Ibiza restaurants: El Carnicero – Anything is possible
As a general rule, if you grew up in Argentina, eating meat is pretty much a daily occurrence. As such, Argentineans could be considered the world’s number one experts when it comes to preparing meat in a huge variety of ways. At Argentinean-inspired steakhouse El Carnicero, housed in a former finca on the outskirts of Ibiza town, the in-house chefs approach each cut of meat knowing its unique properties, flavours, textures and possibilities. With an Argentinean executive chef at the helm, they know anything is possible with meat.
That being said, even the most creative chef wouldn’t deny that the very finest cuts of meats are perfect in their simplicity – grilled over an open flame to your liking, with a sprinkling of sea salt to subtly enhance its flavour. Sourcing in the most prime cuts of meat from all over the world – Australia, the USA, mainland Spain and of course, Argentina – the wood-fire grill at El Carnicero is constantly rotating with beautifully marbled or lean cuts of meat, prepared simply and beautifully to order.
The 1000-gram Tomahawk is the star of the grill show, a hefty prime rib featuring the bone protruding from the steak (hence the name). The classic Entraña is another mouth-watering Argentinean cut – a thin skirt steak filled with rich flavour. For those who like it hearty, the T-bone never fails to please while the Bife Ancho is a boneless piece taken from the rib-eye roll. If beef isn’t your go-to meat of choice, try the pork loin or the crispy grilled chicken, or opt for a mix of sausages and chorizo. Liver too, is on the menu, alongside Mollejas – also known as sweetbreads, they are the thymus glands: crispy and delicious after they’ve sizzled on the fire.
An additional section of the menu is dedicated entirely to the highly regarded El Capricho (Portuguese ox meat), and showcases the meat prepared in a variety of ways. Start with the cured Cecina – similar in texture to jamon Iberico, yet made with ox – or try a strip steak, sirloin, T-bone and more – some of which are dry-aged for up to 90 days.
These are the dishes that need little accompaniment at El Carnicero. Of course, all come with a generous portion of traditional Argentinean Chimichurri – the chef’s family recipe contains parsley, garlic, paprika and pepperoni among other secret ingredients – and a simple salsa of fresh Ibiza tomato, onion and coriander. Choose your perfect side dish – crispy fried chips, mashed potato, vegetables roasted in the Josper oven, Pilaf rice, roast spuds, sautéed garlic mushrooms or flame-grilled corn cob. Again, simplicity reigns – the natural flavours of all locally-sourced veggies are truly allowed to shine.
Knowing they’ve already nailed it when it comes to grilled meats, the experts in the El Carnicero kitchen choose to exercise their creativity in the starter menu. It’s here you’ll find house specialities such as sashimi made purely of raw meat – perfectly garnished with salt flakes, dried olives and onion, with the appearance of raw fish – and the tiradito of duck breast, another clever creation that appears to be Japanese by nature, however is a clever presentation of the seared slices of meat. Ceviche ‘El Carnicero’ continues with this clever camouflage of cuisine – delicious chunks of raw beef marinated Peruvian style and served with red onion and coriander.
For those who prefer to stick to the classics, there are also plenty of other options. Argentinean style empanadas – meat, chicken or corn and cheese filled – sit alongside the finest hand-cut Iberican Bellota ham (with an expert ‘cortadora’ on hand to slice each plate to order), crispy chicken wings, beef carpaccio, the traditional Spanish Pimientos de Padron, artisanal anchovies and deliciously gooey provoleta cheese. An expansive selection of salads are also on offer, for diners who crave some greens with their meat, or those who simply prefer a lighter main meal – from Burrata and goat cheese to spinach and beetroot, carrot and fennel, criolla, Caesar and more, there’s a salad to suit all taste buds.
Despite being called a ‘steakhouse’ (in fact, El Carnicero actually translates to ‘The Butcher’), the team behind El Carnicero understand that holiday dining needs to please all types of appetites and dietary requirements and their creativity continues to shine throughout the rest of the menu. Beyond grilled meats, there is also a classic steak tartare, an incredible burger topped with bacon, onion and provoleta cheese, delicious pancetta of caramelised pork cooked in teriyaki, a spicy chicken curry, lamb rack with sweet onion sauce and the list goes on. A classic ceviche is also on offer, plus red tuna steaks and more seafood options. Vegetarians are not forgotten – a chunky veggie burger is the heartiest option after salads, made with lentils and beans and given all the same love and care as its meaty menu counterparts.
As much love, pride and effort has gone into selecting the wine list – an epic curation with drops hailing from all over the world – and your waiter is well-versed on selecting the best drop to go with your meal. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to serving wine with meat – even the executive chef says he believes a chardonnay is the best accompaniment to a Tomahawk, so don’t be afraid to break what has long been considered a tradition of ‘red wine with red meat’. There’s a white, red and rose to suit all plates.
The menu may be the initial drawcard at El Carnicero, but once you step inside its huge gates, the world of wonder within is enough to keep you coming back again and again. The ancient finca has been completely transformed into a maze of corners, rooms, terraces and lounge areas, making each experience different. Most of the seating is set in the beautiful open air – making the most of Ibiza’s summer alfresco dining culture. A mixture of vintage and designer furniture is accessorised with quirky soft furnishings; from cowskin throws and Aztec cushions to old masters prints and animal prints.
The interior is equally as beautiful, should chillier weather arise – also perfect for special occasions. Dramatic wicker peacock chairs are presided over by an enormous Mexican Santa Maria painting, while black and white celebrity photos line the walls. Hundreds of candles flicker softly, while stylish crystal and glass pendant lighting hangs above each table. No matter which way you look, your eyes find aesthetic beauty – from the palms, fig, almond and carob trees above to the eclectic mismatched tiles below, there is no detail at El Carnicero that hasn’t been well-thought out. As the sun starts to set, the crowds begin to arrive. The sound of cocktails shaking behind the bar is offset by the sizzle of the grills being fired up. A Flamenco performer adds a uniquely Spanish soundtrack to the night. No matter what your appetite, tastes or dietary needs, El Carnicero is a must-try Ibiza holiday experience.