Coast is clear for sheer indulgence in Mallorca

Mallorca, long our favourite holiday island, now boasts a property from the people who brought you Dubai's Burj Al Arab. Stephen Bayley checks in.

To understand the new Jumeirah Port Sóller, you will need to rethink your idea of "hotel" (and, later, rearrange your prejudices about Mallorca). It is a huge new undertaking of global ambition, an extraordinary laboratory of modern hospitality, and we were an experiment: among the very first guests.

From origins in a residential area of Dubai, Jumeirah is building a fast-evolving collection of landmark hotels and resorts. Best known is the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, but in the UK it is known, if at all, for expensive but uninspiring Knightsbridge hotels. Port Sóller is different in scale, scope and identity. Mallorca has many fine hotels and very many more that are not. The island has now acquired something else: an enormous statement of intent, as bewildering as it is impressive, which owes not much to established tradition and nothing at all to local custom.

Port Sóller is on Mallorca's rugged north coast, about 35km from Palma. Many of the people who find their way here are day-tripping tourists who take the historic and dramatic train across the mountains from the capital. But we arrived direct from the airport, sweaty and fretful, and asked to go straight to one of the two pools. We could have walked, but our guide (we must call him exactly that since this was a form of exploration) suggested we use the "elevators".

The journey from reception to poolside needed five separate lift journeys: the price to be paid for an amazing cliff-front site is that the hotel clings to the rocks where it can, occupying crags and fissures where nature makes them available. Until they design a lift that turns corners, this staggered lift arrangement will remain.

The 120-room hotel extends at its different levels along a site that is not much less than 1km in length. It is not a single building, but clusters of them precariously attached to the geology. The buildings make no attempt at cuteness or charm. Instead, they are a sort of authentic contemporary Spanish seaside vernacular. A matter-of-fact architecture of emphatic neutrality. The hotel neither confronts its rocky context nor is it subdued by it.

The headline effects are all internal. Or they certainly were in the Lighthouse Suite which we were assigned. This is a double-height cylinder with enormous floor-to-ceiling arched windows set on a very large terrace whose views of sea and mountain thrilled my senses of beauty and romance while disturbingly testing my tolerance of vertigo's effects.

In order to build a cumulative mental picture of the exceptionality of Jumeirah Port Sóller, it is worth cataloguing the contents of the terrace. A small olive plantation is included, reminding me of that Rothschild remark that "no matter how modest, no garden should be without several acres of woodland". You could say the same of terraces and olives. Also included were: an eight-seater dining table, Jacuzzi, a tented love seat positioned for fornication in the sunset, four armchairs and footstools plus two sunloungers.

Inside the Lighthouse Suite, the improbably tall windows are covered by the finest nets operated by touch-sensitive electronic controls. Housekeeping is not my special subject, but I imagine there will eventually be maintenance difficulties here. A coruscating German kitchen is included, specified, perhaps, by a techno fanatic trained at Audi. It contains a large fridge dedicated to drinks: if I say there were four different types of beer and four different types of mineral water, not to mention juices and mixers, you may get the impression that unusual attention to detail has been exercised here.

The bedroom is on a mezzanine halfway up the cylinder, accessed by a long, curling ramp. The lofty location provides astonishing views (with a brass telescope to assist), but also traps the heat overnight. However, since there is powerful air-conditioning, no impediment exists to the eco-insensitive achieving, for once, cool.

The bed is surrounded by a suite of electronic controls glowing with the menace of technical authority. It must be that man from Audi again. So far from being the preface to the Land of Nod, getting into bed felt rather like accessing the flight deck on a business jet, an environment with which many customers will be familiar.

The number of wardrobes and cupboards in exotic wood approached fetishistic levels. My latent puritan whispered "Too much!", but my dominant realist insisted that it is all very well done indeed. In fact, it is all so good – with bathrobes of baffling softness and down-stuffed duvets of giggle-making voluptuousness – that cynicism is defeated. Utterly vanquished. The style of it all was, to be honest, not much to my taste, but I have never experienced any room more comfortable or efficient. Or with better views of sea and mountain. Perfection can take many forms, but this I feel was very near one of them.

