k La Paloma k
I had the pleasure of recently enjoying a long lazy lunch with La Paloma owners Mouji, Amit and Prasuna at their delightful restaurant. There is a true sense of family, passion for food and zest for life that you immediately feel in their presence. Always relaxed and welcoming we chatted for hours about how they meticulously choose their produce which is the integral essence and spirit of La Paloma. They have one of the best organic kitchen gardens in Ibiza which they are rightly proud of. Their love of nature and seasonal produce are both reflected in the menus and gorgeous décor of the restaurant and naturally stunning garden, this is what makes La Paloma truly shine. There is definitely no compromise when it comes to the finest ingredients from their Italian homeland – with deliveries coming directly from Sicily and Tuscany including THE very best capers, parmesan and Capocollo Toscano. Prasuna’s eyes just sparkle when talking of such things, it’s a love affair of food of the highest order, which is absolutely contagious. We went on to discuss our shared love and appreciation of Ottolenghi – although Prasuna said that many of her friends could see similarities in her cooking style long before his catalogue of cookbooks came out. Visiting London recently she was hoping to meet Yotem to invite him to La Paloma where maybe he could learn a thing or two from the great Nonna herself! We continued to talk about the incredible produce available in Ibiza and the undeniable movement back to food, farm and table. She gave me some invaluable tips where to find the best ingredients and to my utter delight she gave me the secret to her legendry salt cod fishcakes…to which I am truly blessed.
I wanted to find out how the magical story of La Paloma began…
Myself and my husband have a lot of history at La Paloma, it was whilst we were here on our honeymoon and having dinner here that we decided to sell our house in England and move to Ibiza…
“That’s so romantic, it is amazing how many lovely stories we hear from people concerning La Paloma like this. Many people propose under the stars here, we know some who bought their house on the island after meeting somebody here, others have met their future husband or wife at the restaurant. It makes all the hard work so worth it when we hear these lovely tales.”
Your story of when you first came to Ibiza wasn’t quite so simple though…?
“You could say that. I came on holiday and met Amit and decided to move here. I became pregnant and my mother decided to move here from Italy, then my aunt but we were then left with the predicament of how to earn so many. We knew we loved it here and thought the island was so beautiful, it was just deciding on a profession as we had nothing to fall back on.”
At the time your mother was a chef in Milan – a true talent in the kitchen and you decided that she would be integral in the birth of La Paloma?
“Yes she just has this enormous passion for food and cooking…we were just about to leave the island, we had nearly run out of money, struggling to put food on the table and it was a sad time for us knowing that it looked likely we had to leave Ibiza. So one night we all huddled around the kitchen table and had one last family meeting to try and think of a plan. And somebody suddenly said why not use Nona’s huge love for food and open a small restaurant. It had always been her dream. The very next day we got in the car and started to look for a place…and La Paloma was the second building we looked at.”
I bet it didn’t look much like it does now back then?
“At the time it was a garage for the tourist jeeps you see driving around the island, it was properly run down and the only thing left from when we bought it was the long tables and benches that they too used to eat outside on. It’s funny; most restaurants open with big revenues, marketing plans and advertising budgets but had nothing. We had a small amount of money left, had just acquired this run down finca and had no real idea what to do with it. What we did know though was that we were going to serve homemade food in a friendly family atmosphere.”
Didn’t the location put you off, San Lorenzo is really out on it’s own…
Everyone told us we crazy, it wasn’t even a village as such. It had a church and a school but that was it. My mum was friends with a local architect at the time who told us he had had a dream that the place was going to be called La Paloma and that it was painted all light blue, so that’s what we did! All of our friends pitched in both financially and with their hands and off we went.
I love the beautiful paintings on the walls and the family portraits and some of the most incredible photography I have seen…
You can thank Orieta for the painting, she is a wonderful friend of ours who is in her 80s and has the most amazing garden not far from here with over 300 different types of roses. She turned up one morning with her little basket of paints and did all of these incredible pieces of art, she wasn’t even wearing any glasses. We did an exhibition of her paintings here last year, truly a remarkable person. The photographer Jimmy Nelson is also a friend and is the most amazingly talented person, his new book ‘Before they pass away’ on tribal cultures is incredible.”
What was the concept of La Paloma in the beginning?
In the beginning we were going to do just sandwiches with a really lovely menu and beautiful breads. But slowly but surely we started to get more and more requests for dinner bookings and we realized that in actual fact the old finca looked so much nicer at night with loads of candles everywhere. And wow did people love my mother’s food.
And so the place just grew slowly over the years?
Yes exactly. The problem here in the summer is that you only have three or four months of really good outside weather, so as the numbers grew we started to fix up more of the inside. We had tried a Menu del Dia at lunchtimes in the restaurant but it never really worked and meant compromising on the quality, which we would never do. Then Juanito (head chef) arrived about eight years ago to develop and run the café – and to give mother a break! Now we have two different concepts which work perfectly together.
And Juanito is from Israel, your husband must have been overjoyed having someone from his home country working with him!
He so was, he had spent so long surrounded by all these crazy Italian woman…such an amazing coincidence on such a little island.”
What is the secret to your mother’s success?
Well we never look at the prices when we are buying ingredients. Good home cooking is all about combining amazing flavours which is one of my mother’s great skills, she has lived all around the world including a long time in India, so if you want a really good curry you know where to come! She loves to mix things up, if certain ingredients worth together from different cultures and cuisines then that’s great. As you can see by looking around, we much prefer to spend our money on decorating the plate rather than decorating the restaurant!
How does the menu work at La Paloma?
We never really change the starters, we have tried in the past and people go crazy at us. It’s funny, last night I was in the kitchen and the entire wall was covered with just orders for the cod fish cakes. I thought to myself, hmmm another new season and nothing has changed! So as time progressed my mother would suggest different dishes for the menu keeping to our same formula, which is 1 fish starter, or a soup that changes every week, for the main course 2 pastas, a risotto, a totally organic vegan plate, one fish and one meat. And then we just play around with that, it’s a formula that kind of made itself. We just make what we feel people will love and what we love.
Were you immediately accepted on the island?
We were surprised with the response we got to be honest. We had no advertising budget so it was purely down to word of mouth, the place filled up quickly which so much has to be down to the quality of the food here. People obviously feel at home here. There are too many restaurants around the world where you just cannot relax…you can feel comfortable here, it’s very real and very authentic.
The island changes every year. It seems every year a different clientele from a different part of the world has discovered Ibiza…
At La Paloma we just get on with our own thing here. We truly believe that Ibiza still has this spirit and magic, some parts of the island will always remain untouched. And sure Ibiza is now going for a different crowd and there are lots of places for this sort of crowd. We just get on with doing what we love and sure, we do get people turning up here and we both realize that it isn’t the place for them, but we cannot stage something that we are not – what you see is what we get.
La Paloma can be found in the beautiful village of San Lorenzo in the middle of Ibiza
Telefona : + 34 971 32 55 43
(A full review of the restaurant can be found in Tried & Tasted)