Nestled among the gently undulating hills of Benimussa, on the cusp of the west coast town of San Antonio, picturesque Ibiza restaurant Essència Ibiza is a hidden gem that sings with quiet romance. Although open to the public, the location – within the postcard-worthy grounds of boutique hotel Can Vistabella – still feels slightly off-the-beaten-track, like a secret to be shared only with your closest friends and loved ones. And while the setting alone is worth the journey, so too is the spectacular Mediterranean food, prepared by talented chef Francisco Moreno and his team.
The Spanish-born chef’s illustrious experience puts Essència Ibiza on the island’s gastronomic map. Growing up, food was a familial passion, and Moreno regularly found himself in the home kitchen before professionally training in mainland Spain. He honed his craft in five-star restaurants in countries like the UK, Norway, Germany and Italy, and then finally settled in Ibiza after a stint in Formentera. After holding the position of head chef at renowned fine dining destination Izakaya Asian Kitchen & Bar in the luxurious Sir Joan hotel, Moreno decided to follow his own path and open his own Ibiza restaurant, where he marries his love for Mediterranean ingredients with international flair.
His expertise, passion and flair comes together at Essència Ibiza, via a Mediterranean-inspired menu with an exciting global twist. Open to guests and visitors alike, breakfast is served from at the pretty Ibiza restaurant 9am to 12pm and features dishes like fluffy pancakes, crunchy granola, and homemade hash browns. Tasty tapas like mussels and kimchi croquettes, octopus tacos, and Asian polenta brava, plus healthy rice-based bowls including Shimesaba with marinated and flambéed mackerel and fermented citrus, and Lamb Tajín, are the focus of lunch between 12pm and 4pm, and at dinnertime, plates from around the world, including fresh, homemade pasta and Thai yellow curry, are the order of the day.
Local ingredients are always the focus at Essència Ibiza, brought to life in dishes like mouth-watering Middle Eastern squid, served with white beans and sobrasada, sautéed green vegetables, crispy tapioca, and samke hara sauce; and delicious Japanese style Iberian presa, marinated in miso, cooked at a low temperature and then served with Japanese barbecue sauce and stir-fried vegetables. Lamb Korean saam is another of the Ibiza restaurant’s classic dishes, featuring lamb tagine, lettuce, mint, coriander, crispy onion and spicy gochujang.
By day, the atmosphere at Essència Ibiza is divinely laid-back, thanks to a poolside location encompassed by swaying palm trees, brightly coloured hibiscus bushes and plumes of vibrant bougainvillea where lounging is the only thing on the agenda. Come dusk, the pretty year-round Ibiza restaurant transforms into a more intimate space where twinkling stars and flickering candles are the primary sources of illumination. Regardless of time, each stage is the perfect backdrop for Moreno’s culinary creations, all inspired by the quality of local produce and the changing seasons.