There are two restaurants and, as so often in hotels, the simpler one was the better. Es Fanals is the lunchtime bistro overlooking the dramatic infinity pool. We ate octopus, a tuna "ceviche" (in fact just raw fish, not one that had been marinated in lemon), plus an authentic paella. Quite rightly, the sommelier, the splendidly named Oliver Sinclair González Padron, is an advocate of locality and drinking of Mallorcan wines is strongly encouraged. Here we had a cheerful macabeu. This was all served by immaculate girls who artfully combined promptitude with a relaxed attitude. I may sound as if I have lost my powers of criticism and become besotted under the influence of white wine and strong sunshine, but it happens to be true.

To prove that I have not lost my powers of criticism, the more formal restaurant is a disappointment. Named Cap Roig (an unattractive bony fish of the order Scorpaeniformes familiar around the Balearics), its menu is a parody of false sophistication with much too much going on to no good purpose at all. For example: duck foie gras with tuna pastrami and plum chutney or carpaccio of beef flavoured with lapsang souchong served with green papaya and prawns. Dear me, no. What I really wanted was a simply grilled bony fish familiar around the Balearics. Good food, after all, must just taste of what it is. We drank an interesting red wine called petjades which was compensatingly superb.

There are other niggles. The bathrooms are a good place to study the mounting absurdities of minimalism. Perfectly flat ceramic soap dishes lack drainage ridges so the perfectly flat disc of soap adheres intractably. Towel rails snag the towels. But a big positive on the style front is the almost total lack of branding. Small Jumeirah logos are etched on some windows, but nowhere else are there any intrusive graphics.

Some might feel the Jumeirah Port Sóller is a deracinated rich person's absurdity imposed on Robert Graves's noble peasant island. Indeed, I thought I was going to think that myself. But after a few days of otherworldly comfort and meticulous service delivered by wave after wave of politely smiling, but not at all obsequious, staff, I acquired Stockholm syndrome.

I found it dangerously seductive and began to wonder whether my lifelong quest for hotels of eccentric charm and quirky character has been a terrible mistake. Maybe I actually prefer anonymity and supreme comfort. True, Jumeirah Port Sóller tells you nothing about Mallorca, but if you have seen Magaluf that is perhaps no bad thing.

So what to do if you tire of paradise? A 10-minute stroll down a very steep hill takes you into Port Sóller itself (although the hotel operates an on-demand Mercedes shuttle van). Port Sóller is pretty and neat rather than gorgeous and glamorous. There are no noteworthy restaurants, but we ate an earthy conejo con cebolla (rabbit with onions and "innards") at Albatroz on the quayside and a hake at Ses Oliveres by the beach.

Or you can take a taxi for a 20-minute drive through the thrilling Tramuntana range to the perhaps-too-pretty mountain village of Fornalutx. The favoured restaurant here is Es Turó and its arroz brut, a rough paella. But the must-do is take a €5 ride from Port Sóller to the inland town of Sóller proper. You do this on the delightful Ferrocarril de Sóller, a wooden-bodied electric tram of apparently ancient provenance.

On Saturdays in the handsome town of Sóller there is a very good market with all the fine artisanal produce which has now made Spain at least as good a place to eat as Tuscany or Provence. We bought figs, aged manchego, jamon, bread, tomatoes and a simple white wine. We took the plastic bags back to the terrace of the Lighthouse Suite. We sat, ate and looked at the blue sea, the green mountains and thought this compromise between nature, peasant culture and nervelessly sophisticated extreme modern comfort was, let me admit ... absolutely perfect. And the love seat was yet to come.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Palma is well served by airlines from the UK, including easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com), Monarch (08719 40 50 40; monarch.co.uk), Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com), British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com), Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com), Vueling (0906 754 7541; vueling.com) and FlyBe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com).

Staying there

Jumeirah Port Sóller Hotel and Spa, Port Sóller Mallorca, Spain (00 34 971 637 888; jumeirah.com/mallorca). Double rooms start at €362 including breakfast.

Eating and drinking there

Bar Albatros, calle Marina 48, Port Sóller (00 34 97 163 3214). Ses Oliveres, Urbanitzacio Es Traves, Port Sóller (00 34 971 634 168; restaurantsesoliveres.com). Es Turó, Avenida Arbona Colom 6, Fornalutx (00 34 971 630 808).

More information

Balearic Islands Tourist Office: www.illesbalears.es

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture