Aguas de Ibiza Grande Luxe Hotel is a trailblazer on Ibiza’s east coast, paving the way for Santa Eulalia to steadily emerge as a centre of luxury and culinary excellence. The team at this five-star mecca of indulgence is always seeking ways to enhance the experience of guests and visitors alike. Recent additions to the infrastructure will soon see a new rooftop terrace bar complete with infinity pool and in celebration of the expansion, the gastronomic heart of the hotel, Alabastro, is also undergoing a transformation.
They say a change is as good as a holiday but we all know that a holiday is really the best thing ever – especially when that holiday coincides with the kind of changes happening in the Alabastro kitchen. Argentinian-born chef Emilio Galarza has taken over the reins, bringing in his trusted team of colleagues and collaborators to create some culinary magic. The 2019 lunch and dinner menus have been completely redesigned, refined and rejuvenated to encompass the passion and vitality that seems to emanate from every fibre of Galarza’s being.
Galarza is alert and tactile with a refined sense of texture and a painterly vision for each of his dishes. His conscientious attitude to learning from every single person he meets along his food journey, from his Italian and Basque grandparents to the indigenous cultures of his homeland, has resulted in a menu brimming with intrigue and colour. “My inspiration comes from eating and travelling,” he says. “I choose my destinations based solely on food and restaurants I want to try.” Each dish is carefully crafted and built for flavour as well as visual appeal. Dishes vibrant with colour, aromatic herbs and edible flowers mean dining at Alabastro is a true sensory delight. Ibiza is evident right through Galarza’s menus, especially in the substantial selection of vegan and vegetarian options.
The island shows up in the colours, flavours and produce he chooses to work with. “What I love about Ibiza is the richness of the earth,” he says. “It provides so much. The figs, oranges, watermelons. The list is endless. The produce here is of excellent quality and it inspires me daily.” A deep respect for the abundant local produce has helped Galzara create a lunchtime menu that refreshes and satisfies. Take a daybed by the pool or a table under the sun-dappled pergola of the terrace and enjoy the light, healthy and filling menu that is perfectly matched to the summer sun. Start with a sharing plate such as black quinoa nachos with guacamole or pork and vegetable gyozas with a tart nanban dipping sauce, then the sirvia fish tartar served over a bed of sweet mango and papaya is the perfect starter. The flavours of the fruit juxtapose against the textures of the raw fish creating a delicious explosion across the palate. Another favourite for a quick, easy and healthy lunch is the Alabastro poke bowl. Raw red tuna tossed with edamame, red cabbage, tamari, avocado, chives and sprouts this bowl of goodness is tangy and filling. A wide selection of salads is there for the sharing – or not, just like the oysters with mirin, soy and ginger dressing – sharing is optional.
Lunchtime mains are more hearty, featuring nods to Argentina with farmhouse chicken and baby vegetables with chimichurri salsa alongside classics beloved by one and all such as grilled beef tenderloin with parsnip purée and black rice with sea urchin. “The lunch menu is more simple,” says Galarza. “It’s casual and relaxed but full of details.” It’s those details that take Galarza’s cuisine to a different level. As the sun sets, Alabastro transforms from a sunny daytime lunch spot to an elegant fine dining restaurant. “At night, the dishes have more technique,” says Galarza. “The flavours are a little more complex.”
The night menu is refined but nothing is weighed down by preconception or vanguard tendencies. Galarza’s technical skills are complemented by his inclination towards light-heartedness. Southern Spain is touched on via a redefined gazpacho made with coconut milk and served with a grilled lobster tail. A swirl of fragrant herb oil completes this striking dish that plays between hot and cold, creamy and textured. Seafood features heavily across both menus as is befitting of a luxurious hotel located on a Mediterranean island. The slow-cooked sea bass is destined to become an Alabastro signature. The tender fish is served with a deeply coloured purée of purple carrot, delicate and crispy carrot chips and a rainbow of lightly steamed baby carrots. Lively and colourful blossoms and sprouts are scattered across the top bringing the kaleidoscope of colour to a crescendo.
Vying for signature position on the Alabastro menu is the hangar steak, seared to perfection and served on a pillow of shiitake and pak choi quiche. The juicy, tender cut is topped with enormous Peruvian figs and doused in a beef glaze that takes four days to prepare. This dish is pure Galarza, combining textures and depths of flavour that defies definition. The melt in the mouth beef with the nutty lightness of the quiche and the deep treacle of the glaze is cut through by the sweetness of the figs. This is a dish that requires a slow appreciation, with every mouthful providing a new sensation.
Galarza’s obvious passion for food is matched by his loyalty to his team, which revels in an atmosphere of collaboration. “I came from working in France where the kitchens have a militancy about them,” he explains. “Then in the Basque Country, there is a real seriousness. Here at Alabastro, the whole team is really close. I don’t like to call them my team. We are together in this and we do everything with love and care.” Galarza brought his pastry chef with him and is very proud of what she has achieved. Paula del Sarto also hails from Argentina but met Galarza here in a previous position. She has created a dessert menu of her own devising, which turns out to be a sweet companion to Galarza’s savoury offerings.
The mango semifreddo hides a textured interior of citrus sponge and passion fruit. Its vivid yellow colour opens to a surprising melding of flavours. Tart and sweet, this gorgeous dessert is like eating a huge smile bathed in sun rays. Del Sarto’s cherry tart is a diminutive pile of delicious, with a crunchy outer base filled with creamy mascarpone and topped with rich, red maraschino cherries crowned with a cherry infused siphon bread the colour of Snow White’s ruby red lips. It’s clear Galarza’s confidence in her skills and creativity is well deserved. The new Alabastro menu is bursting with options both indulgent and healthy. Lunch by the pool could easily turn into cocktails and dinner in the restaurant and if a change is really as good as a holiday, you should definitely do both.