As the global movement towards sustainability gathers force, and the world’s very best chefs embrace foraging, growing and sourcing locally, there is a quiet but very definite food revolution happening in Ibiza, and it’s taking place where you might least expect it. The combination of affordable locales, Insta-obsessed travellers and a discerning clientele in the busy tourist town of San Antonio has created a responsive restaurant scene covering all tastes and dietary requirements, from health food cafes and zero-waste stores to high-end vegan options and locally inspired dining experiences. And at the heart of it all is Villa Mercedes…
Set in the very heart of the recently revamped San Antonio marina, the much-loved restaurant proudly occupies a grand old villa and gardens that were originally built in 1901. Step inside the grand entrance gates and you’ll find a space that honours its past while also looking to the future – Villa Mercedes is an intimate and friendly dining haven with modern tastes in cuisine. From the terrace, you can look out over the bobbing boats of the harbour, while swaying palms and a trickling water fountain evoke a colonial vibe. Traditional formal service has given way to divine sharing plates that celebrate the very essence of eating, with fresh new dishes made with local produce, and tapas plates that incorporate vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options alike. Everyone goes home happy.
Any fun Ibiza evening begins with cocktails, and as befits one of the flagship venues of the renowned Mambo Group, the cocktail menu at Villa Mercedes is up-to-the-minute, impeccably on-trend and guaranteed to get you extra likes on Instagram. Take a seat at the bar and order the Indiana Jones inspired Chilled Monkey Brains, served in a carved-out coconut complete with a monkey-face and topped with iced and dripping strawberry sorbet, or the palate-cleansing Herb Garden, blending gin with fresh sage, oregano, mint and thyme in a natural bamboo jar. If you’re looking for something with a little more bite, the Netflix and Chill comes in a brightly decorated serving box filled with frozen grapefruit, lime and mezcal, topped up with chilli-popcorn to really draw out the tangy flavours.
Discovering and sharing the joy of eating is the main event at Villa Mercedes, and the recently upgraded menu is a delightful exploration of local favourites and flavours. The starters have been created with sharing in mind, and the portions are large enough to split around the table – no food envy in sight. Standouts include the delicate Aubergine tempura, drizzled with local honey and toasted Wasabi sesame seeds – the very definition of finger licking good; an homage to Ibiza’s endangered seagrass, Posidonia, includes octopus, tuna and local red prawns nested around salty samphire, plus crispy calamari prepared in chickpea flour for the gluten-intolerants and served with a spicy home-made tartar sauce. Another indulgent must-try is the steaming dish of garlic prawns, which come with a fried egg cooked in the same sizzling oil with chunks of crusty rustic bread for delicious dunking.
Of course, when a restaurant boasts the kind of heritage that Villa Mercedes is known for, it’s impossible to leave out the classics, and here, the restaurant truly excels. Fabulous Galician fillet steaks and grilled wild seabass are still some of the bestsellers on the menu, served with local patatas Ibicencas, padron peppers and this year with a wide and varied choice of sides. From superfood salads or heritage carrots to locally grown green beans, there are plenty of options to add some colour to your plate. The famed Wagyu burger comes with a blend of cheeses to enhance its natural flavours while the grilled octopus has been tenderised to the point of melt-in-your-mouth before being served with purple potato mash. The biggest problem at Villa Mercedes? You’re spoiled for choice.
Catering to consumer demand is key for a restaurant at the top of its game like Villa Mercedes, so when a Valencian paella chef joined the team earlier this year, it was only fitting that some considerations were taken into account. An impressive Lobster paella swiftly made its way onto the menu, served mellow or juicy, in homage to the San Antonio traditional style, and it’s become a hit with island regulars, and born and bred locals alike. At the same time, a vegetarian paella was introduced, meaning no customer need ever feel left out when it comes to ordering. With vegan and vegetarian guests on the increase, the selection of options on the Villa Mercedes menu prove that taste need never be sacrificed when it comes to lifestyle choices.
If there’s room for dessert – and you should definitely try to save some – then favourites such as red berry cheesecake or a classic and tart lemon meringue should satisfy the sweet-toothed among your group. But for a perfectly guilt-free treat, the signature Villa Mercedes Villa Orange simply cannot be missed. A simple fresh orange is peeled and marinated for 24 hours with a hint of cinnamon and a dash of Cointreau, then served chilled with caramelised orange shavings scattered across the top plus a scoop of tangerine sorbet on the side to add some fresh citrus vibes. It sounds (and looks) incredibly sinful, but in fact, it’s refreshingly innocent.
Villa Mercedes is open nightly, with a varied soundtrack created by an ever-changing roster of local DJs and musicians across the week giving you all the more reason to visit. On Thursdays, island legend Paco Fernandez regales diners with his Flamenco guitar, and Saturdays play host to Royal Bliss, as the restaurant offers a four-course pairing menu with live instrumental music. Regular pop-up appearances from DJ Buda and Tony French mean the eclectic range of music on offer is always of the highest quality. In fact, whatever your tastes, whatever your diet, whatever your desires, this is one restaurant that is sure to have exactly what you need on the menu.