Dining al fresco in Mallorca

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One of the golden joys of living on a sunny, Mediterranean island like Mallorca, is the guaranteed ‘al fresco’ dining experience – whether lounging on open restaurant terraces, or relaxing ‘en casa’, table laid with rustic charm beneath the dappled shade of a tree sighing restlessly in the breeze. Or if you’re lucky enough, beneath your villa’s cosy covered terrace. OK, so the sun isn’t always shining, and there are dodgy days to be had, yet an annual reported sunshine average of 300 days out of 365 provides a good innings with most evenings guaranteed to find you sitting somewhere outside.

Back in the UK, any outdoor dining concept was always planned with an ‘if we’re lucky’ philosophy governed by the dark cloud of inclement weather forecasts, along with a much needed back up plan to move inside if the ‘al fresco’ fantasy was thwarted and abandoned at the last hour. British summers seem to come and go within the blink of an eye, and most outdoor dining for us, was planned last minute, usually involving a trusty, portable barbeque, which proved be moved in a flash! Sadly, a far cry from the ideal Mediterranean experience we yearned for.

To many, nothing ever seems more idyllic than a balmy, summer’s evening spent outdoors in Mallorca with friends and loved ones; mellowing beneath the scent of orange blossom and jasmine with the sound of laughter and lazy conversation filling the air. Twinkling lights in trees. Candle flames dancing golden ballets across the table as glasses clink, wine flows, and a Mediterranean feast hits the senses. Platters of gloriously gilded food, grilled and griddled, fresh from the ocean or plucked from fields. Sizzling peppers, gambas, fresh fish, juicy tomatoes the size of peaches, olives, figs and the peppery tang of virgin olive oil and citrus lemon squeezes. This is ‘al fresco’ at its very best and something we always tried to create, against all the odds, back in the grey homelands of Old Blighty.

Most people in the UK tend to eat in the evenings, so midweek entertaining with an outdoor theme was always a tricky spot to fill with so many variables to consider. Plus, in the UK, twilight evenings, dark enough to showcase strings of lanterns, coloured lights and candles, usually meant an accompanying drop in temperature, thus woolly hats and matching scarves were often a needy accessory!

Sunday lunch however in the UK has always been preserved, maintained and delivered like a national treasure, therefore for us, a much better option for an outdoor dining experience was the said Sunday tradition lunch, albeit with a somewhat Mediterranean flair.

However, since living permanently here in Mallorca, we’ve now followed the local trend and favour long lazy lunches over the more ‘touristy’ evening dining options at most resorts. We also follow the Mallorcan way with presenting the food, and have done away with starters, followed by a traditional main. Everything arrives at the table together as a collective, an assemblage of individual dishes in a variety of terracotta bowls, tempting guests to serve themselves. Another great way of dining in this manner is that all the food is prepped beforehand, then finished in good time and served so the host gets to sit down and be with the guests the entire time without constantly disappearing into the galley to check on things.

This kind of ‘al fresco’ experience is what most people imagine when they think of living here in Mallorca themselves. And like I said earlier, with our wonderful long summers the opportunities are endless. We have already been eating outside for months. Yet I must admit, that when the serious ‘scorchio’ side of summer hits home we tend to start meals outside, then swan indoors to finish in a cooler clime (Thank God for thick Mallorcan stone walls). It’s all about being comfortable. In fact, only last week we entertained guests from the UK who came for a long lunch party, and although they were looking forward to eating ‘al fresco’, sheltering beneath giant parasols, they only lasted twenty minutes in the searing heat and had to come inside. But that was great too! And we did venture outside again with our coffees. It’s just so nice to have the guaranteed options. So, whatever your preferred choice – in or out? Happy dining!

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