Gastronomy with Entertainment – The New Star of Ibiza

Ibiza’s 2nd summer without nightclubs and a continuing 1am closing time has brought about a shift in evening pursuits with gastronomy taking centre stage.

It’s a long time since chicken, chips and salad was a local delicacy and Ibiza’s worst keep secret is that it’s the home of many wonderful restaurants with some of the finest chefs in Europe and the COVID crisis has put them at the forefront of the changing times. So many great restaurants to choose from including the relatively new phenomenon for high quality food coupled with professional entertainment.

This is hardly a new concept, back in the 80’s and 90’s the Ibiza Casino was as good as it got for this type of evening. A glitzy show with semi naked dancers and a headline act such as the Drifters with questionable food and even more questionable drinks served at the table by hordes of waiters. It was all about quantity wrapped up in a fun evening and for about £35 per person was seen as expensive at the time.

When El Divino nightclub closed down and Pacha Group opened Lio almost 10 years ago, a brand new template was created which has now become an island staple. Lio changed the game for the segment with its incredible backdrop, immersive entertainment, glamorous crowd and eye watering prices. Any doubters were soon proved wrong as those trying to book a table found out.

Ibiza business is never slow to follow a winning formula and Heart soon opened mixing a world-renowned chef with a show to provide more competition to a new market that had started to grow as tastes became more discerning and an older target audience with more money to spend.

Meanwhile STK opened, a further addition catering mainly to an upmarket British crowd trading on a reputation of high quality food mixed with a touch of celebrity that only Ibiza can deliver. We’ve also seen Ushuaia enter the market this summer with their Palmarama evening with big names and an international crowd.

All the the Ibiza establishments naturally add their own unique twist or 2 that’s gold dust for the Instagram generation. Glitz, glamour, fine food, cocktails & a quality show all at a price that would be unthinkable only a few years previously.

The new addition to the scene is ‘528 Ibiza’ who have just extended their debut season. It’s an exciting collaboration between an Ibiza creative icon and an island native of the highest esteem. Andy McKay (of Manumission and Ibiza Rocks fame) has joined forces with Bartolo Escandell, one of Ibiza’s favourite sons who has converted the large outdoor terrace at his Benimussa Park into a spectacular venue mixing old and new with a state of the art stage.

The evening will attract the same target audience as the aforementioned but this one feels more authentically Ibiza from the tasting of traditional fine foods on arrival to a sit down menu of quality food, produced locally, all presented and explained with loving care.

The professional show mixes things up from dramatic dance to acrobats to comedy to crowd-pleasing anthemic song while also giving a nod to the islands history with good old Tanit, making an appearance or 2

The fact that this venue has been converted into something so special focussing on fine food, local culture and professional entertainment proves that Ibiza gastronomy is moving forward at a rapid pace of knots with entrepreneurs looking for new gaps in the market to exploit and there appears to be no lack of demand.

This summer season has been full of surprises as the island jostles to find new products to compensate for the short term loss of traditional ones. Ibiza has not been found wanting and in many ways has solidified it’s position as a high quality upmarket holiday destination and fine food under the stars with profesional entertainment is the new wow on the island.

The Rebirth of San Antonio

COVID has brought about more challenges in 18 months than most of us will see in a lifetime but it has also thrown up opportunities.

Here in Ibiza, San Antonio has had 2 summers like no other. It’s fair to say that ‘San An’ has had an identity crisis over the last 3 decades, from 80’s hooligans to 90’s space cadets to noughties wannabes. It’s had a chequered recent history but times have changed.

The San An identity crisis revolves mainly around one small area called the ‘West End’, a place that was once the envy of the island, it was the market leader in fun and frolics but has gradually spiralled into a lawless abyss where anything goes and everything is for sale.

In 2015 a new socialist government tried to suffocate the West End by banning terraces after midnight and closing all establishments at 3am. These arbitrary measures only ended up causing more mayhem with mass movement at the same hour displacing the problems to other areas.

The people of San An weren’t impressed and the socialist government lasted 1 term before Marcos Serra, a young forward thinking Mayor was elected in 2019. There was much expectation that he would finally get to grips with the challenges of the West End, creating incentives for those wanting to improve the area and coming down hard on anyone stepping out of line. Then along came COVID.

For 2 summers the West End has remained closed apart from a handful of terraces. For all of us who live in San Antonio we have now seen what the town is like without it, without the noise pollution, without the problems it brings and also without the tourists it attracts.

We’ve seen the other side and we now understand that having a central meeting area that attracts life is a fundamental part of any resort town but we need it to be on our terms. A place that is safe, that is clean, a place that offers fun, food and revelry, not just fast food takeaways and all you can drink. A place where your teenage kids can wander freely.

COVID has shown us something that we never thought we’d see. It took a Chinese virus less than 2 months to do what some have been trying to do for over 30 years but is San An a better place without the West End? The jury is out but even though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what we want, we know what we don’t want, we don’t want to go back to how it was before.

The challenge has been laid before us and San An needs to build back better. It’s a cliched political phrase but one that has never been so apt but here’s the good news, San Antonio is already having a rebirth right in front of our eyes.

What better example than the recently opened ‘Base Hotel’ right in the middle of the West End where the dilapidated Hotel Don Juan once stood. Owned and operated by the people who built Hotel Es Vive from nothing to become one of the Balearics most celebrated hangouts before selling out to a company part owned by Lionel Messi no less. After a big refurbishment, the Base Hotel offers rooms of high quality that won’t break the bank.

Only 50 metres away from the Base Hotel at the bottom of the West End is the historic Hotel Portmany. San Antonio’s first ever hostelry has had an expensive refurb and now offers large and luxurious apartments in the heart of the town. Then around the corner is Sa Clau, part of the Mambo group offering quality accommodation. The list goes on.

A little further afield Wikiwoo continues to attract the insta-influencer crowd with it’s photo friendly design and the new, enormous and luxurious 5 star OKU Ibiza has opened in Cala Gracio boasting the largest swimming pool on the island. This has spurred on the ageing Hotel Tanit next door to finally have a multi-million pound makeover which will bring it right up to date and don’t be surprised if it becomes a mini Ushuaia as it’s owned by the same company.

Extensive work has now started on the Hotel Catalina which is directly above Savannah and next to Cafe del Mar. When finished this will be the next big offering by the Mambo group and is set to rejuvenate that area with quality rooms on the sunset strip.

This is only a snapshot of what’s happening and much more will follow. Massive investment in San Antonio all against a backdrop of the biggest crisis in modern history. San An is going from strength to strength, there will always be haters but that comes with the territory and in many ways it’s been self induced over the last 35 years but times have changed and it isn’t 1987 any more.

COVID has inadvertently thrown up the chance for San Antonio to bounce back better in a new and improved way where quality is better than quantity, spenders are better than forcing cheap drinks on unsuspecting youngsters and where a little less can be a whole lot more.

We have seen that we can survive without the West End but we can also see the benefit of a clean and safe, fun filled leisure area that attracts all nationalities and all ages from all over the island. All we need now is for the West End to wake up and embrace the challenge.