an old friend returning from months at sea. Kathie, Maitre ‘d extraordinaire and never without a huge smile, knew exactly which wine we’d had and enjoyed that evening, and before I’d even had chance to shake out my napkin, I was presented with a perfectly chilled glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc with condensation glistening on the stylish glassware. At the same time Anouska, my ever wonderful friend and awesome photographer was delighted by a robust and full bodied rioja, that she had commented on the previous visit. A perfect start.
One of the most striking things we noticed about NURU, other than the delectable food, was the artwork adorning the walls. Not surprising then the direction that this coolest of restaurants has taken, with the opening of a new gallery, NURU Gallery & Lifestyle Store , in equally chic Puerto Portals. My eye is immediately drawn to the large dominating fresco covering one whole wall of the restaurant. Brooding, striking and quite unforgettable, there is just something that draws you into its depths. It’s interesting to find out later that the piece of art that literally stopped traffic when it was brought into the restaurant, an apparent logistical nightmare, is that it is actually made up of the debris of the terrible fire that destroyed much of the forest around Andratx, and that was actually still smoking as I first moved to this island. The paint was even made from the ash. It was an absolute tragedy, and this phenomenal piece serves as a stark reminder of what was lost over those few days. But out of such tragedy came optimism and the piece was auctioned to NURU with the proceeds going to the relief fund for the area which, six years on, is now thriving again.
In total contrast on the wall facing me are the delightful works of art from Jordi Molià, artist and family friend to the NURU boys. Daisies and love and colour and womanliness, with a delightful hint of cheekiness veritably glow against the muted tones of the restaurant as a whole. I can’t keep my eyes off them, finding new details every time I have a moment to study them again. And I’m not the only fan, as apparently Johnny Depp as well as many of the clientele of the restaurant are proud owners of these delightfully colourful and romantic pictures. Again, this is the reason why they have moved to opening the gallery, as the demand for the works of art adorning the walls is so high that it is the only logical thing to do.
But enough of art for the moment, as I could fill pages talking about what was there. It’s time to turn to the other star of the show – the food. When I eventually get to sit down with Jerome the following day to talk about the restaurant he tells me that he thinks that it was growing up in South Africa that made him so passionate about food as there was such a rich abundance and variety, and the culinary scene in their native Cape Town is seriously exciting. Thanks to his Dad, who he repeatedly pays homage to as the inspiration, enabler, interior decorator, wine connoisseur and constant cheerleader to the three brothers, Julien, 32, who looks after all of their social media, website and tech from Germany, Jerome, 27, at the coalface and Joel, 25, their trained barista, they were able to travel a lot when they were growing up and had plenty of adventures in and around their home city as well as the rest of the world.
The perennial question of how did they end up in Mallorca is hot on my lips. Having moved to Germany to finish their schooling, something that apparently didn’t go too well as their German is not quite at a level they would have liked it to be at, they moved to Mallorca. Jerome, with a fascination for animals, having been a snake wrangler and dog trainer soon realised that this was not to be his calling here on the island and having cut his teeth at a restaurant in Andratx and for a year as a runner at the eponymous Nikki Beach, found that he was at the right stage to open what he dreamed of as a family restaurant here in Mallorca. And that is exactly what they have got, a beautifully run family restaurant with an emphasis on good food, cheer and service.
Head chef, affectionately known as Chus, has been with them since the beginning and his experience at Nobu in London, one of many he has graced, is easy to see running through the menu. I didn’t get to try the Blackened Cod this time, but it is first on my list for the next visit. Well, that or the slow cooked rib which they sell 300 kilos of per month. Or the new burger sliders that are on the specials board that changes every couple of months. Or the tamarind chicken….the list is endless and I feel hopeful that we may turn into those old friends after all.
What we actually had on the evening was however delicious in its own right. No food envy to be seen at the various tables as every dish satisfied. We started off with edamame hummus and chilli flatbread which is not a combination I had ever considered before, but which worked really well as the edamame served to freshen the hummus. This was quickly followed up with the Salmon Sushi Roll of salmon tartar, avocado, fresh mango and spicy mayonnaise, topped with sashimi, potato crisps and salmon. This was virtually a meal in itself and it took every effort not to fill up on such fresh and tasty flavours. Sadly the next dish I couldn’t eat but would have given everything to be able to. Instead Anouska got not one, but two succulent oysters covered in a vibrant chilled purple mixture of beetroot and passionfruit. She described them as being the best oysters she’d ever had.
I was straight back in for the next round: Tuna Tartar served on nori seaweed crisps with avocado cream, spicy sauce and pickled onion. Four delightfully crispy triangular offerings of smoky fresh tuna served on slate that got Anouska’s camera lens twitching with excitement at how pretty they were and my taste buds watering. I was beginning to worry that I’d not have any space left as I knew what was coming next, as I’d put in a request for it when I’d seen it on the menu a couple of days earlier. It is probably one of my favourite dishes and one that I order often and am just as often disappointed by. But I had an inkling that that wasn’t going to be the case this time and so I went straight for the Satay Lamb Chops, served with jasmine rice, mango salad and a coconut, curry and peanut sauce. They were juicy, tasty, plump and definitely required hands to finish them off. The satay sauce was the perfect accompaniment and was, once again, a combination that I hadn’t expected but that I will definitely be ordering again.
There are so many elements to this restaurant, and I don’t even have time to mention the toilets, I leave you to discover those for yourselves. The owners and staff are amazing, it’s clear to see that they are all part of the family and function as one. The artwork is impressive and full of personality, I can’t wait to see more Molià and the other artists they are featuring in the gallery. And then there’s the food. It literally has a personality all of its own and has every right to. There are many restaurants that get one or two of these elements right, some that get none whatsoever, but NURU, for a restaurant named after the Swahili for new beginnings, certainly has a mature head on her shoulders, as she gets it all and more!
NURU Carrer d’Anníbal, 11, 07013 Palma, Illes Balears
+34 871 96 49 31
Mon – Sat from 1pm to 3:30pm and again from 7pm – 11pm.
NURU Gallery & Lifestyle Store
Marina Puerto Portals
Restaurant review by Victoria Pearce
Photos Credit: Anouska Foss