Thanks largely to occupations by various foreign powers through the ages, Menorca’s capital Mahón (or Maó to the locals) has a rich and diverse history. And this is reflected in the fine choice of cuisines on offer, with a plethora of casual eateries, fine dining restaurants, and traditional tapas bars scattered around the city and overlooking its famous harbour. But which to choose? We’ve narrowed it down to a selection of our favourites.
Bar, Restaurant, Tapas, Spanish, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Restaurant Ses Forquilles, Maó | Courtesy of Ses Forquilles
Ses Forquilles is a popular bistro with a diverse and creative tapas menu, and its innovative creations are what make it stand out from the crowd. If sharing tapas at the bar, their tortilla with sobrassada (local sausage) is excellent, as is the red tuna sashimi, and the montaditos (little sandwiches) are fantastic. The red-walled restaurant upstairs serves traditional Menorcan meat and fish dishes, best washed down with one of their decent selection of Balearic wines. The restaurant is small and gets very busy, so it’s best to book.
The term Mestre d’Aixa refers to the masters of Aixa, craftsmen who build and repair riverboats, and this eponymous restaurant is located in an old boat-building workshop in Mahon’s port. The place is decorated with photos and artefacts relating to the building’s history and tools of the river carpentry trade. Laid-back, and with a varied and interesting menu, Mestre d’Aixa is the perfect place for a relaxed and good-value meal, paired with a fantastic wine list. The tacos (either fish, or pulled pork with chipotle cream) are not to be missed, and the squid and chickpea stew is also well worth trying.
Restaurant, Seafood, Spanish, Mediterranean, European
Located in Mahón’s port and with a terrace overlooking the water, S’Espigó specialises in seafood. Much of their menu is geared around the catch of the day, and the traditional Menorcan dish of lobster stew. For those who don’t eat fish, there is also a limited selection of grilled meat dishes, but for those who do, the clams are very good and the tuna steaks are excellent. The restaurant, and in particular its terrace, is small and very busy in high season, so be sure to reserve a spot in advance.
As the name suggests, Passió Mediterrània is all about Mediterranean cooking created with passion. The key elements to the food are creativity and fun, in the form of fabulous presentation, and a playful combination of flavours. There are many excellent meat and seafood dishes, such as slow-cooked pig cheeks, and octopus carpaccio with guacamole and wasabi. The menu is also particularly good for vegetarians, and there are even some vegan options; the vegan red curry paella is a firm favourite. If you’re finding it difficult to choose, opt for the tasting menu with wine pairings. Its relaxed, harbour-side setting and excellent but unobtrusive service makes this a great place to linger over lunch or dinner.
Jàgaro is a traditional restaurant in the harbour area of Mahon, specialising in lobster and other seafood. Prices are fairly steep but if you’re in the capital and want to try a Menorcan caldereta de langosta (lobster stew) then this is a great place to go. The other classic lobster dish on their menu is fried lobster served on a bed of chips and fried eggs – sounds like an odd combination but delicious and well worth trying. Alternatively, you can try it covered in alioli and baked in the oven. If lobster is not your thing then there are plenty of other Menorcan specialities to try, from baked prawns, to pork loin, or stuffed aubergines.
On the harbour in Mahón with a large outdoor terrace and fantastic views, El Rais is a fantastic place to sit and eat while watching the boats come and go. The menu is expansive and creative, with a decent raw section of ceviches, carpaccios, steak tartare, and tuna tartare, and the various traditional rice options are excellent. If you just wanted to stop for a drink and a nibble while the sun goes down, they also do a variety of sharing plates.
Not only is the menu at this fresh and funky restaurant fully vegetarian, but ingredients are sourced organically and with a genuine emphasis on sustainability – and they even grow a lot of their own produce. Offering a choice of dishes such as strozzapreti with cashew pesto, beetroot carpaccio, and spinach and mushroom strudel, the food is also as healthy as it is delicious. There are lots of vegan-friendly options as well (including vegan custard), a daily-changing buffet, and tasty sugar-free drinks. An alfresco terrace in the middle of a charming historic square completes a really quite a fabulous package and a must-try for vegetarians exploring the Menorcan capital.