Ibiza restaurants: Cala Bonita – Cooking with ice
For decades, the world of the chef has been exalted in the media. It’s only recently that bartending is receiving its fair share of the praise. Stylish Ibiza beach restaurant Cala Bonita, on the secluded shores of S’Estanyol, is taking the world of the bar to heart in 2017. As bar manager Radek Wieczorek says: “It’s like being a chef but instead of fire, we are cooking with ice.” Indeed, what better way to put it in the high heat of an Ibiza summer?
Polish-born Radek came to Ibiza after years of working in London. In 2001, suffering from a broken heart, he had decided to go home. As a goodbye gift his colleagues gave him a one-way ticket to Ibiza and a pair of Gucci sunglasses. “It was love at first sight,” he says. “I came back every year after to help launch some of the best bars. Finally, I moved here with my wife five years ago.”
Bartending was not the career Radek thought he would end up with. It started as a job to supplement his student life in Poland, but by the time he moved to London he had a clear understanding of the power of an exceptional drink made well. At Cala Bonita he has been able to hone a lifetime’s worth of experience into three new bar concepts.
A revamped cocktail menu for the restaurant uses locally grown, fresh ingredients and liquor distilled on the island. “It’s based on Ibicenco flavours,” says Radek. “I don’t use exotic fruits or anything imported.” It’s the perfect match for a restaurant that follows the same principles – local, seasonal and fresh. For the tapas bar, Radek created a new aperitivo cocktail list. “Tapas is suited to light drinks like spritzers, vermouths and gins,” he explains. “It complements the casual vibe.”
The Agave Bar sits between the two grand palm trees outside the restaurant right on the beach. “Mezcal is the alcohol that comes from the gods,” says Radek. “It’s one of the few alcohols that is still produced in small quantities.” There’s been a surge in interest across the foodie and bar world for this ancient drink with Mexican origins. Radek is part of the vanguard bringing it to Ibiza.
“There are lots of different flavours, ” he explains. “Each village has their own methods. The agave is slow to grow and it’s a lot of work to harvest, ferment and distil. That what’s makes it so special.” Indeed, the world of agave-based liquor is as varied and complex as wine, with some being perfect to mix with other ingredients and others sublime just on their own.
Over recent years, young producers have been creating a new generation of mezcals. One of Radek’s current favourites is Mezcal Amores. “I have a lot of amor for Amores,” he laughs. “It’s one of the brands that woke up the idea of mezcal.” Diners are becoming increasingly aware of the provenance and processes involved in the food and drink they consume. Mezcal is the perfect antidote to a world filled with mass marketing and industrial production.
The flavours can move from a deep smokiness like a whisky to a mineral, earthy fruitiness. The type of agave and the process of fermentation dictates the flavours. Some brands mix varieties, others leave it pure. “I offer neat mezcal with a second non-alcoholic shot. It clears the palate and brings out the flavour of the mezcal,” says Radek. Other types of mezcal go into a selection of vivid cocktails.
Currently Cala Bonita stock around 14 different artisanal mezcals and Radek intends on growing the range until the Agave Bar becomes the best stocked mezcal bar in Ibiza. Sitting directly on the beach overlooking the Med, it is the ideal view to have while sipping on the drink of the gods. “It’s all about balance,” says Radek.”Like life. If you can balance the sweet, the sour, the bitterness, then a cocktail becomes interesting.”
Inspiration comes from everywhere and may strike at any time. “My ideas come in the fruit market, in the forest picking herbs, talking to everyone, trying everything,” he says. Ibiza provides plenty of resources to play with and allows Radek to create his own fermentations, infusions and syrups using local, sometimes foraged, ingredients. “It’s a never-ending education.” One which Radek, and in fact the whole team at Cala Bonita, appear to embrace with gusto.
There is an old Mexican saying about mezcal that seems to speak directly to Ibiza. ‘Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien, también’ – For every ill, mezcal, and for every joy as well. If you’ve yet to try this drink with its mythical and mystical origins, be sure to pay a visit to Cala Bonita this summer for some of the best kind of schooling.