Rotana is back!
Those who were fans of its original incarnation, the spectacular Lebanese eaterie on San Magi, will be relieved to hear that it’s back and it’s bigger and better. Now situated on popular Carrer Anibal, the décor is warm and welcoming. Large sofas at the front invite you to come in and relax in the warmth, as if you are being invited into a living room. Every item adorning the walls has been hand picked from Morocco, Switzerland and Italy and the effect is to transport you to more exotic climes.
The welcome reflects the warm surroundings and is friendly and charming. Mamdo, owner and host for the evening, welcomes us with open arms. He makes a superhuman effort to remember every single person who walks through the door and he immediately remembers me from a large birthday party a few weeks earlier. It’s an impressive feat given the size of the restaurant.
And what a host Mamdo is, starting us off in style with a perfectly chilled bottle of Moët. This is a man who is definitely used to the finer things in life and is extremely happy to share them with his friends and guests. His generosity is incredible.
I ask why he moved the restaurant, as it had caused some panic amongst the local residents who were concerned that it wasn’t coming back. He explains that it was due to the building’s rent being increased beyond normal inflation and given the facilities on offer it was no longer good value for money. So the hunt was on for new premises that could offer much more and he has certainly found them.
What is even more impressive than the size of the restaurant is that he has the same floor space down below which he has turned into a massive store room for wines, champagnes and all the wonderful delicacies that he has delivered in from all over the world. It’s a veritable treasure trove for lovers of gastronomy.
We move onto the subject of food and his eyes twinkle with delight. This is something he is clearly passionate about. And so begins a dazzling array of dishes being served to our table. He is adamant that we try a bit of everything so that we get a real feel for the flavours of Lebanon and the spread is impressive.
We started with the delightfully refreshing Tabbouleh which is a salad of parsley, tomato, fresh mint, onion, a touch of white pepper and cracked wheat, mixed with lemon and olive oil. It is wonderful as a palate cleanser and a great accompaniment when eaten alongside the Falafel, which are deliciously crisp fried pieces made from chick-peas, beans, onions, garlic, parsley and coriander. We were then treated to Warak Inab, stuffed vine leaves with rice, tomato and parsley that are then cooked with lemon and olive oil. Next up were Kebbeh Maklieh, fabulous cracked wheat shells with minced lamb, onions and cumin.
The dishes kept coming and coming and it was one fabulous mouthful after another. I started to get concerned we’d have no space left for the main dishes which Mamdo assured us were the piece de resistance. And he certainly was not wrong. The Oriental Lamb, cooked slowly in the oven with aromatic Cinnamon Rice and Dried Fruit literally fell off the bone and melted in your mouth. The aromas and flavours were sublime. We were also treated to the Rotana Mix which was a mixed grill selection of lamb, chicken, kafta and sausages all cooked to juicy perfection.
Alongside all of these dishes were the fabulous homemade breads and pitas, perfect for dipping or wrapping around any of the meats on offer. Such a selection meant that Anouska, my every trusty photographer, and I would not need to eat for a week.
All the while we were constantly entertained my Mamdo who regaled us of his adventures working for a sheik for 18 years up until his sad death at the ripe old age of 94, how he used to cook up a storm at Benihana in London and how he loves cooking with his kids at home, making anything from burgers, to Thai to Mexican. He is so much fun and wonderfully charming that it’s a shame when the meal eventually comes to an end but there is quite literally not one inch of space left, not even in my big toe.
Rotana’s revival is right on the mark. The space is inviting, the food is tasty, the service is impeccable and it offers something very different for Palma. We left feeling full of food, good spirits and with an invitation to come back whenever we want. We will certainly be taking Mamdo up on that offer and can’t wait until the next time. I highly recommend you check out this slice of Lebanon on our Spanish isle.
Calle Annibal 21, SantaCatalina, Palma 07014
+34 971 286078
Review by Victoria Pearce
Photos Credit: Anouska Foss