Ibiza interview: Olivia Fleury, El Chiringuito

Photography by Annie Peel

It’s been a busy year for Olivia Fleury. Having taken over and completely revamped iconic Ibiza beach restaurant El Chiringuito alongside her partner Jonathan Thorogood in 2009, the French-born beauty learnt a lot from the challenge, and spent winter scouring the globe in search of further inspiration, new décor and building the perfect team. We caught up to talk about the restaurant’s recent evolution and future aspirations.
A year into the journey of re-creating El Chiringuito… how does it feel?
It feels great, different and really enjoyable. Everything was new last year and it was a big challenge to take over something that had existed for 30 years. Everything was a question – should we do this, or shouldn’t we? But this year, seeing people come back, hearing people talk about it makes us know we made the right decisions!

Are you satisfied with what you’ve created, or is it still growing?
It’s always growing. We put a lot of time and energy in over the winter making some changes, from bringing big rustic tables and beach beds in from Bali to changing the menu. Our goal is to create a real beach club, where you arrive in the morning, stay all day then come in for drinks, parties or apertivo before you leave.

What were some of the challenges you’ve faced?

The main challenge in a restaurant is that you’re never done – every day you need to improve on little details, better service and food. It’s not about just creating a product and selling it, we have to be careful – it’s one thing to have a full restaurant, but another to have a business that runs efficiently and is going to last.

What’s it like, working as a couple, with your partner Jonathan?
We’re so different it makes us really compatible at work. He does the things I can’t do and I do the things he doesn’t want to do. It works because our characters are very different – he’s very demanding and my management skills are softer. I need his strength to push the whole boat and he needs me to keep things calm. It’s good to know we share this, we built it together and we’re very proud of it together.

Do you think there is room in Ibiza for so many beach clubs and bars?
Yes. Ibiza has seen a lot of change. Before there were lots of Spanish families running the bars at their own pace, as their parents did, but people got bored with this. It was really missing something for a few years until all the new beach bars started appearing. In the summer Ibiza is so packed with people from all over the world and they’re looking for different things and experiences. If you respect your client, and give good quality in terms of food, service, atmosphere, then there is space for everyone.

What does the future hold for El Chiringuito?
I want to create a strong team, who are happy working here, who we can count on and they can count on us. People who understand our spirit and where we want to go. My dream is to be sure it’s all running smoothly and everybody is having the experience we want them to have. When you have a restaurant, you want people to feel happy when they’re in your place. That’s the most rewarding thing.