Ibiza restaurants: Es Cucons – Secret garden barbecue

There are occasions when we stumble upon a place so stunning that to the human eye, it appears almost otherworldly. Just like in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic, The Secret Garden, you step over an invisible threshold and before you know it you’ve been transported to a whimsical wonderland – a place where time stands still, nature blossoms and thoughts are granted the space to wonder. Places like this are hard to come by, but once discovered, they’re refuges that stay with us forever. In Ibiza, Es Cucons holds this status for many – a hidden haven on the west coast of the island. Here, magic blooms.

A family-run hotel housed within a 17th century farmhouse, Es Cucons is its own little corner of unspoilt paradise. Located deep within a valley where almond trees flourish, and surrounded by majestic palms, fragrant lavender and bountiful flora, in summertime it comes alive to the tune of chirruping birds and buzzing insects, who float from plant to plant harvesting pollen. To make the most of the picturesque setting and fabulously laid-back atmosphere, this is also the time of year when culinary creativity reigns supreme at the venue.

“This year, we’re doing barbecues,” explains owner, Maria Rodriguez with a smile. “It’s a bit of a secret because you can’t just turn up; we don’t do it every week so you have to contact us to find out the dates.” That’s part of the mystique of an Es Cucons barbecue – it’s all about keeping your ear to the ground or contacting the hotel directly for information. And if it happens to be your lucky week, you’re rewarded with an alfresco feast fit for a king. Homemade gazpacho is there to greet you on arrival, alongside a buffet of homemade salads including creamy Burrata with fresh figs, quinoa and tabbouleh, all laid out on rustic wooden tables for you to help yourselves to.

Fairy lights are wrapped around tree trunks, chandelier-style bulbs bob romantically in the breeze, your name is chalked prettily onto blackboard and perched atop your table while gorgeously ambient music radiates from speakers, or on occasion, a live band. Then of course there’s the main course – a range of fresh meat and fish flame-grilled to succulent perfection on a colossal, drum-sized barbecue. “We do everything,” says Maria. “Choose from chicken, entrecote, pork or lamb chops, mengez sausage or whatever’s best in the market on the day. And the same for seafood – sometimes it’s calamari or jumbo prawns or dorada, but everything is cooked to order per table.” Don’t forget to save room for dessert, a traditional style Spanish pudding served with ice cream.

On weeks when the barbecue is rested, it’s replaced by a tapas fiesta celebrating all things culinarily Spanish, sometimes with a twist. Think homemade croquettes, patatas bravas, and padron peppers, as well as dishes like hummus and babaganoush for vegetarians. “We always have the best Spanish hams and amazing micuit duck,” adds Maria. “We source it locally from a farm where we know the ducks are well taken care of – we make sure everything here is made with love.”

This ethos extends to all aspects of the catering at Es Cucons. Available to guests and non-guests – as long as you reserve in advance – you can sample a slice of it at breakfast, lunch, or à la carte dinner. Breakfast is available from 8.30am to 11am, and includes a wide selection of Ibizan specialities as well as Iberian cuts, homemade cakes and pastries and hot meals, while the lunch and dinner menu is served between 1.30pm and 10pm. Popular dishes include the juicy gambas al ajillo, smoked sardines and lamb served with orange, all washed down with some of the finest wine available on the island.

Traditional Spanish paella is also available if ordered in advance – a professional chef from Valencia comes on site to prepare it especially for you – and as well as a range of favourites like pasta, grilled fish and salads, steps can also be taken to cater for gluten-free or a wide range dietary requirements. “We’re always thinking of our guests first,” says Maria. “We’re a hotel so we like to keep everyone happy.” And if it’s a special occasion, champagne is on the menu, so you can toast long into the blissful night.

A spectacularly intimate setting enhanced only by the company of friends and family, Es Cucons is a venue that conjures wonder and admiration. “Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something were pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast,” said Colin in The Secret Garden. Expect much of the same at Es Cucons.