They say there’s nothing like a good old fashioned home cooked meal for comfort, but when you’re on holiday on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, stocking up on food and cooking yourself a meal isn’t always an option. But that’s ok, because at La Escollera – the beautiful beach restaurant on the end of the beach at Es Cavallet – there’s an entire menu of home cooking on offer, following the traditional recipes the owners’ grandmother, where you can satisfy all cravings. Yaya (the Catalan word from grandmother) actually hails from Barcelona, where she wasn’t always just whipping up her recipes for the family – she was also at the helm of a popular restaurant. Her delicious home-cooking won the hearts (and stomachs!) of many a diner, with hot shot businessmen dining side by side with blacksmiths and grocers, transcending the barriers of working and business class through food. How then, did Yaya go from a humble Barcelona kitchen to the luxurious beachfront restaurant of La Escollera? In the early 80s, Yaya’s son Daniel Gonzalez felt a calling to visit the Balearic islands, and found himself working his way around and up in the hospitality trade – first as a doorman at Pacha, then onto managing a private bar at Ku (now Privilege) before becoming the manager of the mighty Amnesia. Then, in 1992, a unique opportunity presented itself and Dani took the reins of La Escollera.
At the time, the little seaside hotspot was more of an apres-beach experience, spontaneously bursting into parties when the vibe was right. But Dani saw its true potential – to transform it into a beautiful dining destination – and knew there was someone he needed on his side to ensure it made the transformation successfully. Yaya was persuaded to pack up her bags and recipe books (many of which had been passed down through the family from her own mother, Dani’s Yaya) and move to Ibiza, setting up a new kitchen at La Escollera in 1994. Dani was right – with Yaya in the kitchen, the restaurant quickly started attracting the Ibicencos, who spread the word about the irresistible home cooking by the beach, at affordable prices. Then came the Spanish crowds, flocking to Es Cavallet from the mainland on their holidays, and then finally, the international jet set – a mix that is indicative of the crowds of diners at La Escollera today.
Preserving this mix of clientele is important to the restaurant – today a complete family affair, with Dani taking care of business wheelings and dealings, his partner Wilhelmina on sparkling hostess duties and her daughter Andrea – an interior designer responsible for the restaurant’s most recent beautiful refurbishment – running the day-to-day operations, with help from her siblings in the summer months, all taking pride in the fact that Yaya’s recipes are still at the heart of their menus. At 83 years of age, Yaya is no longer in the kitchen on a daily basis, but she personally trained the chefs and continues to keep a close eye on all the techniques, produce and recipes. Dividing her time between Barcelona and Ibiza, she is often spotted dining on her own creations on the sandy terrace of La Escollera – a beloved guest of all the staff, and regularly recognised by loyal clientele who have been visiting the restaurant for years.
For a true taste of Yaya’s recipes, be sure to order one of the famous rice dishes – from lobster-based paella to a divine mix of chicken, rabbit and vegetables – or try the ‘Boquerones Mama’ – anchovies done in her own unique style. The roasted John Dory served with ‘poor man’s potatoes’ (a melt-in-your-mouth mix of fried potato with onion and green peppers) is another star dish, as are the marinated mussels. The one thing that is consistent in every dish is love – from grandma, to mama, to son and grandchildren, these are time-honoured family recipes that will never, ever go out of style.