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A WORD WITH: the Chef

Fernando Péres Arellano, Chef at the Hilton Sa Torre Mallorca's Michelin-starred restaurant, Zarandra Sa Torre, answers our questions

Fernando opened the Zaranda Sa Torre in the old manor house of the Hilton Sa Torre Mallorca at the end of 2010, and just seven months later was awarded a Michelin star. The restaurant has retained its Michelin star rating in the latest 2012 Guide - and will keep on working to obtain its second star in next year’s edition.

Where did you train and with whom?
I left high school in 1996, and travelled to Dublin to learn English; it was while I was working washing dishes I decided I wanted to become a chef. I was very lucky, and managed to get work as an apprentice, working for some truly inspirational chefs in some of Europe’s most highly regarded, Michelin-starred restaurants. The restaurants represented the very best in their location, including Le Gavroche in London, Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, El Poblet and Can Fabes in Spain and Don Alfonso 1890 in Italy.

It was working in these wonderful restaurants with such talented chefs that inspired me to develop my own style, and to aim to open my own restaurant - which I did in 2005 in Madrid when I was 27. It was a lot of hard work, but the following year I gained my first Michelin star.

What’s your menu style at Zaranda Sa Torre?
I base my menus on the abundance of all-year-round fresh ingredients from the land and seas around Mallorca. Living and working in Mallorca I’m lucky, I can go to the local markets and select whatever meat, fish, fruit and vegetables are in season.

I like to support local suppliers, including cheese-makers and vineyards, and build up a relationship with them. My menus are based on the best-quality, local products and traditional recipes with an added contemporary twist.

Do you change all the menu at once, or weave in a few new dishes at a time?
There are various popular dishes that are on our menus all year round, but I like to base my proposals on what’s in season. I get inspired when I go to the local markets and see new season’s produce displayed, and then start to think about new dishes.

Where do the new ideas come from?
I take most of my inspiration from traditional recipes and the local produce, then I like to spend time developing new techniques and add my own contemporary twist to a dish.

How often do you yourself go to the markets?
The local markets are close by in Palma, and I usually go at least three times a week. I have a good relationship with the stall-holders, and while I am in the market can see for myself when new produce comes into season.

What’s your personal favourite cuisine to cook and to eat?
I just adore food, but overall I like to cook Mediterranean European and North African inspired food. I also enjoy eating Asian and South American dishes.

Which of your menu dishes is most popular with guests?
From the customer feedback that I receive, the two dishes that are particularly popular are Black Poached Egg with Cuttlefish Caviar, and Cream of Goat Cheese with Strawberry Red Wine Sorbet and Basil.

What’s it really like in the kitchen of a busy and successful restaurant like yours? And how do you and your team cope with the pressure?
Kitchens are very busy places, but it is my responsibility to make sure everything that leaves the kitchen is perfect. My team, who all moved with me from Madrid to Mallorca, are used to working under pressure and are well-trained. Everyone knows exactly what they have to do, and cares about the dishes they are preparing for the customers.

Can you give members any tips?
I’m passionate about fish, and when it comes to cooking it, everything depends on the freshness and quality of the fish. Cooking fish is more precise than cooking meat, and it is easy to overcook fish and destroy the texture and flavour. Unlike meat, you don’t need to let fish rest. Serve it immediately. When cooking meat, I would recommend using a metal needle to check the temperature on your lips and then rest it so that the temperature is the same on the inside as the outside.

Wouldn’t you rather dine somewhere really special?

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