Restaurant Review: Ponderosa Beach, Playa de Muro, Mallorca
Words by Nadia Willan
Barefoot luxury, with your feet in the softest sand possible, famed Ponderosa Beach on North Mallorca’s Blue Flag Muro Beach, close to Alcudia, has an almost Asian-inspired boho-chic vibe and a Mediterranean menu with unique qualities; exuding chilled-out coastal glamour with the same effortless style as a catwalk model on a laid-back beach break in a beautiful part of the world.
With its stylish white furnishings and driftwood design features, Ponderosa Beach is hip without being hipster and cool without becoming a fashion victim. Serving up style and seafood by the sea, the family-owned restaurant is all about gourmet dining, not fine dining, and this is what lies at the heart of why it is so beloved by locals and tourists-in-the-know.
Make no mistake, you do not just rock-up and hang-out with this dining beauty. Diners are advised to book to spend time at this desirable daytime eatery. It has certainly blossomed since starting life half a century ago serving drinks to tourists with a few cheap plastic chairs in the sand.
THE GOURMET STARTERS
The starters can serve as a wonderful array of modern tapas, with paella a stand-alone classic and standout mains too, creating a relaxed dining style with a sense of fun. The dishes are often bold and sometimes daring, with a hint of rebellion; gourmet sophistication with a serious understanding of the complexity of flavour.
In a land of traditional tapas, the Squid is refreshingly different, setting the tone for an extraordinary lunch, with calamari served extra crispy with a riced-potato and breadcrumb coating and an orange, almond, garlic and lemon-zest mayonnaise. The creamy octopus and Iberian ham Croquettes, with a light smoked paprika sauce, are so melt-in-the-mouth velvety that one bite is enough to forget any others you have ever tasted before.
Riding a wave of creative culinary artistry are Head Chef Edgar Jimenez and the uber-talented Rafael Serrano; Spanish natives with impressive, world-class experience. Abraham Artigas, of Michelin star Terra restaurant fame worked at Ponderosa for three years and added his innovation into the restaurant’s concept and dishes which the chefs continue today.
Just as you are already feeling the attraction, the real inner beauty of Ponderosa Beach shines with innovative starters. Fresh Fish Tartar with corvina, garlic oil, cauliflower cream and bonito foam is a powerful dish delivering a subtlety of strong flavours. Razor Clams are cooked over charcoal with beef fat adding a richness, served with nori mayonnaise, delicious tomato kimchi and a secret, and totally different ingredient, grated on top.
Oysters are gorgeously presented with what is becoming Ponderosa Beach’s signature playful love of great food, in a beer tempura dough with lemon, celery and oyster mayonnaise. The star of the show though is the Croaker Fish “Tiradito” with slivers of raw fish marinated in a citrusy-pepper sauce, with less marinade than a ceviche, served with guacamole and kumquat; a delicate composition that is as sublime as it is stunning.
Chef Kike Marti is the Ponderosa Beach ‘paella-man’ and his flamboyant presence, reaching out to the dining area, and enthusiasm to add a new twist on an absolute classic is praiseworthy; with steaming pans of paella served at the table using non-traditional yet local ingredients. The Octopus & Crab Paella is sweet and rich-tasting, while a little salty for some tastes. For all the finesse of the other dishes, it is, after-all paella that many beach-diners yearn for.
While many dishes strut their style and good-taste with panache, Seabass with apple and lime cream, salted chard and peas is a natural beauty; a reminder of how kitchen skills and mastering simplicity is the ultimate sign of a great chef. Perhaps out of all the dishes, this one is proof of Ponderosa Beach’s high standards.
The wine list excels too, with the smooth yet youthfully fruity notes of local rosé Ribas Rosat from Bodegas Ribas and the distinctive grenache-grape bouquet of Flor de Muga from Spain’s Bodegas Muga with its light yet earthy character.
The same attention to fine detail and quirky ingredients continues into desserts which are in no way an after-thought and gourmet creations in their own right. Chocolate, Beer and Coffee is a sponge cake with black-beer cream and white-coffee and lemon ice cream, while Miel y Mato is a homemade curd with an olive oil and honey ice-cream. Lime Pie is fantastic with a grilled lemon sorbet, while the sponge made from superfood moringa shows that the imagination on this piece of Mallorcan paradise stretches far and wide.
Born at the site of the restaurant, co-owner Carlos Ramis, the grandson of the founders, spent time away from the business before returning with an ambition to create chiringuito 2.0, introducing a glam edge and a philosophy that luxury is experiential.
He said: “I always wanted Ponderosa Beach to be about redefining the beach-dining experience with excellent service, food that’s extraordinary and a chilled-out atmosphere where you connect with the sand; where you can enjoy incredible dishes and then throw your towel down and just enjoy life.”
This feel-good factor translates into feel-good food too with the proceeds of certain dishes paid forward to charitable works from Bali to Ghana. Part of the sales of its Solidarity Water are donated locally to non-profit Shambala to help Mallorcan youngsters in need.
Just a few kilometres away, at Son Serra de Marina, the second instalment to Ponderosa Beach is being developed and due to open in 2021. Continuing the winning combination of beachside dining and gourmet food on a less well-known bay is sure to have dining darlings flocking.
Chef Rafael Serrano has the enthusiasm, energy and creativity to be at the helm. Mallorca, renowned for its luxury villas and breath-taking beaches, has long been admired for its model good looks as a gorgeous island in the sun, and adding to its dining destination repertoire outside of the capital Palma, only adds to its allure.
The menu at Ponderosa barely reveals the true effort, level of culinary expertise or even the fantastic elements of the ingredients. Perhaps this is on purpose, so that diners sit down to what they think will be great food by the beach only to be at first surprised by the quality and then to fall head-over-heels.
To love Ponderosa is to celebrate life and not dining here feels during a visit to this part of the island feels like missing out an essential ingredient of your journey; enjoying Mallorca without putting your feet in the sand and really experiencing it.
Address: Ponderosa Beach, Casettes des Capellans, 123, 07440 Playa de Muro, Balearic Islands
Phone: +34 (0)971 184 118