Eating Lamb in Mallorca

Ah the isle of Mallorca.  Visit here.  Sometime in your life.  And be sure to rent a car.  You will not regret it.  Trust me.  What a stunning island this is, full of dramatic mountains, turquoise Caribbean-like water, delectable seafood and the best damn slow roasted lamb shoulder I have ever eaten.  It’s the largest island in the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean.  I came to visit two friends, Nimi and Hellen, that I met in Tulum, Mexico almost two years ago.  Palma is the capital and the largest city here and also where I have been residing for the past two and a half weeks.  The city sits right on the water with a great bike path snaking around the coast north of the city to some wonderful public beaches that, at this time of the year, are thankfully almost empty.  This island is a hot spot destination and there are loads of expats living here so it’s quite the melting pot of languages, culture and food.  I absolutely love it here but have decided I am in Spain for a big ass European city experience so will be going to Barcelona soon to look for a teaching job there.


In the meantime, let me tell you about the lamb.  My British friend, Matt, whom I also met in Tulum, has spent a significant time in Mallorca since he was a wee one so I asked him for some advice on what to do and where to go.  He couldn’t stop stressing Es Verger, a restaurant way up in the mountains that has the best lamb you will ever eat.  He told me numerous times via numerous mediums like text and email.  I also kept hearing about this restaurant from others on the island.  It seemed a destination that was a fun adventure.  I also felt the need to validate Matt’s request: he told me that if I did anything in Mallorca, I must do this, and he told me repeatedly.  Because it’s pretty much half-way up a mountain, it’s popular to hike to the restaurant, have lunch and then continue hiking farther up where there is a castle you can explore.  Because we were only able to borrow a car from Nimi’s friend mid-afternoon, we drove to the restaurant and figured we’d have to forgo the castle as the sun was already setting as we placed Palma in our stern and pushed onward with Alaró (the town the restaurant is in) in the bow.


I had read on the internet that the road to the restaurant was a bit treacherous but was still a bit stunned by it as we headed up.  Every time a car came from the opposite direction, one car had to pull as far over to the side as possible and stop while the other maneuvered its way forward.  The road pushed forth as they do on mountain sides, one ‘s’ curve followed by another and another.  Thankfully, the road was so narrow and pock-marked that it was nearly impossible to go fast so my tendencies to be prone to motion sickness were quelled.  The last thing I wanted was to show up for lamb and be too ill to partake.


The road up enabled views of the valley below, lights dotting the landscape like sprinkles on a cupcake.  The first part of the road there were still houses with terrific views of the cliff face in front of them, almost like you could reach your hand out your bedroom window and touch it.  Far up we could see a white building and wondered if that was the restaurant.  Slowly the houses faded behind us and it was just the occasional hiker, some cars, endless olive trees with their gnarled trunks and delicate silver leaves.  The view afar? Raw and unadulterated.  Mountains in the shadow of the sunset rose on the horizon in shades of black and dark green.  A goat stood motionless in the headlights for a moment and then leapt off the side, appearing as though the valley below just swallowed him whole.


We arrived at the restaurant and there were lambs with bells on wandering around the parking lot and grounds.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant where the animal is raised on site.  We knew that slow roasted meat would be very fresh.  The air was chilly and crisp with the scent of barnyard.  We took a table and each ordered something different to drink.  Hellen a beer, Nimi white wine and I red.  I had also been told that they make the wine in-house and it’s delicious.  The waiter brought over an entire bottle of white and I told him Nimi only wanted a glass.  He explained to us that they always bring bottles and charge by the amount you drink from the bottle.  So if you drink half, it’s 3 euros and if you drink the whole bottle it’s 6 euros.  Old farm implements hung on the wall and you could hear the soft chatter of Spanish trickling throughout the restaurant like listening to wind chimes through a closed window.


We all ordered the same slow roasted lamb and by golly was it good.  You didn’t even need cutlery, you could just look at the meat and it would fall off the bone.  So tender and juicy.  Meat lovers eat your heart out.  The house-made red wine was a perfect accompaniment.  What a feast.  What a drive up.  What a wonderful island.  You must come experience it yourself.