The Last Outpost

by Chris Ellis

Mallorca, Island of a Million Bars

In the pursuit of a more robust life style I have been researching the bar life of the island of Mallorca, lying off the Spanish coast in the calm Mediterranean sea. It is a tough assignment for a journalist but someone, as they say, has to do it. Mallorca is the largest of three islands that make up the Balearic islands and is off the beaten track for most South Africans. It was obviously going to be tough frontline reporting stuff so before I went I thought I would brush up on my Spanish. Out came the cassettes and we started with the usual useful phrases such as “my harpsicord has been struck by lightning, where can I get it retuned?” and in the section, After an Evening Out on the Town, “where is my friend?”. There was, though, a section in my phrase book that was applicable to my assignment. It was under Wine. In Spanish one does not say “I like this wine” but “this wines pleases me”, este vino me gusta. Now any language that can produce wine that likes me, gets my vote. It’s the attitude that counts, not so? Our stay on the island started well. In the villa, situated in the small village of Puerto Pollenca, in the far north of the island, they had left in the fridge, some bottles of iced Spanish champagne called Freixenet. So we cautiously opened one and sat out on the veranda and looked up at the hills of the Serra de Tramuntana. It all looked very much like Cape Town and after another bottle , of course, it looked like anywhere. The sun went slowly down and the evening ended with a competition to see who could say Freixenet. Some contestants for some reason were answering from a face down position on the carpet. Spain has some legendary drinks of which the most famous is, perhaps, Sangria. There are various recipes for this tonic and in the tourist season you often just get served with a mixture of red wine and lemonade with some fruit tossed in. It is therefore a good idea to ask for a bar where they serve the best Sangria as they usually serve the most authentic food as well. Spain is now a country of two foods, tourist food and out-of-season food (delicious). Sangria can have Bacardi rum, Cointreau, or brandy added to it to make it into a memorable occasion (although the memory may be short). Beware if it is served in an earthenware pot and you hear the waiter mutter the word, peligroso, which means “dangerous stuff”. It gives you the amazing ability to dance on tables later in the evening. We found that the best tables for dancing on were at a small pavement restaurant called Ca’n Pancho, in the Carrer de la Verge del Carme in Puerto Pollenca (file under essential information). Life on this island is one of continuous stress and pressure. One awakes and has to make some heavy choices between using factor five or ten sun screen and then the dilemma of choosing the bars to visit for the day. Our first journey was to Pollenca itself, which is a classic Spanish market town about ten kilometres from the little port where we were staying. We were to visit the Bar Pedros in the Calle de Cecilia Melleto. It is run by two eccentric Englishmen, Roger and Giles, who have been on the island for over twenty years and who know absolutely everyone, my dear. It is filled with equally eccentric expatriates all talking at the tops of their voices and wearing outrageous Panama hats with wide black bands. There is a market on Sunday morning and just everyone but everyone, darling, drops in for the speciality of the bar, Bloody Marys. Bloody Marys are made from a basis of vodka and tomato juice to which Roger adds other ingredients, which I soon realised was why everyone was talking on full volume and with extravagant gestures. We fell in with all this rather easily. Without the vodka they are called Virgin Marys, which the assembly agreed was a bloody shame. The next day we all wished we had stuck with the virgins. During the next two weeks, in the interests of research, we set out on some journeys of vinous discovery. On one of these forays we stopped at a small wayside bar in a village called Fornaluxt in the hills on the west side of the Island. The bar was called Es Turo and had a wonderful outside patio restaurant. The menu was a triumph of the translator’s art. First up was Frito Mallorquin, which had been translated as Mallorcan Lamb Fluck. It left us wondered exactly how the little lamb was prepared. An alternative on the main course was Conejo Cebolla , which was translated as -rabbit balled with onions -which sounded a rather undignified way for a rabbit to end its career. The speciality of la maison, which one does not see on many South African menus (except at Zulu weddings) was goat. It came translated as Goat in the Oven. I wondered if a struggle occurred in the backyard to get it, kicking, into the oven, and then it was going to be served on the Chicken in a Basket principle. One expected that two great sweating Spanish waiters would carry a large oven with horns sticking out, up to the table. At the end of the meal there was a general agreement that to be eating flucked lamb in Fornaluxt was, I am sure you will agree, somewhat of a triumphf. During our stay we were joined by some sons who flew over from London for the weekend and we decided to go on an expedition to the remote beach of Cal de San Vincente, the only beach on the island where there is surf anything like South Africa. We found a bar overlooking the beach and immediately noticed that there was a good show of toplessness parading on the beach so the eldest sons went off with an exceso de velocidad to conduct a breast inspection, an occupation also known as boobing. After several surveys (one must not make premature judgments) they reported back that there was a mixed bag of contestants but pride of place for the Grande Melons of Mallorca was a tanned girl standing in the sea. They pointed her out to the occupants of the bar. It was generally agreed that they were in the category of ‘Magnificent’ especially in their capacity to stand up to the surf. To celebrate this final decision by the judges, we decided to have a round of another legendary Spanish drink called Fundador, which is a brandy of the astringent or gasping variety. One can imagine it can also be used for cleaning the flagstones around a swimming pool. It fizzes when it hits the ground, which sometime happens after the unwary have taken their first shot. There is a gasp and the glass slips from the nerveless hand. It should be drunk with coke, a slice of lemon and a lot of ice and, voila, you have the drink called Cuba Libre, with which Castro liberated Cuba. It is an excellent way of wrestling down the Mediterranean sun. After two drinks, if you hear the sound of castinets you may or may not have exceeded the dose (although you may have forgotten you are in Spain). Then what happened , and I thought this was a bit unfair, was that she came and lay down on the rocks just below the bar. This unsettled the judges somewhat and another round of Fundador was ordered to keep the respirations regular. Shortly before this happened an elderly Spaniard had entered and settled down at a table at the end of the bar for his mid day glass of rosé. I noticed that after the arrival of this unexpected bonanza that he took of his panama hat (from memory I can’t remember whether he removed the black band or not) and placed it over his lap, so there must have been some stirring in the memory banks. We proceeded with lunch during which we received various reports of the state of play from members of the bar, some of whom had to stand on their bar stools. It was getting a bit like a commentary from a cricket test match. Lunch in Mallorca is a simple and deliteful affair. There is, for instance, Mallorcan Tumbet which is a sort of ratatouille of pepper and garlic allowing one to exit with one’s breath attractively perfumed with spring garlic. Then there are Bocadillos, which are bread rolls with various fillings and Tapas Mallorquinas usually served on a pottery saucer and consisting of mixed vegetables, meat balls or fish. It was, as the Spanish say, all very agreeable, muy agradable. We eventually finished our meal and as we left we had one last look back to see that the winner of the contest was back in the sea and was giving a whole new meaning to the term, wave jumping. We also noticed that the elderly Spaniard had started to order shooters.

Copyright © 2005 - 2018 Chris Ellis.