The Sabina Clubhouse opens to a curvaceous bar suffused by sunrays streaming down from an enormous light well. To the left is a lounge area lined with pale bookshelves, to the right a lush courtyard and outdoor lounge. Behind the agate green bar stools stretches a glistening swimming pool, surrounded by open corridors covered in pergolas heavy with greenery. Within this space, Sabina’s signature restaurant feels like stepping back into an era that never really existed, or perhaps into a dream of the future.
Either way, it’s the most exciting culinary experience to hit the island in decades. The refined casualness that imbues the space pinpoints exactly what Ibiza was missing. It’s graceful and lavish yet with an understated ambience that immediately transmits comfort and ease. Despite the cultured style, there’s not a single ounce of conceit. Amit Segev and Mouji Longhi – of La Paloma fame – bring their signature sense of elegant cool to Sabina via the skilled hands of their friend and chef Shahar Tamir, whose food reflects this philosophy by playing with flavours and combinations, stirring the palate but never overpowering the senses.
Israeli-born Shahar entered culinary school in Tel Aviv at the tender age of 14. “I loved it straight away,” he says. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do and what I would always do.” After nearly a decade of travelling the world and working in far-flung places such as Australia, India and Asia, Tamir was convinced by a colleague to come and work in Ibiza in 2014. “I thought to myself ‘Ibiza? What would I want to go there for?’ And then, I arrived.” He quickly realised the island offered a plethora of flavourful adventures, in addition to the tranquil life he’d been seeking. During breaks from his job as a sous chef, Shahar would spend time in the relaxed environs of La Paloma where he became friends with Amit and Mouji. “He’s very awake,” Amit says of Shahar. “He’s very bright and passionate. We did some pop-ups together but we had to wait for the right time for the path to manifest.”
The path turned out to be Sabina’s restaurant. And manifest it did. Anton Bilton, Sabina’s developer and visionary, is a long-time friend of Amit and Mouji. Slowly the pieces started to come together. “When Amit told me about Sabina, it was a big step for me,” says Shahar. “But I was more than ready.” With a highly tuned palate and a complex culinary imagination, Shahar has captured the essence of the Sabina vision. “I love his ability to take the classic and give it a twist, and then take the twist and give it some class,” enthuses Amit. “With this project, we can support his potential and he can take it in so many different directions.”
Stints at Noma in Copenhagen introduced Shahar to techniques, ideas and methodologies that inform his culinary philosophy. “After a lot of research, I discovered local Ibiza recipes that go back thousands of years,” he says “I want to respect the ancient food traditions here and match them with other traditions.” Time spent in the Fermentation Lab at Noma ignited a passion for preserves and ferments, which were once a regular part of the local diet. The Sabina restaurant kitchen makes all its own vinegars, several types of kombucha, as well as soy and miso made from local grains.
Shahar sees infinite flavour combinations within the abundance and quality of homegrown produce, and fully intends to explore the endless possibilities presented to him. The menu at Sabina is guided by the seasons, changing up to five times over the course of a year. Lunch is scattered with the DNA of La Paloma. The fresh, casual and utterly delicious dishes range from homemade sourdough pizzas dressed with seasonal toppings or luscious salad bowls overflowing with local produce to more substantial options. This is where Shahar will incorporate the flavours from his travels, his original homeland and his adopted homeland of Ibiza, with a trace of the inventive such as freshly baked breads made with jau flour and distilled seawater from Formentera.
Dinner is where the Sabina restaurant style recedes from the breezy daytime vibe to a gentle sophistication. Adhering faithfully to the season, dishes may include delights such as truffle focaccia topped with local white figs and delicate lavender fronds or a remarkable take on tabbouleh, replacing the standard bulgur with grains of purple cauliflower, grapefruit, hazelnut, local yoghurt and at least three types of oregano. It’s a surprise on the palate – tangy with undertones of sweetness and the peppery aroma of the oregano all tempered by the creaminess of the yoghurt. The Thousand-Year Potato is an extrapolation of an ancient dish Shahar discovered in his research. The prized Ibiza potato is cured in local seaweed for three months and layered with thin slices of cured wild sea bass. Sitting in a bath of buttermilk, wild herbs and seaweed oil, it’s inconceivably sublime.
Mains appear like works of art in bright colours with flavours to match. Line-caught sea bass is gently grilled and veiled with pumpkin and poppy seed leather alongside mushrooms and a semi-sweet pumpkin pureé. When Shahar first tasted the local plums, he knew he would be combining them in a multitude of dishes. Slow-cooked local lamb neck is rolled with porcini mushrooms and pistachio before being soused in a homemade umeboshi and plum reduction, and served with a perfectly salted pile of toasted kale. Sweet, sour, tender and crispy, the combination is heavenly and the dish is no doubt set to become a Sabina staple.
Beyond the kitchen magic, Sabina is dedicated to using local produce, working directly with farmers and also foragers, often taking off into the Ibiza countryside themselves to seek out the abundance of wild food. Sustainability is a key foundation for the whole development and Shahar directs his suppliers to forgo plastics at every opportunity. “We work with as little plastic as possible,” he explains. “Everything in the kitchen has a by-product. All of our waste oil is turned into biofuels and we separate our compost into four components to make it more effective. We really want to do good for the island and this is one of the ways we can contribute.” And this is certainly not the only way Sabina Restaurant will contribute to island culture – through their innovative menus and eclectic events, this beautiful space will soon become the island’s beating heart.