Hotel review: Torralbenc, Menorca
Room service at the hotel is a fine taste of things to come, as Alice Jones discovers...
Breakfast at Torralbenc is delivered to your room in a wicker basket. Inside it is a bowl of cherries, a basket of bread and croissants, plates of Mahón cheese and spicy sobrassada sausage, pots of yoghurt and toothsome jams, a carafe of fresh juice and a pot of coffee. All of this is unpacked on to the table on your private terrace to be enjoyed in the morning sun as butterflies flit about the wildflowers at your feet.
If you're the kind of person to judge a place by its breakfast – and what finer yardstick is there? – then this charming start to the day tells you much of what you need to know about Torralbenc. It is laid-back, elegant, rustic, discreet and quite delicious.
Torralbenc, which opened in May, is billed as Menorca's first luxury boutique hotel. The sleepiest of the Balearics has traditionally been a villa destination with the odd nondescript resort around the coast, so this is a significant addition. In a decade's time, one can imagine every other farmhouse on the island offering the same tasteful take on rural retreat. For now, on beautiful, largely unspoiled Menorca, it remains a stylish novelty.
Its sister hotel, Cap Rocat, opened in a former fort overlooking the Bay of Palma on Mallorca in 2010. Torralbenc is a more agricultural proposition, a cluster of whitewashed farm buildings at the end of a long drive, surrounded by vineyards and bordered by dry-stone walls and olive-wood gates. Beds of poppies and lavender, along with shady canopies for dining, drinking or lounging, dot the grounds. It is chic and strikingly quiet. At one end of the site, a gym and yoga studio in modern outbuildings, and a 25m saltwater lap pool with sun-loungers, offer views down the hill to the Mediterranean.
As breakfast suggests, food and drink is an event here. The kitchen is overseen by Paco Morales, a Michelin-starred chef from the mainland and young pretender to Ferran Adrià's crown. Menus range from simple boards of cured meat and cheese to a six-course tasting menu for €60 featuring such curious delights as tomato sorbet, onion custard, orange-and-clove roasted suckling pig and chocolate panna cotta with cocoa snow. There is no bar, but the owners, who also own the Remirez de Ganuza winery in Rioja, plan to hold tastings in the cellar. For now, wines are served at dinner with loving ceremony in Riedel glasses as big as buckets.
Torralbenc is an easy 20-minute drive from Menorca Airport. The nearest beach is the package favourite Cala'n Porter on the south-east coast, 10 minutes' drive or a swift spin down the hill on a hotel bicycle. Since Menorca has more beaches than Ibiza and Mallorca put together, it is better to drive a few minutes more, park, then walk to a more remote and rewarding bay. Stop off at a farm shop (Santa Catalina is nearest to the hotel) to buy provisions for a picnic on the way.
While the hotel offers airport transfers, it is remote and a hire car is essential for exploring the island. However, at only 30 miles wide, nothing is too far away by car. Menorca's capital, Mahón, is a 20-minute drive away and the attractions include an improbably large harbour, the Xoriguer gin distillery and numerous shoe shops (Pretty Ballerinas are made here).
Ciutadella is a little further (45 minutes' drive) but its cobbled streets and handsome palaces make for an enjoyable day trip. Menorca lacks the nightlife of its neighbouring islands but it does have one of the best bars in the world, only 10 minutes from Torralbenc. A sunset gin and tonic at Cova d'en Xoroi (covadenxoroi.com), a spectacular complex of caves carved out of the cliffs, is essential.
The hotel has 25 rooms, scattered through the farm buildings. Not all have a sea view, but they do private terraces. There are two cottages, one with a pool, but these are poky and, in such a peaceful place, the extra seclusion is unnecessary. The style is natural and minimalist with polished sandstone floors and chestnut furniture. Bathrooms are large and all rooms have giant flatscreen TVs, Wi-Fi and air-con. At night, staff light scented candles and leave iced biscuits by the bed, along with a weather forecast, including wind direction, so you can pick tomorrow's best beach.
The writer travelled with British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com), which flies from London City to Menorca three times a week; one-way fares from £83.
Torralbenc, Carretera Mao – Cala'n Porter, Km10, Alaior, Menorca, Spain (00 34 971 37 72 11; torralbenc.com).
Doubles start at €165, including breakfast.
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