For more than two decades, Lana Love, founder of Ibiza’s iconic Passion Café empire, has planned most of her restaurant menus in accordance with the sun. But this year, she’s swapping dawn for dusk with the launch of her impressive new venture, Yalla Ibiza, one of the most talked-about openings of the season. A stylish space where the mesmerising sights, smells and flavours of the Middle East are celebrated and reimagined, it’s a place where Lana finally gets to indulge her desire for after-dark, decadent feasting.
To some, Yalla Ibiza may seem like an unexpected diversion from the healthy Passion concept, but those who know Lana will attest that the idea had been simmering at the back of her mind for years. “It’s really been since the very beginning, when I first opened the doors to Passion in Playa d’en Bossa, that I wanted to do something like this,” she explains. “I think it goes back to my Croatian roots – we actually came from Persia, walking over the mountains before settling in Croatia. I’ve also lived in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and when I lived in London, I often went to Middle Eastern restaurants to eat. It might be in my DNA!”
Passion Café founder Lana Love always dreamed of opening an after-dark restaurant centred around mesmerising Middle Eastern flavours.
“I’ve always had an obsession with things like dates, rosewater, tahini, orange blossom, zaatar – from day one, those flavours were intertwined with the Passion menus. But I always wanted to take it further.” Yalla Ibiza’s beginnings were serendipitous, in a way. When she discovered a location in the cosmopolitan foodie hub of Santa Gertrudis, and laid her eyes on the restaurant’s open grill, Lana knew it was time to spread her wings and open a destination that was designed for heady summer nights and dinners beneath the stars. “I want to establish Yalla Ibiza as a place that’s a dinner time venue,” she says, although she readily admits she’s already contemplating the potential for winter weekend brunches.
“People know me for Passion, for breakfast and for lunch. This is going to be the night-time restaurant I have always dreamed of.” Coming up with the concept and menu was easy – Lana says she’d almost decided on every dish within an hour. She makes it sound simple, but in reality, it was a culmination of many years’ worth of experience that led to Yalla Ibiza. From drawing on her time spent living in the Middle East, to taking inspiration from recipes she had collected over the years, the seed had been sprouting long before it had chance to blossom. But that meant that when the opportunity finally arose, it was ready to pop.
“I’m very lucky to have such a beautiful space in such an amazing spot,” Lana continues. Located within the centre of the pretty inland town, Yalla Ibiza is a beautiful restaurant spread across indoor dining room and the alfresco terrace, where brightly coloured bougainvillea bounces low from bamboo terraces, creating shadows in the fading sun. Much of the décor, tableware, cutlery, crockery and even the tea sets have been inspired and collected personally by Lana on travels to Marrakech, Istanbul, London and beyond. “I wanted to make it as authentic as possible,” Lana says.
Naturally, her approach extended to the creation of the Yalla Ibiza menu. “It plays with the flavours of the origin, but I didn’t want to overcomplicate things so it’s a small menu, but executed very well,” she adds. Designed for sharing, the Middle Eastern fusion menu uses the finest quality local ingredients (much of which are sourced from the nearby La Choza and Can Caus farms) to create rich, intense flavours that conjure the tastes of far-flung lands. Start the meal with classic ‘salatim’ – hummus served with bread and a selection of nine mezze and dips – then cherry-pick from cold mezze including smoky babaganoush, roasted cherry tomatoes with thyme and salty feta, and lamb kibbeh.
With her new venture Yalla Ibiza, where flavours overflowing with flavour have enraptured the island’s foodies, Lana’s vision is all coming to life.
Alternatively, skip straight to the tempting hot mezze, ranging from wholesome falafel and warm beetroot, labneh and hazelnuts to mouth-watering prawns in garlic, lemon, sumac and butter sauce, or tasty fish kofta and labneh. Meanwhile, the Yalla Ibiza grill-masters weave magic on top-level cuts of meat sourced locally, producing plates that are succulent and sumptuous in equal measure. Sizzling entrecôte, lamb kofta and chicken shish tawook are best accompanied by innovative sides like cauliflower with tahini, salsa verde and dukkah, roasted potatoes with mint yoghurt, and homemade zaatar fries, and the mixed grill is perfect for those who want a taste of it all.
“The concept is ideal if you want to come in a big group,” Lana explains. “Every dish is delivered to the table as soon as it’s ready and can be shared. And you can have a decadent dinner or a really nice balanced dinner, too – so many of the dishes are healthy, plant-based and vegetarian.” It’s not just the cuisine that’s peppered with exotic flavours at Yalla Ibiza – there’s also a tantalising cocktails menu including concoctions like the halva martini and a cinnamon dream to sip on too, alongside a hand curated (Lana’s hand, of course) list of Lebanese and Croatian wines among others.
After dinner – whether a light bite or a celebration feast – guests often linger over the extravagant Yalla Ibiza desserts, including delectable halva tahini brownies; amazing medjool date and pistachio balls; and Muhallabieh, a vegan pudding made from coconut milk, rosewater and pistachio. Don’t leave without a taste of the in-demand Persian ice cream, plus hot Turkish coffee, fresh Moroccan mint tea or a zesty orange blossom latte. Lana’s love for these flavours is apparent across every element of the menu – and judging by the reception the restaurant has received since opening just a few short weeks ago, it’s a love shared by everyone who has passed through its doors.
Opening every evening at 7.30pm, Yalla Ibiza is as perfect to pop into for an after-work cocktail and snack as it is to host a birthday or late night get together. Every guest is welcomed at the door by host Victor, who honed his skills at a slew of famous restaurants in Andorra, while the kitchen is proudly presided over by Lana herself, who ensures every plate is perfect before being delivered to the table. For Lana, this is a moment that’s been a long time coming, but the Yalla Ibiza team are ready. “In Arabic, yallah is the equivalent of vamos in Spanish,” she explains of her inspiration for the name. “It means let’s go, let’s do this!” Take heed and just do it – make a reservation now so you don’t miss out during its first season!