Every restaurant in Ibiza has a story, but few have stood the test of time like the tale of Amalur – the iconic island fine dining destination that is starting a whole new chapter in its journey. Those with the earliest memories of the spacious and chic Santa Gertrudis finca in which the restaurant is housed remember it as a very old grocery store – the kind of Ibicenco treasure trove that sold everything from espadrilles to carob beans. Afterwards, it had a short life as an antique store. Then on July 14, 1981, the course of the finca’s history took a turn towards gastronomy, as Amalur opened its doors to its very first guests as a seasonal, high-end restaurant.
Amalur was named in homage to the Basque goddess of Mother Earth by its former owners Juan Félix Iñurrita and Emilio Zurbano, who both hailed from San Sebastián. Its original concept focused on New Basque cuisine, fusing avant-garde with tradition. Revered chefs such as Juan Mari Arzak and Karlos Arguiñano would pass through the then-yellow finca every summer, dining alongside celebrities, politicians, footballers and of course, discerning locals and tourists. For 37 years, spanning a handful of renovations, a financial crisis and the usual ups and downs of a seasonal island, Amalur maintained its reputation as a must-visit restaurant in Ibiza.
Every restaurant in Ibiza has a story, but few have stood the test of time like the tale of iconic fine dining destination Amalur.
In 2019, the former owners had decided to move on and the building was acquired by the influential Urguell family (former owners of the Pacha Group). It was time for Amalur to turn the pages into its next chapter, and at the same time – on another island, just a few kilometres away by sea – renowned Italian restaurateur Francesco Manzoli of Formentera’s famed Can Carlos was also looking for a new challenge. He’d been on Ibiza’s sister island for 20 years, taking his restaurant to heights that were previously unheard of in the Balearics. Partnering with the renowned chef Nandu Jubany, Manzoli extended his Formentera portfolio to include Can Carlitos – the Spanish little sister to the Italian original. But after two decades on a very small island, he had more energy to live and so Manzoli decided to island-hop to Ibiza for a new challenge.
His already close relationship with the Urguells led Manzoli to Amalur. Here, he saw a restaurant with huge potential and so he signed a deal to take over in February 2020, just before the entire world was turned upside down by the pandemic and the deal was on hold. He took his family to Italy for the year to ride out the waves, but despite being born and bred in Brescia, the Balearics were in his blood. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, he returned to Ibiza and began his quest to evolve the iconic space into a new incarnation – one that would always respect its heritage yet move forward on a level that was equal to the shift in the calibre of the demographic on the island in a post-pandemic world.
Although the restaurant could have reopened in summer 2021, Manzoli – clearly a perfectionist by nature – preferred to wait until all the right elements were in place. And so, his vision began to take shape. First, the faded yellow exterior was given a new lease of life in a signature shade of blue that can now only be thought of ‘Amalur blue’ – inspired by the endless blue skies and sea of the Balearics. Then, the interior received a subtle makeover – striking pieces of art, chic interior design in sophisticated, muted tones that allow the lush green landscape surrounding the terrace dining space – glass-walled and protected in winter, fresh and open in summer – to shine.
Those who were enamoured of Amalur in the past will still feel the original soul of the restaurant throughout the space. Rusticity has made way for sophistication, but with a sense of warmth and style that only Italians know how to do. Sage green walls and turquoise velvet sofas echo the shades of the Mediterranean. Exposed brickwork, wood beam ceilings and rich, earthy floors are yet another nod to Mother Nature. The bar has been designed by the contemporary artist Ara Starck – a long-time friend of Manzoli and the daughter of designer Philippe Starck (who has a home on Formentera) – and adds a sense of drama and eclecticism to the otherwise classical space.
While the aesthetic changes were being made, Manzoli knew from experience that finding the perfect team was key to ensuring this iconic restaurant would live up to its reputation on reopening. Enter chef Massimo Larosa, the highly trained Italian chef whose journey took him from the legendary Michelin-starred kitchens of San Domenico, d’Arzak and El Celler de Can Roca (among others) to Ibiza, where he helped to launch IT Ibiza alongside the great Italian chef Gennaro Esposito. Larosa, like Manzoli, had been seeking a new challenge as the world emerged from its slumber and the chance to helm a dining destination as iconic as Amalur was just the ticket.
In the Amalur kitchen, Larosa is joined by another talented Italian chef, Antonio Borriello, whose culinary journey has seen him travel the world to further his experience, with stints at Michelin-starred restaurant Leoni in Venice, the famous Piccola Cucina in New York City, plus Casa Tu Miami and the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami under his belt before he came to Ibiza. Today, the duo have created an Italian-influenced fine dining menu that aims to please all palates through the highest quality local produce and art-like presentation. Rather than rely on a signature dish, each and every plate boasts its own appeal – with consistency coming through in terms of quality.
Contemporary techniques are combined with timeless classics, and the four-course menu is representative of seasonal produce, evolving over the year.
Contemporary techniques are combined with timeless classics at Amalur, and the four-course menu is representative of seasonal produce, evolving over the course of the year. Right now, starters range from an ultra-fresh zucchini and tomato tartar, with the added bite of Parmesan and the crunch of pine nuts; the popular sea bass toast with caviar; and artichokes with a cheese fondue to a classic vitello tonnato or silky fine slices of yellowtail with beetroot and pomegranate from the island, among other delectable dishes.
First courses are traditionally pasta – this is an Italian restaurant after all – with the world renowned Gragnano spaghetti paired with Larosa’s famous tomato salsa sitting on the menu alongside plump pesto ravioli with basil and pecorino, fine dining favourites like king crab linguine, and pappardelle with veal ragu and black truffle or a heavenly porcini risotto. Aside from the spaghetti, all pasta is homemade in the Amalur kitchen daily – a labour of love that is obvious at first bite. The second course dances around the grill – beef and black truffle, succulent lamb chops, sweet Iberian pork cheeks and a hearty rib-eye – and also nods to the sea, with braised octopus, a mouthwatering codfish fillet and salt-crusted catch of the day.
Desserts – also all made in-house at Amalur – cover the gamut from classic (pavlova, ice cream, tiramisu) to quirky (chocolate popcorn or ricotta and pear) and should always be washed down with either a high-end sherry, Italian dessert wine or the best espresso martini on the island. Cocktails at Amalur are exceptional, with dedicated in-house mixologist Roberto Rossi shaking, stirring and pouring classic and bespoke creations to order. Lovers of fine wines will be more than impressed with the options on the card, all hand-selected to be paired with the menu.
Amalur officially reopened its doors in October 2021 and is now open 365 days a year, for long lunches and decadent dinners. As islanders begin to make plans for the festive season, it’s the perfect place to invite your nearest and dearest, dress up in your finest and celebrate – just a few minutes from Santa Gertrudis, 10 minutes from the north and Ibiza town and 15 minutes from the south, the location couldn’t be more convenient. With impeccable service, carefully curated music and an ambience that sways between contemporary and nostalgic, the elegant evolution of Amalur is a reminder that ‘the good old days’ aren’t long gone. You could say, they’ve only just begun with this new chapter in Ibiza’s culinary history. And while the tale of Amalur is certainly far from over, it’s clear that there’s already a ‘happily ever after’ feeling in the air.