Ibiza restaurants: Room 39 at Pikes – Food for thought

No matter what your Ibiza tastes lean towards, Pike is an Ibiza institution. Eclectic chic accommodation, the island’s best parties, poolside cocktails, fancy dress and bathtub karaoke… those are the things you’ll read about on Trip Adviser or in the press, but there’s another piece to the Pikes puzzle that is fast earning its place with all of the above. And it’s here where ‘tastes’ really do come into play.

Room 39 is the in-house restaurant at the legendary boutique hotel, and unbeknownst to many, you don’t need a room reservation to enjoy its culinary magic. From early morning breakfasts (including the best full English on the island, according to those in the know) and lazy lunches, through to late afternoon poolside snacks and divine dinners, everyone is welcome. The dawn of the 2017 summer season has seen Room 39 – under the expert guidance of Food and Beverage Manager Steve Hughes and head chef Lee Milne – hone its menu concept to complement the hotel’s relaxed, fun ambience and international clientele.

“The concept this year is very much based on smaller plates designed to share,” says Milne. “We work with a lot of seasonal produce so we have more specials, more fun and by nature, it’s more social.” Unlike other busy Ibiza restaurants, Room 39 doesn’t turn over tables twice nightly in order to maximise bookings – they’d prefer you linger longer, savour the flavours and really enjoy everything on offer. “Smaller dishes mean you don’t have to be committed to just one plate for the night,” explains Hughes of the concept. “You can try a little bit of everything, and eat slowly over a few hours.”

This change in dining style was prompted by seeing the way clients would really relish eating family style over a big table in previous years. With many large bookings on a nightly basis, as partygoers fuel up for the night ahead, the team knew it would be easier to cater to big groups with an a la carte menu designed to share, rather than hold the service up with huge complicated orders. “We realised people love slow dining, sharing, grazing and picking and so we’ve devised a menu that brings in many elements from the hotel’s heritage; typically English dishes, Spanish tapas and Tony’s Australian touches,” says Hughes. “The menu works for everyone – it’s a Mediterranean, family style service.”

Absolutely every dish that comes out of Milne’s kitchen is beautifully presented beautifully, prompting an “I’ll have what she’s having” mentality with restaurant guests. Now in his third season in the kitchen, the chef has really come into his own with behind the scenes techniques including in-house fermenting and smoking breathing new life into classic dishes. Expect vibrant colours, pure flavours and as much local produce as possible. Milne personally visits the fishmongers and farmers on a daily basis to choose his produce for the day and night ahead. “I absolutely love it,” he says, also hinting there are plans afoot for a Pikes veggie garden next season. “That’s why we work with daily specials, incorporating the best of what we find on the day.”

The main menu is designed around the concept of five starters, five mains and five desserts, with the idea that three to four (in any combination) would be perfect for one person. Standouts include the 11-spice cauliflower (the chef’s own take on KFC – upgrading the colonel’s secret herbs upgrading them into a delicious vegetarian dish), the mouth wateringly rich pork secreto, a 48-day aged fillet of beef and Milne’s own personal favourite, the nine-hour slow roasted octopus – a bright pink tentacle served whole, bursting with the pure and natural flavours of the Med.

Nostalgia plays a part in the Pikes kitchen too, and born and bred Brits will relish the chance to tuck into savoury faggots (with lamb and vegetarian options available), bringing back memories of childhood dinners, with desserts to match. And of course, as is Pikes tradition, Sunday roasts remain a staple – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! “A Sunday roast at Pikes matches any home cooked version,” says Hughes, who says it’s not just the food on a Sunday that makes it special – it’s the feeling of being embraced into the Pikes family.

Dawn Hindle, Pikes creative director sees this nostalgia as key to the restaurant’s continued success. “People come back here year after year, and they’ll see Steve and feel like they’re coming back into his home. He’s always been here to welcome them –that feeling of though you’re staying in someone’s house is all part of our ethos.” Milne talks of similar experiences, with many of the restaurant guests he’s met over the past three years going on to become good friends – not just with himself and his team, but even with his wife and children.

This year has also seen the wine list at Room 39 undergo an impressive revamp, with the introduction of many high-end Spanish drops now available by the glass. “There’s a huge wine culture in Spain that isn’t well-known globally,” says Hughes. “And just like with cuisine, people seek out local wines when on holiday. Depending on the dish you’re eating, we can recommend the perfect glass to accompany it. It may be 80€ a bottle, which can often make people curious, but cautious. Now, you don’t have to commit, because you can try just one glass first, and a different one after that. Or you could take the whole bottle if you like it!”

Thursday nights at Room 39 see Milne take a step back and let guest chefs into his domain, with the launch of Pikes Open Kitchen. “These pop-ups are really exciting,” he says. “We get to learn from people from all around the world and our menu will continue to evolve organically.” And while he may be the brains behind Room 39 alongside Hindle and Hughes, he is very quick to pass credit where credit is due – to his kitchen staff. “I can be the face and come up with the dishes,” he says. “But the guys in the kitchen are the ones who make a difference to our customers, night after night.”

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