by Rachel Cranshaw, The Telegraph, August 29, 2018
Basking in the afternoon Ibizan sun, under a blue sky, looking out across an even bluer sea, devouring dishes containing ingredients I'd picked from the ground just hours earlier, I congratulated myself on finding my own slice of the Mediterranean good life.
I was at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay to sample its numerous culinary offerings. The group is renowned for its foodie credentials, co-owned by Japanese celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, who rose to international acclaim with his restaurant Matsuhis in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, where he met Nobu partner Robert De Niro.
In Ibiza, as well as three gourmet restaurants (Nobu, of course; plus the contemporary Mexican Peyote; and Chambao, which serves Ibizan/Mediterranean dishes), this outpost offers chef-led tours of the local fish market and farm that supplies the restaurants. Earlier that day, I had set off with Giacomo Notarbartolo, head chef at Nobu, and Carlos Herrero, who leads the team at Chambao, in search of the freshest ingredients.
Read the full review: Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay
Getting to the farm proved unexpectedly furtive - our driver pulled over at the side of the road, where we were to wait for Isabella, the farmer, to meet us in her car; we would then follow her to the farm, the location of which is top secret, to protect the produce from thieves and vandals (sadly). We bumped up a dusty dirt track until we arrived at the very unassuming (and unsecured) bucolic farm.
This was the rural Ibiza of agroturismos I’d lusted after in pictures; verdant rolling hills and arid ground punctuated with beautiful brightly coloured flowers. Specifically, edible flowers in shades of pink and red, studded at the base with cloves and used to decorate dishes back at the hotel. Vibrant lavender stretching in rows as far as the eye can see.
We wandered to a patch of lettuces in neat rows, rich maroon and vivid green, which Notarbartolo told me was used as a wrap for the bento box version of Nobu’s famous miso black cod, which I had sampled at the hotel the previous night. He explained that 35 per cent of the menu is left for him to play with [the rest being universal to all Nobu restaurants - a somewhat unimaginative format], under the banner of ‘omaskase’, a Japanese phrase meaning “I’ll leave it up to you”, which is where his passion for produce of the locale can really come into its own. We tore lettuce leaves off, and I savoured the inimitable simple pleasure of chewing on something as fresh as it can get. Protecting these delicate plants from pests is no mean feat, but ingenius natural solutions have been employed; we learned that the aforementioned lavender we'd passed through is protected by a barrier of mint to occupy any unwelcome visiting creatures.
We finished at a table laid with a chequered cloth, bearing sweet, brittle biscuits and totally organic Hierbas, a Balearic liquer made from herbs (thyme, wild fennel, anise and rosemary). It tasted strong yet sweet and unmistakably earthy, a little like drinking biodynamic wine. Chatting to Isabella, the tanned and laughing epitome of living that aforementioned Mediterranean good life, I learnt that the farm had been in her partner’s family for three generations. She also runs workshops for children, and went into farming after the economic crisis hit. Another major farm on the island is also run by a woman, and there are plenty of female chefs here in the Nobu kitchen - around half, I am told; unusual in the male-dominated world of gastronomy.
Back at the hotel, we headed to Chambao for lunch. This is sharing food, but family-style rather than small plates - think glistening padrón peppers and crispy whitebait to start; followed by big dishes of salt-baked fish and paella served tableside. This is also where breakfast happens, and the restaurant’s outside tables are set on sand, which gives a lovely laid-back vibe.
Despite being just a five-minute drive from legendary nightclub Pacha, the hotel and its surrounds feel remarkably serene, with boats bobbing in the harbour and a clear view out to sea. Formentera is a leisurely half-hour boat ride away (the hotel can arrange rental from €850 [£757] per day with Smart Charter).
The design of the hotel is spot-on; think lots of white, natural wood, pops of blue that bring the Mediterranean Sea inside, stylish gold accents and plenty of succulents. During my stay, other guests included groups of friends, couples and families. There’s space for everyone, with a separate kids’ club and pool. For the ultimate relaxing treat, the Six Senses spa offers treatments in outdoor cabanas facing the ocean.
The aforementioned ‘omaskase’ at Ibiza Bay comes in the form of dishes such as sushi paella, a playful Japanese twist on the classic Spanish dish. The sushi, sashimi and of course black cod, from the standard Nobu menu, is very good. A deceptively unexciting-looking spinach salad (hear me out), with dry miso, yuzu truffle oil and fat, juice king prawns, was just inexplicably flavoursome. It certainly wasn’t the dish I’d expected to be my favourite - perhaps the farm had given me a renewed appreciation for leaves.
Read the full review: Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay
Double rooms at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay from €630, (£560), excluding breakfast. Food tours available year-round from Monday to Saturday; pricing available on request. 00 34 971 19 22 22; nobuhotelibizabay.com.