Sa Gerreria had not much to offer when, in 2008, Mónica and Ignasi decided to open their own restaurant in the very heart of it, right on Plaça Quartera. Bar Flexas had been there for a few years, already, and Moltabarra just opened. Together with Plaer Natural they have pioneered the barrio’s revitalization. With its many small shops, bars and art studios, it is one of Palma’s most exciting quarters, today. At lunchtime, regulars and guests alike are crowding Plaer Natural. It translates into Natural Delight, and that’s exactly what their food is all about: Every weekday, Mónica and Ignasi create a delicious four-course-meal, using only seasonal fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs from the island. Correct, no meat. Still, even if you aren’t a vegetarian, you won’t miss anything.
Your guests are surprised by a wonderful new menu every day. Where did you learn to cook that way?
Ignasi: Eating well has always been important to my family, and both my parents are great cooks. When I was a child, we often went to eat in restaurants, always curious for culinary inspirations to bring home to our own kitchen. So when I was 18 and didn’t really know what to do in the future, my mother suggested, why don’t you become a cook? I liked the idea, so I started working as a kitchen help for a while to see what working in a restaurant is about. Of course, this was not the kind of work I wanted to do, but as a cook you just have to know about these things, too. In order to become a professional cook, I signed up at Instituto Fray Junipero Serra, and I gathered a lot of experience working with great cooks like Bartomeu Caldentey and Marc Fosh in well-respected restaurants all over the island.
How did you come up with the idea for your own restaurant?
Ignasi: Well, that’s quite a story. I had been working as a TV chef for a while, when I was offered to manage a new restaurant in Portixol. In the meantime, I had met Monica, who was waiting tables in a restaurant in Santa Catalina, just opposite mine. Portixol was the first time, the two of us were working together in one place. But we had no experience running a business at that time, it was a 24-hours-job, and to be honest, it was quite a disaster. So after two months we quit.
Mónica: And we got the baby and were very very happy. But it was difficult for us to balance family and work – until we got the opportunity to help out a friend who owned a restaurant on Formentera. We had a wonderful time there, eight months of easy living, it was like a dream. When we returned to Mallorca, we knew that we couldn’t continue to dream, but we wanted to keep a more self-determined pace with time for ourselves and the family. So we decided to open up our own restaurant, but keep it manageable and personal.
And then you found your space here on Plaça Quartera?
Ignasi: No, we actually started in a small store we had taken over from an old lady, just behind Corte Inglés. But the rent was raised a year later, so we went looking for a new place. And it was pure chance that we passed Plaça Quartera one day and discovered this store that was also looking for a new owner. At that time, the plaça was an ugly parking lot and the whole area was run-down, full of junk and garbage. Except for Bar Flexas and Moltabarra there were no other places to go, really. But somehow we liked it, so we decided to stay. And here we are!
Running a restaurant is a lot of work, and it is very time-consuming. Who does the cooking at home?
Ignasi: Well, sometimes just the phone (laughs)! No, we also cook at home, but often I am too tired, and then sometimes my mother or Monica’s father cooks for us. A common Spanish phrase says: En casa del herrero, cuchillo de palo – There are only wooden knives in the blacksmith’s home.
Mónica: Usually we cook everything in the kitchen at the restaurant, but with the second baby now, I often prepare some of the dishes for the next day’s menu at home. And then I come here, packed with desert, salad, baby…(laughs, too). We have a clear idea of a good family life and I think we’re doing quite well.
What is your favorite meal?
Ignasi: Uhmm, thats difficult. I don’t actually have a favorite, Mónica, do I? There was a guest once, who wanted to let me chose his desert, asking „What’s best today?“. And I couldn’t tell him, I liked them all the same. But let me think… Yes, I have a favorite dish: Pa amb oli. That’s what I really crave coming home after a trip abroad. The bread, the olive oil, the fresh Mallorcan tomatoes and ham – I love it! I cannot touch or eat meat every day, that’s why we have a vegetarian restaurant. But while Mónica hardly ever eats meat, I do every once in a while, and of course the kids, too.
You were born on Mallorca and have lived here most of your life – what is your favorite place on the island?
Mónica: Our favorite place is definitely Son Serra de Marina. It’s so beautiful there, particularly in the evening, when the sun has set. Or take a full moon’s night… there’s no place else you’d rather be.