The first thing you notice when entering Xoriguer is the smell. It is the perfect mixture of charcoal barbeque and cooking meat. It literally has your mouth watering before you have even reached your table and sets expectations very high. In all the times I have had the pleasure to dine at Xoriguer, those expectations have never been disappointed.
The restaurant itself is at once large, yet homely. During the day streams of natural light pick out the details and make you feel as though you could be dining alfresco. At night the subtle lighting , warm red walls and beams transform the place into one of comfort and warmth. And just as warm as the décor is the welcome we receive from the wonderful owner Guillem.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to Xoriguer in the early days of arriving on the island by an old TripAdvisor colleague who raved about the meat, the gin and his fabulous friend Guillem. I have subsequently returned many times since as it quickly became a personal favourite of mine, and also that of our very own Owner Editor Simon. Many nights have been spent sampling the food and the extensive wine list, finishing off with gin and tonics and renditions of favourite songs by Guillem on the guitar. Needless to stay, whilst it has beautifully pressed and turned out white table cloths this is not a stuffy restaurant. It is packed full of charm, laughter and Basque hospitality.
When Guillem, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Woody Allen, finally gets a chance to break for a minute to come and chat to us, he is kind and friendly and bashful when talking about himself. It turns out that running a restaurant wasn’t the first career choice that he made. In actual fact he started out running his own windsurf school 35 years ago in the now infamous Magaluf. After being persuaded by a chef friend at a local hotel to switch his sails for his knives he joined the team and has never looked back from the kitchen and hospitality industry.
The restaurant itself is fifty years young and has been a key player in Palma’s gastronomic history for years now, having won the first Michelin star on the island in its previous incarnation as a Mediterranean restaurant. It has also been home to many of Mallorca’s most famous chefs. Seventeen years ago when Guillem took over the mantle, in partnership with chef Hernan, the direction turned to the north and the cuisine of the food Mecca of Spain, the Basque country. The emphasis of Basque cooking is on the materials. Excellent meat and fish create dishes full of flavour and love. And at the heart of the Basque kitchen is the Asadores – the fire on which these materials are transformed. The fire in the heart of Xoriguer’s kitchen is burning brightly on the night in question that my ever-faithful partner, Anouska and I went along to sample what was on offer.
To start with we chose to share the sublime Txangurro a la Donostiarra, Spider crab from the Basque Country cooked with vegetables and white wine. The combination of light and dark meat comes presented in a ceramic crab shell with a toasted crust. We quickly slathered large portions onto the beautiful fresh bread and every mouthful was a delight. It’s a great size to share in order to leave space for what is coming next and is absolutely packed full of flavour. Anouska and I were literally fighting over the last mouthfuls. Whilst we were digging into our crab Guillem was shaving the Three-year acorn-fed Iberian Cured Ham for the table next to us. It is such an artform to be able to cut the meat in just the right way to get the most out of the flavours. From the appreciative sounds that the table were making after digging into it, it was a good choice for a starter. Thankfully our crab was so good that it put pay to any food envy.
For our main course we decided to go full on carnivore and indulged in two of the cuts of beef off the specials menu. As Guillem talked us through what was on offer it is clear that he loves his craft and his specialist knowledge of the different meats is fascinating. We decided to start with one of my favourites, the Hereford beef. I watched as it was cooked to perfection on the open fire and I could hardly contain myself as I waited for Anouska to get the perfect shot, showing it in all is juicy pink goodness. What I popped into my mouth a few minutes later was about as perfect as any meat could be for me. It literally just melted. In fact we were enjoying it so much that our table fell completely silent, which is quite a feat to accomplish.
The second meat dish we opted for was one of Guillem’s favourites. The sliced Fleckvieh-Simmental. It’s slightly leaner than the Hereford but still full of flavour and was, once again, perfectly cooked. Both dishes are accompanied by crispy chips and red peppers and a healthy sprinkling of sea salt. By the time we finished it all we were starting to become concerned that there would not be enough room for dessert, so instead we took some time to sit back, revel in the joy of the restaurant and enjoy our fabulous, yet curiously named wine – Gallinas and Focas – which translates as Hens and Seals, the reason being, according the back of the bottle, is because hens are funny and seals clap. Now if that isn’t a reason to pick a wine I don’t know what is.
When we had finally found enough room for dessert we decided to share the chocolate fondant. We descended into silence once again and when we came back up for air, with two big grins on our faces, it looked as though we had licked the plate clean. We almost had.
We closed out our fabulous experience at Xoriguer with one of Guillem’s personal favourites and a signature of the restaurant – a gin and tonic. The theatre as he creates his masterpieces at our table is wonderful to watch. Never has a gin and tonic looked so inviting, and we savoured every sip. So if you love delicious food, made with fantastic ingredients, washed down with theatre and love, then Xoriguer definitely needs to be top of your list!
Review by Victoria Pearce
Photos Credit: Anouska Foss
Calle Fabrica 60, Santa Catalina, Palma
+34 971 288 332