Ibiza restaurants: La Paloma – A winter fairytale
Beautiful Ibiza café and restaurant La Paloma – set in the tiny, charming village of San Lorenzo in the island’s north – needs very little introduction. One of the island’s most loved dining destinations, it boasts legions of dedicated fans from around globe in addition to staunchly loyal troops of island locals who will all be pleased to hear the news that both Paloma Café and La Paloma Restaurante are remaining open throughout the winter months, including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Rather than go into hibernation, the desire to stay open in winter comes from the Paloma family’s wish to reconnect with islanders after the hectic summer months. That, and chef Prasuna’s enthusiasm to share her delicious winter warming recipes – it’s all in the spirit of giving something back to the island.
Since the restaurant’s inception in 2004, La Paloma has gradually evolved into the island institution it is today; beginning first with the night offering – an Italian-based menu based around family recipes using organic and local cuisine – and later on (in 2008) adding the sunny daytime garden café known for its healthy and hearty Israeli and Middle Eastern inspired cuisine. Everything that falls under the family-run Paloma umbrella seems to be sprinkled with magic – be it the setting, the décor, the ambience or of course, the food – and it all comes straight from the heart. There are no fads or gimmicks at La Paloma. Just good honest food, served with genuine smiles and warmth in a one of a kind location.
By day, it’s business as usual for Paloma Café throughout winter. The ever-popular menu is served up from 12.30 to 4.30 daily (excluding Mondays) – fusing the very best of the Mediterranean with exotic flavours and dishes from around the world. Known for the delicious homemade bread – baked daily using organic wheat and spelt flour – and focaccia served in a variety of ways, there is something for everyone, be it a salad made from ingredients plucked straight from the thriving organic garden beside you, homemade falafel, seasonal soups, fresh quiches and more. Freshly brewed coffee, herbal teas, fresh juices and smoothies are on offer to wash it down and when the days start to get chilly, the café’s interior warms up with a crackling fireplace. All the more reason to linger longer after your meal is over…
After dark, the adjacent restaurant space – subtly hidden by day – comes to life, transformed into a magical candlelit paradise, with warmth emanating from blazing outdoor heaters and from the roaring log fire inside. Open from Tuesday to Saturday between 7pm and 11pm, the terrace is protected by clear plastic wind-breakers, meaning you can still sit amongst the colourful plants and flowers, below the bohemian hanging cane pendant lamps in classic Paloma style. It really is like something out of a fairytale, with whimsical wall murals and quirky framed illustrations complemented by the stunning high end photography of renowned photographer Jimmy Nelson (who shot the family in the gorgeously stylised images you’ll see on the walls), while wooden birds, hearts and cherubs dangle delicately from every available space. It’s all in the detail.
Stepping over the Paloma threshold can feel like stepping into the home of an old family friend. Owners Mouji, Amit and Prasuna (who is also the restaurant’s star chef) are always there to welcome their guests, extending genuine family vibes to all who dine here. Behind the bar, the fabulous Fiorella creates unique seasonal cocktails and herbal teas (served in vintage china teapots) using ingredients taken from the garden each day. As the temperatures cool down, the cocktails are heated up – think steaming hot potions infused with cinnamon, rosemary, lemon balm and mandarin – to help beat the winter chills, and there is also a selection of biodynamic organic wines on offer.
As you take your seat at La Paloma’s signature aqua blue tables, set with mismatched crockery and napkins plus teensy bottles sprouting with wild flowers, it’s impossible not to feel right at home. The intimate, cosy setting is the perfect example of a cosmopolitan ambience mixed with an authentic air of bohemianism, however there is nothing contrived about it. La Paloma has simply always been this way – embracing vintage kitsch long before hipsters came along. Everything just falls into place here. Happy diners fill the rooms, their faces glowing from the warmth of the fire and their laughter as much of a soundtrack as the carefully curated music that floats over the airwaves – never too loud to inhibit conversation. At La Paloma, everything is j-u-u-s-t right.
If the restaurant space is full of soul, then it is the kitchen that houses La Paloma’s heart. Presided over with much love and passion by Prasuna, who was born in Tuscany and brings a lifetime’s worth of cooking experience to the table, ranging from time-honoured recipes handed down from her grandmother and mother (from Parma), to those she has put her own stamp on after spending almost 20 years travelling back and forth to India. It was here, where she experienced cooking alongside people from many different cultures – including Japanese, Korean, German and English in addition to Indian – and started a lifelong love affair with Eastern spices, from fresh chilli and coriander seeds to cinnamon and beyond.
For the winter months, Prasuna presents diners with a slightly smaller menu than in summer, in order to focus purely on fresh, local and seasonal produce. In keeping with her ethos, the menu changes weekly but will always feature classic homemade pastas, risottos, grilled meats and fish to satisfy those winter cravings. Homemade aromatic soups – created from winter root vegetables – make the perfect starter while hearty risottos revolve around wintry ingredients such as porcini mushrooms, osso bucco or gorgonzola and pear. Lovers of pasta simply must try the homemade pastas, including the incredible homemade ravioli fusing grandma’s family recipe with the very best of Ibiza – think wild spinach and borage combined with fresh ricotta – or the thick, delicious paccheri in a tomato and anchovy sauce with smoked aubergine and capers.
Prasuna has long been an advocate of using organic produce and is passionate about sourcing the very best to put on your beautifully presented plate. All ingredients used at La Paloma are organic and local where possible, sourced from local farm Can Musson if they’re not plucked directly from the carefully cultivated onsite garden. Of course, being Italian, certain ingredients must be flown in from the motherland, such as traditionally made Parmesan, a variety of Tuscan cheese and the world’s finest capers from Sicily. The olive oil used is an award-winning blend from Cataluña and another star ingredient is Prasuna’s own homemade ghee, used as a health-giving substitute for butter.
Plans for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve feasts are fast taking shape in the La Paloma kitchen and while full details are yet to be announced, reservations are definitely essential to ensure you don’t miss out. Embracing their customers as though they are part of the family comes naturally to the Paloma team and you can be sure their festive season celebrations will be filled with fun, laughter and – naturally – fabulous food and wine. The café and restaurant will then close for a short period on January 7, 2018 before returning in March for their 14th summer.
At La Paloma, one and all are always welcomed, and cared for, whether you’re a born and bred local, an expat based here on the island all year round or a holidaymaker looking to make the most of the direct off-season flights for a one-of-a-kind winter experience. Over the years, the restaurant and cafe have grown and the island too, has evolved, however the ethos and spirit of the restaurant remains true to its core. Two different restaurants in one beautiful location, sharing the same heart, soul and quality – a very special and integral part of Ibiza’s gastronomic scene.