Flee the hedonistic hotels of the bigger Balearic isles and hide out at Torralbenc – Menorca's first boutique hotel – set in a cluster of whitewashed farmhouse buildings with a romantic restaurant and sea-facing pool. The 19th-century homestead has been reinvented by Antonio Esteva, who’s usually found designing luxurious private villas. Thanks to his handy work, it’s emerged with heritage charm intact, as well as plenty of shady, rosemary-scented spots to soak up the Mediterranean sun.
Mod Mediterranean cuisine
Traditional whitewashed farmhouse
Sea-view swimming pool
A welcome drink on arrival
In the know
Also need to know:
All communal areas are wheelchair accessible, and some rooms are adapted for wheelchair users. In the small spa’s two treatment rooms, a range of beauty and wellbeing treat is on offer, including couple’s massages. In-room beauty treatments, personal trainers and fitness classes – including yoga and Pilates – are all available, too.
Expect lots of lounging around the pool and in the garden: bring your teeniest bikini or a cover-all kaftan depending on how much sun you’d like to get. There are bikes to borrow, so bring your cycling gear.
Contemporary cottons will keep you comfortable and help you fit in with the laid-back surroundings.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
So, picture this. It’s midnight. Mrs Smith and I have spent 14 hours getting spine ache in a moulded plastic chair in Ibiza airport. Our only sustenance during the flight delay has come courtesy of a voucher entitling us to a dry bocadillo. By the time we landed at Mahon, Menorca, my mood was somewhere between Pol Pot and Sir Alex Ferguson. I was convinced that Menorca would merely be a smaller version of Ibiza – men in espadrilles shouting, vague blondes with mahogany skin, the whine of distant dance music. That slightly complacent ‘can’t do’ attitude that categorizes the richest of the Balearic islands. I had also given up hope, at this ungodly hour, of the car hire place being open.
What a fool I was. There it was, across the empty and shining concourse, a Brave New World, populated by Maria – a chirpy, multilingual form-filling machine. Just 10 minutes later, we were on our way. In Ibiza, you get used to driving at night with full beams, lest you clip one of the many Brits lurching like zombies on their way home from clubbing. Here we were shocked at the silence, the peace. You whizz along empty, newly tarmacked roads bordered by manicured hedges. The air is so clean it almost has an antiseptic tang.
After a brief drive, we came across an elegant olive wooden gate on the right; a mere hint of Torralbenc’s agricultural chic within. We were met down the drive by a demure young gent wearing the sort of beige muted linens that would make Kelly Hoppen weep with joy.
He ushered us to our room, the apotheosis of understated elegance; polished sandstone floors, chalky white walls and pale wood furniture. Scented candles illuminated the living room and on the coffee table rested a plate of crumbly shortbread biscuits. 1,000 miles from home and I still can’t escape baked goods.
The bed was deemed to be ‘very well dressed’, by Mrs Smith, who knows much of these things. Crisp Egyptian cotton, duck feather pillows – just the ticket after the day from hell. Off the bedroom was a smart, west-facing terrace, which hosted the most magnificent light shows every evening.
After a champion kip, we took breakfast on the terrace – Kilner pots of home-made yoghurt, fresh fruit and farmyard eggs – before exploring our surroundings. The hotel is a collection of low-slung, whitewashed farm buildings. The paths between them are fronded with lavender and poppies, which play host to myriad butterflies. Thick, resinous clumps of rosemary poke from the dry earth and leach their perfume into the air. Neat dry stone walls give a formality to the wildness beyond. There are shaded canopies for dining, and a long, slim pool if you fancy giving in to your inner Rebecca Adlington.
The staff are, without exception, magnificent. They do not exist until you need them, and when you do they materialise from the walls, like something out of a herbal tea or air freshener advert, to furnish you with whatever you need, in whatever language you need it in.
On the advice of the reception manager, we drove to the northeastern side of the island, to the picturesque fishing village of Es Grau. The cove is fringed with palms and fingers of rock creep into the gentle sea. We opted to hire a kayak from the beach. Mrs Smith, resplendent in scarlet life jacket, took the helm while I lazily trailed my oar in the millpond azure beneath. Heaven. Just her and me… and a million jellyfish.
We stopped at a tiny beach some 200 metres from shore and swam until the little critters became too scary a prospect. It’s way too uncouth to be weeing on someone in the midst of such beauty, albeit in the name of medical intervention. From there, we rowed to Illa d’en Colom, and sat on the sand topping up our tan, while the fishing boats gently bucked against their moorings.
Back on dry land, we hopped back in the car to check out the northernmost tip of the island, Cap de Cavelleria. Persist through the winding dirt tracks punctuated by sheep, and the reward will be yours. You feel as though you are at the end of the world. The landscape is dramatic, crags of rock buffeted by the tramuntana wind and a sky as wide as your imagination. From July through August, on a clear day, you can enjoy the most jaw-droppingly dramatic of sunsets here, with the sky bleeding across the horizon as it falls to the water.
We dined on the terrace back at the hotel, surrounded by citronella torches to keep the mozzies at bay. We found the ‘degustation menu’ a little intimidating (foam, dust, quenelles – you know the score) but the à la carte offered a delicious alternative, particularly the fresh shellfish summer rolls. For a local tipple, try Binifadet, or Torralbenc’s owners’ own rioja, Remírez de Ganuza. If you like sherry, the Almacenista from Lustau is a must.
On our final day, we headed to the ancient Arab citadel, Ciutadella de Menorca, with its mediaeval streets and bustling markets. After hours of blissful meandering, we wandered down to the harbour and gorged on fresh seafood at the famed Café Balear. I was now so relaxed that the idea of heading home made my heart hurt a little.
Small is beautiful. Oh, Torralbenc in Menorca – we’ll be back.
Carretera de Maó, Cala en Porter, Km 10, Alaior, Menorca, 07730
1.2 mi / 2.0 km from city centre
- Onsite laundry
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Exercise gym
- On-Site parking
- Internet services
- Aerobics instruction
- Room service
Torralbenc Restaurant is housed in what was originally a store room for grapes and wine barrels. Executive chef Luis Loza has collaborated with Gorka Txapartegi – the former chef at Michelin-starred Resturante Alameda – to create a menu of updated Mediterranean classics, using the best local produce, herbs from the hotel’s own gardens and fruit from their orchards. Expect regional favourites like seabass ceviche or local leg of lamb with red peppers, washed down with a cup of famous Menorcan chamomile tea. The historic indoor space is cosy and characterful wherever you sit; in warm weather, head out to the terrace under the shade of a cane pergola, to enjoy the views of the garden and sea. Or, find a spot anywhere you’d like in the garden – staff will be happy to serve you wherever you’d like.
Aim for a table outside, where the chef prepares sears locally-sourced meat, fish and vegetables on a charcoal grill.
Lunch is served 1pm–3.30pm; dinner 7.30pm–10.30pm.
Order drinks and snacks to your room during restaurant hours.
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